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At Cobb Show, Retailers See Sales Slowdown

At the Cobb Show in Atlanta, most exhibitors said they were pleased with their business over the two days.

Nautica was popular with retailers shopping the Atlanta market.

ATLANTA — After an upbeat start to 2010, specialty retailers shopping The Cobb Show said sales have slowed again.

This story first appeared in the May 25, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Held at the Cobb Galleria in Atlanta May 16 and 17, this edition was a little slower than the March show, when retailers were seeing sales increases fueled by tax refunds. Nevertheless, most exhibitors said they were pleased with their business over the two days.

Emmanuel-Pierre Louis, president and owner, First Choice and Competition, explained, “[Retailers’] early business was good, but now they’re selling out and don’t want to keep much inventory. They’re waiting for demand, and then they’ll order.”

The Cobb Show offered several new lines, including Frank Dandy Superwear, a Swedish-headquartered collection of men’s boxers, briefs and long johns in various prints; Scott Weiland, The Collection; Sabit NYC, a premium line that includes short-sleeve flannel shirts and cardigans; Antifashion, a young men’s collection focusing on graphic designs; Magnetic Collection, a Peruvian-made line; La Vie Clothing Co.; Fender Custom Shop, and Currency Clothing. JNCO relaunched here with new looks and a new logo.

Gil Rhee, owner of Trends Inc., a group of four stores in Atlanta, booked denim and woven shirts primarily for fall, as well as twill shorts for at-once delivery. He ordered merchandise from Parish and Coogi, as well as from Nautica, FUBU and Aggravated Mentality. His fashion direction is part contemporary and part Americana.

He said his sales were good from January through March, but slowed after Easter. Nevertheless, business is slightly better than a year ago, and he is not cutting back on orders. “You don’t want to be a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he explained.

Prakash Dadlani, co-owner of the 25-unit Authentics chain in Rock Hill, S.C., booked 50 to 60 percent of his fall buy here, including denim and cargo pants with matching tops, as well as T-shirts, wovens and polos. He said his customers are moving more toward slimmer silhouettes in tops and jeans. “They want cleaner styling, but still with a little embroidery and a logo,” he said.

His sales were good until after Easter, but are now flat to slightly up, and he’s facing summer, the slowest time of his year. This year “started with a bang,” he said, but 2008 and 2009 were his worst years. “We had record months in January and February.”

Pam Miltiades, co-owner of The Stagg Shoppe in Savannah, Ga., focused on fall and planned to order 90 percent of the urban apparel that’s part of her mix. She booked cargo shorts in bright colors for summer, and plaid shirts and denim for fall. “Consumers have cut back, but they’ll buy if it’s different, fresh and exciting,” she said.

Sales at her store are stable, but no better than in 2009. She said she has cut her open-to-buy dollars by 30 percent from last year.

Jonathan St. Cyr, chief executive officer of Current Options for Men, Baton Rouge, La., was buying immediates and fall. He said he was looking for dressier and more upscale styling, and particularly liked Coogi Luxe, A. Tiziano, Akademiks, Live Mechanics and Cadillac for fall.

His sales are up 3 to 4 percent, he said, and have not slowed. “I try to keep exclusive lines in Baton Rouge, and my big and tall business always sells,” he explained.