YOUNG AT HEART
NIKKY YOUNG HAS AN EYE FOR THE NEXT BIG THING AND AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE FICKLE JUNIOR CUSTOMER.
Byline: Deirdre Mendoza
LOS ANGELES — The rewards of a quick-turn junior business are not lost on Nikky Young, whose eponymous showroom in the CaliforniaMart has emerged as a haven for on-trend items with distribution weighted toward junior chain stores and A-list specialty retailers nationwide.
Armed with a five-year track record that includes three years as a representative for junior lines NC Love and Joe’s, Young decided to go it on her own as an independent multiline rep in August of 1997.
Friends helped her finance the launch of a 320-square-foot showroom on the eighth floor of the Mart, which was initially powered by California Rising Star award nominee Madhouse and a Tactel junior knit line called Malibu. A self-described fashion lover, Young soon defined her customer as “a young woman 14 to 25 who is funky, watches MTV, looks at all the magazines and then reinterprets fashion at her price level.”
She opted for lines that could potentially deliver high volume, having witnessed the boon of junior money makers such as the once-ubiquitous baby T’s and the rise of slip and printed dresses in recent years.
Her genuine passion for sales comes across as she describes her professional goals: “This showroom was always my dream. I was never meant to be a tap dancer. I love to sell garments. I’m not doing this just to make money and wear Prada or to retire in five years — this is my life.”
That in mind, Young moved to a larger showroom, also on the eighth floor, where she now offers new merchandise about every four weeks from a range of volume lines. With a healthy distribution that includes Wet Seal, Arden B., Contempo, Rampage, Urban Outfitters, Zoe Catalog, Pacific Sunwear, Miller’s Outpost, Hot Topic, Nordstrom’s Brass Plum and Orange County’s Limbo Lounge, she estimates volume sales for 1997 at $5 million and hopes to increase sales for yearend 1998 by 10 percent.
“My game is bigger and therefore my losses can be bigger by selling trend at a price,” says Young. “I want the garments to retail for a disposable price so my customer’s mother can feel comfortable, and my customer can buy something on her allowance.” Young says she thinks trends such as “girl glam” and “luxe,” which she describes as understated glamour featuring a mix of boucles, fake fur sweater sets and glitter, will be hot in coming seasons. She currently represents four lines that cover those looks: Relish, a line that includes a textured “eyelash” polyester group and a flirty lingerie group in sheer fabrications; Jane Doe, a knit line of chenille ribbed tanks, cardigans and dip-dyed tops; To Be Seen, a Los Angeles-based dress resource, and Funky People, a woven and embroidered print-driven line.
According to Young, emotion guides her decisions about what lines to carry. She works closely with her designers to edit groups for each delivery and even has an inside joke with her resources about how certain items in the line have to make her cry with joy for her to sell them.
“A buy fixes you on a lot of different levels,” says Young. “I keep a lot of numbers in my head, but I really work on pure emotion. I go into my stores every week, and I stand there and I see who’s buying. So I know what the mix is on their floor, and I can convey that to my designers.”
Young says retailers whom she has known for years rely on her “eye for trend,” noting that the strength of her room is in providing seasonal key items that will perform. She says her reputation has been built on having smaller junior and contemporary lines that add direction to the floor. Examples of key items have included last year’s split top from the Malibu collection and Madhouse’s fur collar sweater.
Currently, nothing in the room retails for more than $69, noting that $70 at retail is a price inhibitor for her young customer. This season, she’s looking to do big numbers with printed and embroidered sweaters from resources such as Jane Doe, which retail from $39 to $48.
Another factor is, of course, the fierce competition in the junior market. “I’m up against the fact that most of the junior lines such as XOXO and To the Maxx are corporate, so I’m trying to carve a price-driven niche in the business,” says Young. “That’s why when someone like Renee Bell from Rampage or John Eshaya from Fred Segal comes in and they say, ‘What’s hot?’ I can pull out like seven key items.”
A native of Southern California, Young grew up around the fashion trends of the Seventies and Eighties and landed her first job, while still in high school, at Contempo in Century City. From there, she worked at the famed Maxfield Blue in Los Angeles before moving to New York, where she worked for vintage clothing legend Trash and Vaudeville. She then returned to Los Angeles in the late Eighties and became a representative in 1990.
Young was raised by her father, a distributor for adult entertainment videos who, she says, gave her valuable advice about the art of selling by telling her, “It’s all in the packaging.”
Looking ahead, Young says she hopes to maintain four strong-selling lines in her room, though the names may change periodically.
As for staying on top of the trends, Young says that with teen exposure to everything from MTV to couture designer fashion to peer pressure, the hottest looks only have about a six-month shelf life. Fortunately, she says, her designers are plugged into what’s happening at the clubs and on the street.
“If you’re a sweater line, you have to have the next great sweater. If you’re Relish, you have to have the next clubby thing. My customer wants immediate gratification. She can’t buy for three months from now because she doesn’t know what’s going to happen in her life in three months. It’s going to fit right now and she’s going to wear it tonight.”