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Buyers Scour for ‘Special’ Items at Train

With retailers at the Train show here saying they reduced their open-to-buys by 10 to 33 percent for fall, only special items made the cut.

Cacharel’s vintage print collection, which launched for spring, sold well at the French brand’s Train debut.

Cacharel’s vintage print collection, which launched for spring, sold well at the French brand’s Train debut.

Simone Silvestri

NEW YORK — With retailers at the Train show here saying they reduced their open-to-buys by 10 to 33 percent for fall, only special items made the cut.

Buyers reported they are scouring harder and waiting longer to place orders. Printed dresses, novelty outerwear and statement scarves were best-selling items at the show, which is owned by Paris-based Prêt à Porter and ran from Feb. 21-23 at the Terminal Stores.

“I was looking for something really special — that’s all I left orders for,” said Roz Connolly, owner of Coco an Experience, a primarily women’s apparel and accessories boutique in Montclair, N.J.

With fall merchandise still on sale in her store and factors holding out on granting credit, Connolly said the 11-year-old retailer is decreasing its open-to-buy for fall by 30 percent.

“I’m waiting for the last minute to really place my orders, so I can see how business is,” Connolly said. “This is one of the only times I haven’t left a lot of paper. Only if I feel it’s special and I can’t go to a showroom to buy it did I leave paper. I’m going to hold out until the end of April.”

TriBeCa retailer A Uno is closing sister store A Uno Walk on April 1, and is cutting its open-to-buy by a third for fall. Manager Ruth Byers said she came to Train looking for the European designers the retailer specializes in, picking up three new vendors at the show. “We are really looking at price points, things people can actually afford to buy in these times,” Byers said.

Cary Weekes, co-owner of e-tailer mickmargo.com, which also has a store here in the West Village, said she comes to Train to find emerging designers. Mick Margo lowered its spring open-to-buy by 15 percent and maintained that reduced level for fall.

“We used to go to Paris, but we don’t anymore because the euro is so crazy,” Weekes said. “Train is great because we can find European designers here without having to travel.”

Lilli Hamrah, co-owner of Hamrah’s, a 52-year-old women’s boutique in Cresskill, N.J., said she was disappointed with the February trade shows, where she couldn’t find the modern jackets she was looking for.

“My open-to-buy will be down about 10 percent, mostly because I’m not finding the stuff I want,” Hamrah said. “To make the store attractive, we’re spending a lot of time on our buy — thinking about orders is more important now than ever. With the department stores going on sale 20 minutes after they get shipments, you don’t have the luxury of over-ordering.”

This season, Prêt à Porter dropped the sidekick trade show Platform 2, instead importing The Box, an accessories exhibition that accompanies its Paris exhibition. The organizers brought about 30 of the 120 accessories designers that show at The Box in Paris, being careful to keep the wholesale price range between $40 and $300, said Muriel Piaser, fashion manager of The Box. Train absorbed about 25 exhibitors from Platform 2, housing them in the contemporary subsection of the show — a new division, with designer as the other part.

“Train is now established as a big showroom for international designers, and Platform was a more commercial alternative that was more of a confusion for me,” said Piaser. “This was the right moment to launch The Box in New York — ready-to-wear is very affected with the economy, but accessories are a good alternative.”

Vancouver-based sportswear firm Mara Gottler, which wholesales from $200 to $400, reported traffic was “definitely down” at its second Train appearance. “People are being cautious — still networking, but pondering instead of writing,” said managing director Amanda Gutmanis. “It will be a matter of whether they follow up after the show.”

BGN, a Paris-based line that wholesales from $80 to $240, picked up two new stores and its orders from existing accounts held flat, with print dresses and coats in grays and purples as bestsellers, according to Geoffrey Payton, North American sales director. “It helps that the collection is 20 percent cheaper here than it is in Europe,” Payton said.

Paris-based Cacharel attended Train for the first time and picked up 10 new accounts for its vintage floral print collection, which wholesales from about $50 to $110, that it brought back for its 50th anniversary, according to Marcello Rodio, women’s wear development executive.

“Even if it’s not the best time for the economy — not just in the U.S. market, but for the world — sometimes there are surprises,” said Rodio.