ATLANTA — Despite worries over the strength of the economy, retailers in the Southeast were hopeful about holiday shopping and buoyed about spring because of bright colors and new styles.
Vicki Mills, owner of Blossoms in Owensboro, Ky., said what she saw at the five-day Atlanta Apparel Mart, which ended Oct. 18, was “fun and fresh and the colors are good.”
Although the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the economy kept her sales flat this year as tourists stayed away, Ann Miller, president of M&F Casuals in Fairhope, Ala., said she felt positive looking ahead.
“I think spring is very upbeat,” she said. “I’m aggressively buying and writing more orders at this show. The fashion is exciting. There’s color and I don’t feel the fashion is as confined as it has been.”
Amy J. Hill, owner of her namesake firm, said, “[Retailers] are coming out of their shell a little bit more and they’re beginning to take a little more risk. Retailers are buying more styles, but the quantities aren’t as deep, and they’re buying further out.”
Kathy Tucker, co-owner of Sheppard & Tucker Inc. showroom, said store inventories were down and retailers were more in control.
“They have re-evaluated their business and have become better at controlling it,” Tucker said. “Now they’re starting to look forward again and are looking at what they want six months ahead.”
Tim Philbin, owner of the Tim Philbin Accessories showroom, said consumers were buying jewelry now that it looks like an investment and “something they can pass down.”
Rising cotton prices have affected apparel in a small way so far. Brands are trying to keep their prices flat or adding slight increases, said Tonya Moses, owner of the Skye showroom.
Retailers bought shorts and capris, dresses, jeggings, tunic tops and belts to wear with them, and lots of prints and bright colors. M&F Casuals’ Miller said she also booked novelty soft tops and lightweight flyaway knit cardigans, as well as Nue by Shana’s dresses with tummy control.
Mills, the owner of Blossoms, also bought prints in tops and dresses, polka dots and bright colors. She added Charlie Jade and LaRoque to her mix of brands.
Sharon Davis, owner of Mint Julep in Dothan, Ala., added kimono dresses, short dresses to wear with leggings, and Sixties and Seventies-influenced prints to her spring buy. She said she reduced her 2010 buys about 25 percent, and will probably cut back more.
“We’re having to be more cautious about how we buy,” she said. “People are hanging onto their money more.”
Jim Adams, owner of Village Sportswear and Marella — both in Birmingham, Ala., — and Carriage House, based in Decatur, Ala., was cautious but was not cutting his spring buy. He booked dresses, more shorts than usual and blouses in jewel tones.
“Fall has been tough, so far, and Christmas will be tough,” he said. “We’re looking for pretty colors and fun things to feel uplifted and better about the economy.”
Jessica Darnell, purchasing agent and manager of Colleen’s Flower & Bridal in Dublin, Ga., bought spring prom and fall homecoming dresses, as well as bridal. She is buying fewer lines, but buying deeper.
“I have started carrying lines that have something new and different because that’s what my customers are buying,” Darnell said.