HONG KONG — Accessories vendors accentuated the positive at the China Sourcing Fair even as swimwear and innerwear buyers said they face another season of tepid sales.

This story first appeared in the November 3, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

About 630 accessories exhibitors, ranging from makers of small leather goods and handbags to eyewear, hats, gloves, scarves and costume jewelry, and 200 swimwear and innerwear buyers, attended the show that ran from Oct. 21 to 23.

The swimwear and innerwear market saw the volume of exports from China decrease by 25 percent in the first half of the year.

“Lingerie and swimsuits are not traditional impulse buys,” said Canis Ho, the fair’s senior corporate communications manager. “Consumers are only likely to purchase these products when they need to replace them or are looking for the garment in particular.”

Linda Cheng from Stava Sportswear Co., a Chinese-Italian swimwear design and manufacturing company, said retailers don’t want to risk overstocking.

“In previous years, buyers have been more trend-conscious, looking for fashion-forward designs,” Cheng said. “But this time, most dealers seem to be going back to basic styles that they know have longevity beyond one season in case they have leftover inventory. Orders are also getting smaller. Sometimes they are so small we have trouble fulfilling them.”

Underwear manufacturers, such as Hong Kong-based Jackson Corporation Ltd., which produce trendy lingerie and bra sets have slashed prices by 5 percent to 10 percent.

“Customers are negotiating hard for bargains,” said Mable Lau of Pn&Hc, an innerwear garment manufacturer from China. “But we can’t cut costs any more as they are already at its lowest. Instead, we’re just concentrating on retaining our main customers. But even they are ordering less frequently.”

However, accessories buyers were out in force and most vendors said interest was higher than expected. Buyers searched for long seed-beaded necklaces made from a combination of glass and crystals in bright colors, particularly ocean-inspired shades ranging from turquoise and azure to coral and salmon. Chunky tribal glam bangles and oversize necklaces made from wood, bone and shell were also popular.

Distressed leather goods remained the dominant style, with top-handled totes, small messenger bags and mini wristlets the most fashionable bag shapes. Obi belts and wide triple-fastening belts were also making a comeback.

The most successful suppliers also were the most flexible. Factories have reported a 10 percent reduction in volume per client.

Janne Siregar from Export Service Centre, a Bali-based jewelry company, said flexibility has paid off.

“Because all our products are hand-made, we don’t manufacture on a mass production level,” Siregar said. “So we’ve lowered our minimum order down to $1,000 and had a few spot orders come from it.”

The trend of lowering minimum requirements also was seen in high-end eyewear, where some companies have reported dropping from 300 to 600 pairs to as few as 50 pairs per style per order. However, accessories makers are not adjusting product prices.

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