Sales representatives said they did well with distinctive tops, prints and embellished accessories, while dress silhouettes ran the gamut from slips and shifts to the trench. Key looks included softly draped blouses and cardigans, printed and plaid shirts, textured and intarsia sweaters, fringed bags, chain and bead necklaces with pendant charms, and skinny, stacked wire bracelets.
The pervasive Seventies influence clicked with peasant tops, maxidresses and skirts, colorful caftans, pants with a slight flare, tie-dye fabrics and long vests that were often tricked up with fur, fringe, embroidery or leather.
August is typically one of the smaller shows, and sales representatives said traffic ebbed and flowed.
“We got swamped Thursday and we’re busy today so I’m actually pleased,” Donald Reeves, owner of D. Reeves and Co. multiline showroom, said during the market. “We’ve done 60 percent fall-holiday and 40 percent early spring business.”
His bestsellers were Sisters novelty sweaters, Nally & Millie tunic tops, Kut Denim and Bobeau Seventies-inspired sportswear.
Novelty printed tops and casual clothing also did well at Brad Hughes & Associates.
“Social occasion declines every year,” said Brad Hughes. “The Internet has affected a lot of that buy.”
Patty Hoffpauir, who has operated The Garden Room in Austin, Tex., for 35 years, said, “We’re all tired of paying our rent and electricity and staff for them to try [a dress] on and then go buy it on a Web site. We’re all talking about it…The only thing that will keep a specialty store alive is customer service.”
Still, The Garden Room is holding its own, and Hoffpauir inched her budget up as she invested in crepe pants by Blair Stanley and pull-on pants by Raffinalla in novelty fabrics and straight, flare and baby boot cuts.
“I’m looking for important clothes,” Hoffpauir said. “Everyone is downsizing — their closets are getting smaller — and they don’t want throw-away fashion.”
Kim Dixon, owner of The Wardrobe in Springfield, Ill., increased her budget about 18 percent as she hunted for dresses, jackets, sweaters, jewelry and gifts for immediate delivery through March.
“Dresses are the driver,” said Dixon, citing Chetta B, Donna Morgan, Kay Unger, Julia Jordan and Cynthia Steffe. “We’re buying lots of prints, which we are typically not known for.”
Sales have been good this year at the 52-year-old store, and Dixon was upbeat about the fourth quarter.
“We drive business through events and social networking, and we know our customers intimately,” she added. “We write thank-you notes to everyone.”
Gay Muenchrath, owner of G.M. Clothes Horse in Wichita, Kan., said he’s been catering to Baby Boomers for 30 years, adding, “I see all my customers in my head when I’m buying.”
Muenchrath described colorful silk caftans by Miranda Konstantinidou as “exciting,” and also picked up items from resources that fit mature women, including Mycra Pac raincoats, Integrity T-shirts, Bandolero embroidered blouses, glittery belts by Kippy, and embroidered, beaded and fringed dresses and sportswear by Rock ’N Karma, which she said appeals to “grown-up hippies.”
Beth Becnel, owner of Sugar Boutique in Thibodaux, La., scoped out October deliveries with a slightly reduced budget. Located in an area with many oil fields, she was concerned that plummeting prices might affect spending.
“It hasn’t affected us yet, but I’m cutting back just in case,” Bechnel said.
Some merchants reported a need for fashionable business attire, since fashion has gotten so soft and casual. Noting that Zanella has closed, Hughes introduced two European sportswear collections targeting executive women — Trixi Schober and Santonelli. His business with Lafayette 148 New York is “through the roof,” Hughes said, citing big trunk shows of $200,000 and $300,000.
“Most areas of the marketplace reported a steady schedule of appointments and consistent order-writing,” said Cindy Morris, president and chief executive officer of the Dallas Market Center. “In addition, we welcomed more new buyers than last year and more key buyers [are] searching for inspiration.”