Prom Boosts Spring Buying in Atlanta

A range of trends takes retailers' interest.

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ATLANTA — Southeastern buyers shopping the five-day Atlanta Apparel Show at AmericasMart that ended Aug. 13 said they were feeling better about the economy and were  increasing their inventories for holiday and spring.

This was especially true in the prom market, a key component of the show. Buffie Mayo, owner of Buffie’s All the Rage in Little Rock., Ark., said she was increasing her prom inventory by about 30 percent for 2013. Likewise, Emily Goodin, owner and chief executive officer of Boutique Couture, said her sales are up about 25 percent this year and she plans to add another 20 to 50 prom dresses to her usual inventory of 80 to 100.

Prom trends included softer colors, lace, long and short dresses, as well as high-low styles and shorts with a long slit, keyhole backs, and beading, sequins and stones.

The mart introduced its Emerging Designers Showcase with 20 designers, including Charles Ottolini Designs, which has silk scarves and purses with stained glass designs, and Busayo, a dress line that uses batiks and waxed print fabrics from Nigeria.

The mart also opened its 40,000-square-foot social occasion expansion on the 12th floor. Sherri Hill, which moved there from the 10th floor and opened a 7,000-plus showroom, is an anchor.

Hill said her company has been doubling production each year since it opened four years ago, and is seeing “huge increases” this year.

Sales at the Tony Bowls Collection are soaring, too, with business up 30 to 40 percent this year, Bowls said.

“I’m seeing a lot of new businesses now,” he said, “and my overseas business has really skyrocketed over the past year.”

At Tony Bowls, the look is soft and flowing fabrics, with green as a top color. Prints, a leading trend last year, are now mostly used as a border.

“There’s not a typical prom dress anymore,” Bowls said. “The girls all want to be glamorous.”

Mayo at Buffie’s All the Rage bought long dresses, as well as high-low dresses, including shorts with a long slit skirt.

“Anything that shows the leg so they can dance and look good,” Mayo said.

Other prom trends that attracted Boutique Couture’s Goodin included sheers and nudes with strategically placed beading. Chartreuse green is one of her top colors.

Goodin said her social occasion and cocktail dress business is picking up after being down for several seasons. She bought “wow” dresses and focused on gowns with draping skirts, one long-sleeve silhouettes and colors of green, ivory, blush and nude.

Traditional women’s wear retailers, shopping the mart for resort, holiday and spring, also are seeing their sales improving. Karen Mangeney, owner of Jordanos in Charlotte, N.C., said her business is much improved over 2010, though still not what it used to be.

“We’re coming off a hot summer and a warm winter, so I’m waiting to see how my customers respond to trends,” Mangeney said.

She’s buying more layering apparel items that can transition from fall into holiday. Overall trends include colored denim, but Mangeney also bought layered accessories, jackets and blazers with embellishments or asymmetrical silhouettes, and David Kahn wax-coated jeans.

Marley Herring, owner of Marley’s in Palm Beach, Fla., said she’s buying more for resort and spring after her sales this past season increased 5 to 6 percent. Her holiday and spring buys included Miraclebody jeans, tunic tops in lightweight fabrics, Pima cotton knit tops in color blocking or solid colors, pull-on pants and wrinkle-resistant jackets and pants from Fridaze.

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