ATLANTA — Retailers were in the mood to be wowed at the five-day Atlanta Apparel Market that ended April 12 at AmericasMart.

This story first appeared in the May 4, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Buyers sought lots of color, sequins, draping and texture in looks mostly for immediate buys and some for fall, and favored bolder styles over basics.

Retailers reported uneven first-quarter results, some saying business had increased over the year by as much as 10 percent, while others said the unseasonably cold weather in the Southeast prevented customers from shopping as much. Although buyers spent less time at market and sent fewer staffers in order to cut costs, most were there to do business, not browse, as was the case last spring.

“This is the first time since I’ve been [working at AmericasMart] that I’ve heard this much positivity coming from retailers’ mouths,” said Lori Kisner, senior vice president of leasing, who was hired last spring.

She reported double-digit increases in attendance over last year’s market in March, when business “really hit its lowest point,” but did not provide specific figures. Kisner said contemporary and young contemporary lines with “moderate pricing” performed best, and sales for higher-end offerings were still sluggish.

“Nobody’s breaking any records right now, but everyone I talked to had an OK-to-great show,” Kisner said.

Sales representative Michelle Harrison said traffic in her showroom was heavy, adding that buyers were eager to pick up new resources “for the first time in a long time.”

“Although people are still being cautious, most of the people who were at market were leaving paper,” Harrison said.

One new line at the show was Nicole Miller’s sportswear division, which launched in Harrison’s showroom. The line features sophisticated tops from $165 to $265 wholesale and pants for about $210. Styles are mostly black and white, inspired by New York City lights, said David Weissman, senior vice president of sales and merchandising for Nicole Miller.

Weissman also showed the company’s other divisions — Nicole Miller, Nicole Miller Collection and Nicole Miller Studio — and reported strong demand from buyers for sophisticated looks with punched-up visual interest. Looks included day dresses from $200 wholesale, cocktail dresses from $385 and gowns from $420.

Farshad Arshid, owner of two contemporary Standard boutiques in Atlanta, went to market looking to expand his women’s offerings, which account for 30 percent of his merchandise.

“We’re really trying to revamp and rejuvenate our women’s section, but we’re being very cautious in buying, only looking for items, whereas I only buy collections with men’s,” said Arshid, who plans to increase his women’s merchandise by 10 percent.

He looked at lines such as Paul & Joe Sister, Charlotte Ronson and Factory, but is waiting to finalize his orders that will add to the stores’ core lines such as Gant and G-Star.

Arshid reported a “really decent first quarter” despite “a really bad January” and said he loosened up his budget for market based on brisk business in February and March.

Dana Spinola, owner and buyer for 11 contemporary Fab’rik boutiques, with four locations in Atlanta, bought mostly immediate-through-July deliveries, but looked ahead in denim, a section she usually buys at other trade shows.

“Rock & Republic was here for the first time in a long time, so it was great to be able to write all of my lines here,” said Spinola, who keeps all retail prices, except premium denim, under $100.

Spinola reported a “strange” first quarter because of cold weather and two rare snowstorms that hit Atlanta, prompting her to carry transitional goods for two extra months. She said business started to pick up again in March.

“I loved the attitude of reps at this show and the energy of the market. For the first time, I even stopped and watched the fashion show,” Spinola said of the runway presentation in the mart’s newly redesigned atrium.

The area, which has housed temporary booths for the juried Premiere show, now features a lounge area for buyers and a sleeker layout, and the booths have been pushed back.

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