DALLAS — A welcome uptick in spring business inspired specialty retailers to hunt for lines with flat or sometimes higher budgets at trade shows here last week.
While the focus was on holiday and resort, a number of buyers were also fleshing out fall inventories.
The ongoing strategy of buying close to season — just as consumers are doing — has put more emphasis on the January and June markets while siphoning some business away from March and October, sales representatives said.
In addition to the shows at the Dallas Market Center and Fashion Industry Gallery, Brand Assembly presented an inaugural show in an event space at the Nasher Sculpture Center two blocks away from FIG.
The New York-based operator, which also exhibits in Los Angeles, displayed about 30 labels, including Robert Rodriguez, Verdad and Bloom.
“We ask our brands what they’re looking for, and Dallas was always coming up at the top of the list,” explained Brand Assembly founder Hillary France. “We wanted to do a regional market [because] they might have a better opportunity to get in front of some of these stores in a more intimate setting than in New York.”
Pleased with the turnout of targeted upscale retailers, France said the group will return on Oct. 25 and 26.
Velvet in smooth and crinkled textures was the hottest holiday trend in a palette that spanned from silvery grey to blush and jewel tones.
Bestsellers included date-night tops, party dresses, soft sweatshirts and pants, simple shift dresses in bright hues and metallics, novelty jackets, high-waist jeans with hem details, and items that can be worn multiple ways.
Stripes, bold prints and sheer fabrics were among the favorites in pre-spring tops and dresses.
Jewelry was led by tassel earrings with silk or beaded strands, dainty layering necklaces and cuffs made of mixed materials. Bold beaded looks, talismanic pendants, spaced pearls and long, lustrous gold chains continued to do well.
Loungewear gained traction, showing up as extensions of knitwear resources like River & Sky and Southcott.
“My business is great — it’s up over last year,” said Raquel Koff, owner of Rodeo Drive in Louisville, Ken.
Koff credited the increase to three new tactics — leased areas for Eden Square and Maison Kurkdjian perfumes, a case of consigned jewelry from MCL by Matthew Campbell and a new online store. She also holds one event a month “to create the excitement for them to come in.”
Koff shopped for holiday and resort “haute hippie” looks, including Gypsy jewelry and Alberto Makali sportswear.
Joni’s has seen sales gains from March through May, and June results will hinge on a Joseph Ribkoff trunk show that was stellar last year, said owner Mary Stone.
Her store is in the expanding Legacy shopping center in Plano, a north Dallas suburb that’s flourishing with the impending arrivals of Toyota’s North American headquarters, Boeing Global Services, the North Texas operations of J.P. Morgan Chase and Fannie Mae’s regional headquarters.
“I’m spending a little more, maybe 5 percent,” said Stone, who has been in business 15 years.
Finley shirts have been bestsellers this spring, and Stone wrote the brand’s navy and white striped sleeveless shirtdress with a tiered ruffle skirt plus a sheer multicolor floral V-neck top with tie sleeves for resort.
She also favored Liverpool’s Tencel drawstring pants and jackets and Nic & Zoe colorful knit tops.
Accessories buyer Krista Ward sought jewelry and evening bags as she shopped with a flat budget for Julian Gold’s four Texas stores in Austin, Corpus Christi, Midland and San Antonio, which each have a distinct clientele.
She placed her first order for Scosha jewelry, selecting a 10-karat gold and diamond pendant on a cord that will retail for $325 and waxed braided nylon bracelets with charms dangling from a curved brass bar.
“My budget is the same,” Ward said, noting handbags have been slow with the exception of a hot streak by Save My Bag and styles for evening. “Midland is booming again — we’re seeing a surge of business there, and I’m seeing oil and gas people on planes again, so we’re excited about that.”
Lea Easley hiked her holiday budget 10 percent as she hunted for new lines for D Squared, a chain of three contemporary stores in Mississippi.
“I’m looking for more gift items – not collections – and specialty tops and party dresses for New Year’s Eve because that’s what we ran out of last year,” she said.
Among her discoveries were skirt sets by Sam & Lavi. She also invested in staple resources, including easy sweats in neutral hues from Wildfox and Free People and bohemian sportswear by Mumu.
“There’s something about a tassel that makes people happy,” reflected Andrea Lang as she reviewed Suzanna Dai’d beaded tassel earrings for Eros, her store in Baton Rouge, La.
“I can sell $200 earrings as easily or more easily than premium denim,” she said. “Earrings are hot, but bags are stale. I have not seen one handbag that I like.”
Spending the same as last year, Lang also purchased Bloom jewelry, “lots of velvet” and jeans in cropped flares or detailed with side seam stripes.
Sales are up at Lawrence’s gift store in Fort Worth, Tex., said owner Frances Lawrence. She said customers with oil and gas interests have adjusted to the low prices.
About a third of her inventory is fashion jewelry, and Lawrence selected dozens of styles by Kori Green, including black pearl bracelets, gold Y chain necklaces and mixes of various beads. The designer is the wife of country crooner Pat Green, and they live in Fort Worth.
“I can’t keep it in,” she said.
Lawrence also bought sparkling pavé bead foldover clutches by Tiana, black and gold faux fine jewelry by BeJe. She also placed her first orders for Lisi Lerch jewelry, citing the brand’s popularity on social media, and Melania Clara’s metal and crystal chokers and pendants, which were new to the market.
“I’m loving the florals and embroidery from jeans to tops,” enthused Michele Cramer, owner of Let It Shine stores in the Dallas suburbs of Coppell and Hurst. “It really speaks to Texas.”
Shopping at Brand Assembly, she picked up suede and leather bow and spotted calf hair slides from Urge, noting the sandals were well priced at $36 to $50 wholesale. Cramer also placed her first order for Ashley Schenkein jewelry, selecting sterling medallion necklaces to be custom stamped “Love God.”
Aileen Dauterive increased her open to buy for Park Lane Boutique in Lafayette, La., as she shopped Trina Turk and Nicole Miller.
Sales had cratered along with the price of oil in 2015, she noted, but business has surged since November when she moved the shop across the street for easier customer access.
“People want pieces that will stay in their wardrobe and are not disposable,” she observed. “They want good quality and good price points.”
New contemporary resources and graphic T-shirts retailing under $80 were priorities for Courtney Braznell, who opened Downtown Gypsy on March 3 in suburban Springfield, Mo.
She discovered Wishlist, praising its jeans retailing around $40 plus tops and bralettes. Black Swan, Others Follow and Icon T-shirts are among Downtown Gypsy’s bestsellers.
The Dallas Market Center enjoyed its highest attendance in over 10 years, driven by a 65 percent increase in buyers who hadn’t shopped the venue before, said Cindy Morris, president and ceo.
“We saw a lot of people from all over the country, a lot of the casinos and hotel groups,” observed Pam Kramer, whose namesake showroom is at the Dallas Market Center.
The biggest gains came from the Midwest followed by the Southeast, Morris explained, while Texas and surrounding states were up nearly 20 percent.
“The vibe has been good,” Morris said. “I’m hearing March was tough [for stores], but April and May picked up.”