ATLANTA  — Last year ended on a high note for specialty retailers in the Southeast, but they said they’re working with the challenges of a new economy that’s not what it was prior to 2008. Retailers at the Atlanta Apparel show, held Feb. 3-7 here at AmericasMart, said they have cut their prices and brought in lines that are priced lower and they’re also shopping closer to the season. Their sales were up as much as 20 percent last year, but they mitigate that by adding that the increase compares to a terrible year in 2009. They’ve started 2011 with sales up again, despite adverse weather conditions.


“This is a new era from before,” said Bradley Forster, owner of Bradley, based in Mobile, Ala. While her store is “very profitable on these new figures,” she said, “It’s a new economy and you treat it differently.” She and other retailers also were keeping their buys equal with last year’s.


“We’ve all had to adjust and those who didn’t, didn’t make it,” said Betsy McAusland, owner and buyer for Part Two, Tuscaloosa, Ala. “My lines are more affordable than they were five years ago. Also, I stay with the lines I know ship [on time] and fit.”


Retailers shopped for spring fill-ins and summer, and previewed fall. Trends at the show included chunky necklaces and bracelets; long and layered necklaces; longer hemlines in dresses and skirts; cool, neutral colors for summer; bright colors; sheer scarves in bright colors and patterns, and summery dresses with cap sleeves or sleeveless. Blue and military greens are hot colors.


Elizabeth Shipley, buyer and manager for Worlds Apart in Lexington, Ky., said her two units had a 10 to 12 percent increase last year and she hopes for the same this year. Currently, jeggings and flyaway sweaters are selling, as well as early spring styles.


“People are tired of winter and our prices are so good now,” she said. “That’s what’s getting people in. Our number one thing is price point now.”


Rosanne Nettles, owner of Jenealogy, based in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., filled in on prom and booked jewelry and dresses for summer, including vintage and Bohemian styles.


“We’re focusing on spring and summer…because we’re buying closer to the season,” she said. “We can’t risk spending a lot and then not having it sell.”


Her stores’ 2010 sales increased about 20 percent and January sales rose 20 percent, too, even though her three stores in Mt. Pleasant, Raleigh, N.C,. and Savannah, Ga., closed briefly because of snow or ice.


“We’ve already had a fabulous reaction to spring,” she added. “I think there’s pent-up frustration and [consumers] are ready to buy.”

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