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Plenty of Action at Atlanta Mart

Buyers were ordering for multiple seasons.

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ATLANTA — With spring off to strong start in the Southeast, retailers at the Atlanta Apparel show, held March 31 to April 4 at AmericasMart, were feeling confident about fall.

Not only were buyers at market for fall, many were filling in on spring and summer dresses, tops, denim and twills. Buyers said if business continues as it has this spring, fall will be strong, as well.

Julie Routenberg, owner of Potpourri in Atlanta, said her spring sales are up by double-digit percentages so far this season.

“We’ve absolutely seen a shift in consumer purchasing,” she said.

Routenberg was buying only fall, specifically dresses within sportswear collections, as well as knits and fur. Fall trends, she added, are “very beautiful, very rich looking, but with a casual way of putting things together to create a look. It’s an item-driven business right now.”

Other trends for fall, according to Kaye Davis, executive director apparel leasing at AmericasMart, include knit dresses and sweaters, men’s wear looks with a feminine twist, gathered or draped tops, metallic trims, chunky jewelry, scarves, wools, tweeds, and wide-legged and skinny jeans. Top fall colors include amber, olive, burgundy, mustard and brick red.

Amy Janssen Hill, owner of the Amy J. Hill showroom, said this show was one of her best in her two years in business.

“People are buying out through October,” she said. “People feel very comfortable in their choices to buy further out now.”

Sales at the Michelle Harrison & Associates showroom were up seven percent against the same show last year, but Michelle Harrison said she thought traffic was down. Harrison, celebrating her 25th anniversary at the Mart with giveaways and a wine tasting, said traffic started strong, especially on Friday and Saturday, but slowed down on Sunday.

Jan Bilthouse, owner of The Bilt-House, which has three stores in Atlanta, said she was focusing on spring fill-ins after a strong start that increased her first-quarter sales 25 percent over a year ago. Bestsellers included dresses and colored twills and shirtings.

“I’m buying anything I can get my hands on and asking what can you ship tomorrow,” Bilthouse said.

Brenda Gergely, owner of Sunwoods in Harlan, Ky., said her sales so far this year are up five to 10 percent.

Shopping for spring fill-ins and fall, she said her bestsellers for spring included sweaters and jackets, as well as tank tops and T-shirts, jewelry, novelty tops, capris and summery sweater sets.

For fall, she booked men’s wear looks, tweeds, leopard prints, knits, metallics, skinny leg pants from Not Your Daughter’s Jeans and Miracle Body Jeans, and gathered tops.

Penny Vaigneur, owner of Copper Penny, based in Charleston, S.C., with five apparel stores, said she was buying fall through September and focusing on maxidresses and skirts, poncho-type tops, cropped sweaters and novelty tops, silk tunic blouses, scarves, and chunky and layered jewelry.

She was also reordering spring items that have sold out, including maxiskirts, flared-leg jeans in white and medium-to-dark washes, brightly colored sundresses in solids and prints, and “fun” silk print tops.

“It’s a Seventies look, but not over the top,” she said.

Noting that her sales are up this year, Vaigneur said, “We’re very fortunate in seeing a resurgence of shoppers. For the first time since 2007, people are excited about shopping again.”

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