Dallas Market Beats the Crunch, Scores Orders

Buyers react well to show date shift.

DALLAS — Sales representatives were pleased to reap increases at the Dallas Market Center show, despite worries about having six major trade shows nationwide packed into August.

The Dallas market started on Aug. 14, a day earlier than usual, and ended on Saturday to avoid overlapping the first day of MAGIC Marketplace in Las Vegas.

“The shifted date pattern of August was well-received by both buyers and exhibitors during the four-day show,” said Cindy Morris, chief operating office of the Dallas Market Center. “The highly attended fashion show of the latest trends, as well as the activity throughout market, created a great energy.”

Buyers were keen to see colorful spring fashions, including printed and strapless dresses, novelty tank tops and palazzo pants. In denim, hot looks included distressed jeans in pale shades, as well as slimmer editions of boyfriend jeans. Novelty details like beaded or embroidered necklines and peekaboo cutouts remained important.

While immediate deliveries and glitzy holiday styles were available at many resources, retailers placed emphasis on resort and early spring. Some prioritized resources with perceived value that could be marked up considerably to boost profit margins.

Allyson Cooke, owner of the Launch contemporary showroom, said she was pleasantly surprised to tally about 15 percent more bookings.

“My lines showed farther out than they did last year — to 1/30 and 2/28 deliveries — and that contributed to the increase,” Cooke said. “Our customer still wants color and embellishment, prints, vegan leather jackets and trim, metallics and a lot of gold. Obviously, dresses and tops did well, but I am selling a lot more pants — cute printed silk pants like a drawstring pant.”

Brad Ritz, owner of Ritz Group contemporary and bridge showroom, said, “We came out with a 10 to 12 percent increase. It was light traffic, but good stores. We were selling everything from holiday to pre-spring deliveries.”

Fran Stamper, vice president of merchandising at Julian Gold, said, “The spring prints and colors are very exciting for south Texas, and the season will be good if we keep our beautiful weather. I’m planning it flat until I see how strong it looks.”

With four stores in Texas, Julian Gold is seeing strength in contemporary sportswear, dresses and accessories, she said. The San Antonio-based retailer just doubled the size of its Austin store, adding departments for cosmetics, bridal and precious jewelry, plus more space for designer. Julian Gold also has units in Corpus Christi and in Midland, where the oil boom has ignited the economy.

“They just roll in money,” Stamper said. “They don’t know what to buy first — cars, jewelry, clothing.”

Joann Burnett, owner of Joann’s boutiques in Houston, said business has been “OK,” but she is closing one of her three stores this month due to high rent and difficulty finding salespeople who develop relationships with clients.

“Fall is doing pretty good,” she said. “[At this show] I’m keeping my open-to-buy flat and then reacting because you can do that. Dresses are really important, and jewelry and bags.”

Burnett purchased structured handbags by Due Fratelli, sportswear by Lafayette 148 and Cartise, and tailored dresses by Sara Campbell and Bella Bicchi, a coat resource that this year began offering sportswear and dresses retailing for about $200.

“I bought Bella Bicchi at the last market and the dresses are doing really well,” Burnett said. “It’s a beautiful product for the price.”

Merle Gorman, an independent sales rep who has been in the fashion business for 60 years, saw a lot of action with Barbara Gerwit’s Palm Beach-hued cotton and Lycra spandex jersey dresses wholesaling at $50 and Liverpool novelty jeans costing $29 to $34.

“Never in my life did I think anything would last as long as jeans have,” Gorman said. “You put on a top with jeans and can go anywhere.”

Ann Tobias, designer and partner in Roja Southwestern-inspired sportswear, said her show bookings quadruped because she added knitwear — colorful intarsia wool sweaters, long draped cardigans, dresses and skirts.

“That category is just exploding,” Tobias said.