THE RETAILER’S MUST-HAVE LIST FOR NEXT SEASON INCLUDES BRILLIANT HUES, BASIC ITEMS AND ACCESSORIES.

There may be a chill in the air but buyers have a blistering hot summer in mind as they prepare for market. Apparel that is lightweight will be a priority for buyers, as will items — simple, often moderately priced pieces that sell on their own and that fit into any woman’s wardrobe.

While black remains a popular color among shoppers, retailers are also on the hunt for bright colors. Perhaps a sign of recessionary times, kitschy accessories — particularly belts and handbags — are also in demand this market, as shoppers search for ways to spruce up their wardrobes without purchasing an entirely new ensemble.

Shani Morris, owner
Pe Sha, Plano, Tex.

“I usually go to L.A., Las Vegas and New York for my buying. I go to Dallas to find out if there’s anything new. It’s real conservative in Dallas, and I’ve got a trendy store, so sometimes it’s hard for me to find things in Dallas.

“We used to carry Brighton, and now we no longer do, so we’ve had to fill a hole with all our belts. We’re looking for new belt lines, and I think that will continue on that track. Belts have made a comeback again. But changing brands has been a good change for us. We’ve branched out.

“I’m always looking for the new thing. I’m always looking for what’s on the cutting edge — following the trends and staying one step ahead of my competition. It never fails that I get something in, and six months later, my competition has it. Even though Plano is large, the customer base that I reach is small, and they know where to shop. You have to stay on your toes and make sure no one has what you have.

“And you have to be price-conscious. Starting back in the spring when we hit the recession, I had to be price-conscious for my customers. For summer and fall, I’ve brought my price points down a little and I have been able to produce better sales because of it. But to find good quality at a less expensive price has been very hard. Vendors are hurting too, but they need to adjust a little bit; use less expensive fabric, for example — cut something to help us.

“We’ve got very fun shoes. We carry Diesel, and I still do a great business with Custo. We’re looking for any kind of fun jeans. Jeans have been extremely profitable this fall for us. And gifts! Anything under $50 is always a good seller for any time of the year. I’m always looking for jewelry, gifty items, and novelty items that can sell for $20 to $50.”

Cindy Johnson, buyer
Sylvia’s, McAllen, Tex.

“I’m going to be buying what I always tend to look for, and what we do well in: clothes that are cute and updated that fit missy women. We have a lot of contemporary customers. We want to dress updated and not look dumpy. I’m looking for new lines that have cute clothes that fit.

“I need dresses. There aren’t that many dresses out there right now, and my customers have been asking for them. A source of dresses would be nice. We need more. Donna Morgan, Muse-type lines. A lot of dress lines have gone out of business or they’re struggling. They have to be trendy and cute. They can’t be just any dresses. That’s the only area that I’m really lacking in: more cute dresses.

“We need colors. For spring I saw a lot of corals, so hopefully they’ll continue with some bright color palettes. We don’t do well with muted colors. When colors are bright and vivid, we do better. It’s always hot down here.”

“In accessories, I need some turquoise pieces. I’ve been getting requests for some unique turquoise pieces. This is unusual for us. We don’t usually do that much in turquoise. Customers tend to like the semiprecious, multistrand necklaces.

“I’ll need capri pants. They’re not going to part with capri pants. It’s going to be hard to get them back into shorts. Any cute crop ankle pants also are good. Those ladies like to hide all their flaws in capris and still look cute. And we’ll need cute tops. We sell the most cute, fun tops. I’ve picked up several lines that fit the ladies, like Lynn Ritchie. And we do well with Haven Bleu. And then for knitwear, Sadimara. And of course Custo. We still do really well with them. Any cute tops really, because that’s what women will buy. They’ll buy two to three tops versus pants.”

Rita Mitchell-Harvey, owner
Elle, Little Rock, Ark.

“What I’ll be looking for is ‘items’ — single items that can be impulse items or wardrobe fill-ins for the customer who doesn’t know what to do wardrobe-wise. Last year, we had printed capris galore, and we had bright-colored tops galore. Tops have been huge for quite some time.

“Last market, I found a void in what I call social/casual, a great-looking solid-colored outfit that can go to work but can be dressed up enough to go to a party. There were oodles of printed merchandise but not enough solid-colored merchandise for what I call my contemporary/classic customer, so I’ll be looking for that.

“It has certainly been a unique and challenging year, with the economy, peoples’ sentiment and personal feelings. Without question, it has been incredibly one of a kind. Everybody’s looking to be brightened up. We’re ever hopeful that terrorism will be conquered. So I’ll be looking for bright, heart-grabbing, attention-getting things.

“In terms of accessories, we always spend several hours on the accessories floor, looking at how that has developed because accessories are a huge part of our business.

“To me the market was way, way skewed to contemporary in October. We have to find things that are acceptable to go to work because most of the female population that I serve does go to work. And it still has to be fun and noticeable enough to invest in. Because if it looks like something a client already has, it doesn’t get bought. Also, our radar is always up for your contemporary 40-to-50-year-old mother of the bride and groom that doesn’t look like she’s expired.”

Laura Weber, owner
Laura’s, Abilene, Tex.

“I’ve done most of my spring buying already. In January, I will work the accessories: belts, beaded bags and all of the jewelry, earrings, necklaces and bracelets. I’ll be looking for color. Spring and summer are definitely a rainbow of colors. Right now I’ve gotten in hot pink, shrimp, turquoise, yellow and orange. I’ll definitely want colored jewelry. I’ll do some pearls, some gold, some silver, but mostly color.

“I’ll be looking for fun, colorful scarves, handbags, textured handbags, fabric handbags. A lot of stores don’t do this, but at the beginning of December I already had 16 boxes of cruise and spring to unpack. I was headed in that direction early.

“Another thing I’ll need are items — quick-sale items…unusual things that you can put on a T-stand and the customer says, ‘I’ve just got to have this!”‘