CHICAGO — Looking to rebound from a cooler than normal spring, Midwest retailers shopped the recent Chicago Women’s and Children’s Apparel Market seeking immediates, particularly dresses, and fall goods to stock their stores as sales appear to rise with the temperatures.
“The weather changed, so people are starting to shop,” said Rachel Hershinow, owner of 1,000-square-foot specialty store Stella in suburban Evanston, Ill., regarding the Chicago area’s erratic spring when many days were in the 50s and 60s before hitting the 90s in early June with few days in between.
“Now that Memorial Day has passed people have permission to wear summer clothes,” Hershinow said, adding that she ordered immediate and fall items at the market that ran June 5 to 7 at Chicago’s Apparel Center.
Hershinow bought solid and print gathered and ruched dresses from Maggy London and Suzi Chinl; ruched linen-blend skirts from Tulip in khaki, brown and gray, and colorful printed tanks, shirts and dresses from Desigual, a Spanish line.
“After this winter, people are craving color,” she said, noting a recent uptick in business. “Knock on wood, business has been fairly consistent during the recession. My May was off, but I attribute that to the weather.”
Affordable prices and knowing her customer helped give her store staying power, Hershinow said, adding that clothing starts at $34 for a tank top and reaches $160 to $180 for dresses.
“I think people now know how to live in this economy,” she said. “They’re not as extravagant. They’re doing more conscious buying.”
Retailer Donna Sternaman has found a similar pattern at Mattie M, the 14-year-old specialty store she owns in Winnetka, a tony suburb along Chicago’s North Shore.
“I sense that it’s coming back a little,” Sternaman said about customer confidence and spending. Women buying dresses for graduations, weddings and bar mitzvahs drove business in May, she said, explaining “I feel we’ve weathered most of the storm.”
Despite the North Shore’s reputation for affluence, Sternaman said her store, which caters to women ages 40 and over took a hit during the downturn because many of her shoppers live off their investments.
Responding to a decrease in sales, the store cut its hours, relied on loyal customers and hosted more events such as an upcoming trunk show for Linda Lundstrom. At the June market, Sternaman scouted as many dress resources as possible and is holding out hope that women are dressing up more.
“We’re seeing suiting again,” she said. “Young people are concerned about their jobs.”
Lynette Pickus, sales representative for Echo Design and Rhodes Accessories, said business at the market was unexpectedly brisk. During the market’s first day, she was booked solid and picked up two new accounts.
“Actually, I was swamped,” she said. “I was pleasantly surprised.”
Retailers seemed relaxed and in better spirits, commenting that it was easier to concentrate and focus on orders in the showroom setting of the June market than during the rushed atmosphere of Chicago’s Stylemax, the area’s largest women’s apparel trade show.
“It seemed a little more upbeat,” said Pickus, who said received larger orders than last year.
Oversize, wider wool scarves to wear with coats and sweaters were a hit for fall, she said, along with Echo’s touch glove with its iPhone-friendly fabric on the thumb and index fingers. The gloves, which regularly sold out last year, wholesale for $12.50 to $17, she noted.