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ATLANTA — What had been a traditional spring market at AmericasMart again focused mostly on immediate deliveries, as many buyers shopped with less credit and more cash.

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

For the second year, the Atlanta Apparel Market, which ended its five-day run Oct. 19, reflected a departure from season-specific markets, with retailers reluctant to look too far ahead or stock excess inventory.

Many specialty buyers expressed concerns about tightened credit lines, lower consumer spending and pressure from department store markdowns. Doing their best to address retailers’ woes, manufacturers headed to market with plenty of bargains, immediate deliveries and enough spring looks to generate buzz.

Mart officials offered buyer perks in hopes of bolstering the energy level and business, including daily runway shows that took place on the main show floor, special giveaways, cocktails and discounted meals.

“Some worked, some didn’t,” said Lori Kisner, senior vice president of leasing for AmericasMart, adding that the mart will continue to try different programs at future shows.

Kisner reported strength from “anything immediate,” saying buyers shopped for delivery date, not season.

“What typically would have been a great spring show was great on immediates and only so-so on spring,” Kisner said. “Retailers don’t really have access to credit so they’re relying on cash, and the concept of buying farther out is changing.”

She said the bridal category, which typically gets a big push for the October show, was soft, attributing the decrease to the economy and the move to more destination weddings.

Trends in ready-to-wear ran the gamut, including vintage-inspired styles, bright party dresses, tops with ruffled or tiered detailing, motorcycle jackets and bold statement accessories, particularly necklaces.

JSong International, a $2.5 million better-to-bridge manufacturer in New York that focuses on intricate embroidery and vivid colors, reported steady traffic, mostly from retailers stocking up on immediates.

Edward Kwang, who directs trade and press for the firm, said, “Buyers are focusing more on fall and holiday and buying closer to season, but it’s already been that way for the past few years.”

Kwang said top performers at market included a wool and viscose coat with leaf embroidery that wholesales for $179 and a three-piece embroidered denim skirt set for $159. Buyers who did look toward spring responded to a pink silk shantung dress set for $169 wholesale, Kwang said.

To celebrate its 10-year anniversary showing at the mart, JSong offered buyers a 20 percent discount on immediate orders and 10 percent off spring purchases, an unprecedented move for the firm.

“We don’t do discounts, so for us this was big,” said Kwang.

Tim Philbin, principal of Tim Philbin Accessories, a multiline showroom, added perks such as special packaging offered by Cynthia Gale.

He said lines that featured more affordable prices but maintained a perceived value sold well, including 1AR by Unoaerre, an Italian line of 18-karat gold-plated jewelry that retails from $90 to $300.

In addition, Philbin said vintage or eco-friendly lines sold well, including Pink Monkey, which mixes felt with recycled vintage Lucite, and Matt by Matt & Nat, a less expensive division of luxury vegan line Matt & Nat that features handbags and belts made from recycled plastic bottles.

Although most of the show action focused on bargains and immediate deliveries, some buyers were in the mood to look ahead.

Stephanie Lindley, owner of James Gunn, a contemporary boutique in Savannah, Ga., bought March and April deliveries, reordering core lines such as AKA, T-Bags, Yoani Baraschi, Tibi and David Lerner.

“I bought no immediates,” Lindley said. “Even if I’d seen something I wanted I would have had to push it to 2010. We’re all spent up [for fall and holiday].”

Her budget for the show remained flat and she reported that “business is steady now,” adding that she’s even seen sales increases of 5 to 8 percent this year, after a “terrible” 2008.

Although Lindley said her customers are shopping less frequently, they are spending more per visit, which she attributed to the store’s wide retail price range of $80 to $500.

Leslie Pittman, owner of Laura Kathryn, a high-end contemporary boutique in Birmingham, Ala., bought colorful party and social occasion dresses, rompers and tops, noting freshness from resources such as Before and Again, Ali Ro, and Liquid, a contemporary dress and sportswear line Pittman called “a great alternative to Rebecca Taylor and Tibi,” because of its lower price points.

Pittman also reordered core denim from Hudson, basic T-shirts from Michael Stars and basic tops from Splendid.


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