ATLANTA — Men’s retailers scoured the Cobb Show here for fresh product that didn’t skimp on design.

This story first appeared in the October 20, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Buyers arrived at the show, held Oct. 4 and 5 at the Cobb Galleria, with budgets reduced by as much as half and focused mostly on immediate deliveries. Exhibitors reported steady traffic, especially the first day, and said retailers were looking for bargains.

The number of exhibitors decreased from 586 at the August show to 569, said Deborah Green, marketing manager.

Trends mostly ran parallel to those at the August show, reflecting a continued departure from a season-specific trade show format. Denim had a significant presence on the floor and styles played with wash, rinse and detailing, particularly on pockets.

In sportswear, exhibitors showed plenty of casual looks, including printed and plain T-shirts in bright colors, woven tops and lots of stitching and embroidery. Although there was no shortage of visual interest, looks featured decidedly less bling.

The six-year-old show, which is produced by Atlanta Apparel Exhibition Group, has raised its premium denim and sportswear quotient in recent editions, partly because of a strong presence from manufacturers Ed Hardy and Christian Audigier, whose offerings were housed in Velocity, a high-end contemporary section.

Sales reps for the two brands reported positive buyer response from both urban and high-end retailers, especially with rhinestone looks, patch details and embroidery.

Ruben Campos, founder of denim line Rivet de Cru that sells to about 300 U.S. doors, said first-day traffic at the show was “amazing,” adding the quality of buyers at the show has improved.

Campos recently reduced wholesale price points by about 20 percent to $35 for most styles, citing economic pressures and reluctance from buyers to merchandise denim for more than $100 at retail.

“The way we do business has changed and I don’t see [economic conditions] getting better anytime soon,” said Campos, adding that he’s cutting costs by being more selective with trade shows. “Thinking about 2010 is scary, but if I can just sell enough to pay bills, even if we don’t make any money, we’ll be OK.”

Campos and other manufacturers expressed concern about production in China amid rising costs and trade relation woes, and several reported cost-cutting elsewhere to hedge expenses overseas.

“Everybody I’ve seen at this show wants a deal,” Campos said. “Whether it’s a discount or a closeout, they’ll take it.”

The next Cobb Show is scheduled for Jan. 10 and 11.

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