CHICAGO MARKET: HOLIDAY MOOD

Byline: Nancy Brumback

CHICAGO — Buoyed by strong early sales of summer merchandise, Midwest specialty store buyers were in a spirited mood as they finished up fall buying and got a jump start on holiday at the latest edition of the Chicago StyleShow.
“The spring and summer buying has been great. We’ll be out of things like shorts before it’s time to mark them down,” noted Paula Vyverberg, owner of Mary V, two specialty shops in Indianapolis.
“Business has been excellent for us,” agreed Bill Danner, co-owner of Karen Danner’s in Jacksonville, Ill. “Shorts, T-shirts, linen items, short dresses have all been selling, and still at full price.”
An early and unusually warm spring season in much of the Midwest was credited with giving a big boost to the demand for summer goods.
The fall II-holiday preview market, which ran for five days through Tuesday at the Chicago Apparel Center, is not one of the major markets of the year, and retailer traffic was on the light side, showroom executives noted, but retailers who did attend were in a mood to buy.
Mike Stevison, owner of the Dressed 2 Kill rep firm with such lines as Fitigues and Garfield & Marks, said retailers were placing big orders at the market “well ahead of last year.”
Stores, he said, were looking for immediate goods, along with holiday and resort apparel.
“Business has been good in the stores, and our fall season ended up good,” commented Stephen Mirkin, owner of Stephen Mirkin & Associates, whose lines include Renfew Collection, Revue and August Silk.
“Items are going to be important for fall,” he added, noting the popularity of strong colors and metallic looks in suedes and leathers.
Shopping for holiday, several retailers said they wanted less dressy and more casual looks, in fabrics such as stretch velvet and corduroy. Holiday sweaters were also high on shopping lists. And despite the frequent nods to casual, there was a call for fall suits and sophisticated dresses for special occasion and holiday.
Julie Rowe, co-owner of Karen Danner’s, expects sweaters with plush looks and fake fur trims to be popular this fall.
As for colors, Rowe said, “I’ve seen a lot of navy,” along with the traditional browns and blacks for fall.
Patricia Steele, owner of Margret Hunters in Brighton, Mich., speculated that the early warm weather might mean good cool-weather sales as well.
“Hopefully, we’ll see some pent-up demand for winter apparel after this long spring and summer,” she said.
Steele was at the market for holiday lines, primarily casual looks in velvet and corduroy. She noted she liked the Paul Reid-Loose Threads line.
Mary V’s Paula Vyverberg was “looking for everything.” Her shop carries upper-moderate to better lines and plus sizes.
“There are many more resources for plus sizes now, but it’s still hard to find new looks,” she said. In plus sizes, she particularly liked Sigrid Olsen, Lida Caputo, Vikki Vi and Fenini.
Cheryl Nichoalds, owner of Tivoli Fashions, three stores based in Bedford, Ind., was “seeing a lot of stretch velvet for the holidays.” As with several other retailers, her preference was for more casual holiday looks. “It’s too short a season” to carry a lot of dressy items, she noted.
Dorine Lumbarkoski, owner of Fashion Affair Boutique, Merrillville, Ind., reported “very good” spring and summer sales, especially in easy shorts sets and “relaxed, simple one- or two-piece dressing.”
However, she expects suits to be strong for fall, led by fur-trimmed looks, with softer browns dominating.
Cindy Jacobs and Jan Long, co-owners of My Sister’s Closet in Carlinville, Ill., noted casual looks paced strong sales in May. But Jacobs added: “We have women asking for dresses, so we’re here to look for dresses.” Among the styles they sought were sophisticated looks appropriate for weddings and other dressier occasions, Jacobs said.
Jacobs also said the pair liked the Mac and Jac line of related separates, “updated expensive looks at a moderate price,” while Long added she would like to see more petite lines available.
Irene Cooperman, owner of Epitome in Minneapolis, liked suits from Garfield & Marks and expected charcoal and black to continue to be the strong colors come fall.
Cathy Johnson, a buyer at Epitome, was looking for “dressy little dresses” for the holidays in the wake of a strong prom dress season.

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