View Slideshow

ATLANTA — Southeastern buyers at AmericasMart, putting the hurricanes of August and September behind them, shopped enthusiastically for spring, inspired by color, novelty and preppy looks.

Retailers bought into prints, patterns and embellishments they feel will continue to resonate with consumers. Dresses, skirts and capri pants showed action, as did jeans lines that address a range of ages and sizes. The craze for ponchos and wraps carried on.

Attendance at the show, which ended its five-day run Oct. 18, was flat compared with last year, said Lawton Hall, senior vice president of AmericasMart Apparel. Exhibitors and mart officials speculated that some Florida retailers stayed home, rebuilding business after the hurricanes.

Michael Hyman, of the Michael & Paula Hyman sales firm, said although he saw fewer Florida stores than usual, sales increased 25 percent over last October because of bigger orders. Kathie Orrico, owner of C. Orrico, with four Florida stores, in Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, Del Ray and Naples, lost around a month’s worth of business from the hurricane closings.

“We’re holding huge sales with bigger-than-usual reductions to help generate business,” she said.

Preparing for the spring season, Orrico shopped with a budget even with last year for “updated classics, with a feminine side.” She bought knee-length flirty skirts by Cynthia Steffe and Ruth, dresses by Nell and capri pants with wider legs and new prints from Trina Turk. She also ordered fashion jeans in medium rises and a variety of washes from Citizens of Humanity and James Jeans.

Preppy looks will be “bigger than ever” this spring, said Mary Osiason, owner of the Pink Palm boutique in Tampa, Fla. Osiason said business had been uneven this fall, partly attributable to the effect of the weather on Florida’s economy. She projected sales even with last year.

She bought capris in whimsical prints by C.J. Laing, colorful palazzo pants and skirts at Trina Turk, and dresses with ribbon belts from Molly B. While color has boosted sales in recent seasons, Osiason also bought neutrals, including black and orchid combinations by Nanette Lepore. Osiason dabbled in peasant skirts from Tibi and Cynthia Steffe.

This story first appeared in the October 27, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Business picked up this year at Mam’selles, a Jackson, Tenn., store, where owner Debbie Swacker shopped with a budget up 10 percent. She bought from Elliott Lauren, Olsen, BCBG and Michael Stars, and added new resources, such as BCBG girls.

Ponchos, her store’s hottest item of the past six months, have appealed to a variety of customers. For spring, she bought lightweight, crochet ponchos and wraps from BCBG, Purp7e and Mac & Jac.

Bridge sportswear for baby boomers was the target for Sherry Bryan, owner of R. Bryan, a boutique in Wilmington, N.C. Bryan bought more stretch jeans with reorder capabilities from Bianca, Womyn and Christopher Blue. In capris, she ordered novelty print styles by In the Wash and new pedal-pusher silhouettes from Renfrew, as well as cashmere sweaters from White + Warren and T-shirts by Necessitees.