PANTS, KNIT TOPS SPARK ORDERS
Byline: Kristi Ellis / Janet Ozzard
LAS VEGAS — Retailers at the fifth edition of WWDMagic here were plentiful and in the mood to shop.
While some were ready to write fall orders, many were looking for immediates and summer. Some others said they were browsing the women’s apparel show to get a “feel for fall,” in categories ranging from junior sportswear to swimwear to licensed goods.
Knit tops — from halters to screen-print logo T-shirts for summer to novelty sweaters for fall — were high on many buyers’ lists, while pants seemed to be the favorite bottom silhouette in flare, wide-leg and plaid styles.
WWDMagic embarked on a new format this season, housing its 830 companies and 1,500 booths in five large white pavilions across the street from the Las Vegas Convention Center, where the big MAGIC International men’s wear show was being held. Previous editions had put some exhibitors in pavilions and others in the Hilton Hotel adjacent to the Las Vegas Convention Center. The new format separated the vendors by category, from accessories to moderate, contemporary, junior, active and swimwear.
It also held a runway show for buyers featuring top trends, sponsored by Microsoft. The software company had a booth at the show where Judy Dulcich, retail industry marketing manager, was meeting with small retailers to help them find technology for their stores.
“Microsoft is really interested in educating retailers to help them use technology as a tool,” she said. “We’ve been trying to address the needs of smaller retailers, which is a big challenge, because there aren’t a lot of people willing to take the time to do that. Plus, it’s a very fragmented market. We want to help people assess what they need, then help them pick the hardware and software that’s right for them. Technology is often viewed as sterile, but I thought we could show that it’s actually hip and fun and esthetically pleasing.”
Microsoft is interested in retailers, said Dulcich, because it’s a growth area for the company.
“Smaller businesses represent 31 percent of the total retail community,” she said. “It’s a very important market, but it’s tough to service. But we want people not to be intimidated.”
On the merchandise front, Carol Pollock, the buyer for juniors at Macy’s West, was ready to write some orders for knit tops and sweaters.
“The junior market is just showing late spring and summer,” she said. “I’ve been really inspired by the looks in men’s activewear and was concerned about how to continue the success of the ski looks from the last fourth quarter. But I’m seeing new, fresh colorations that are, at the same time, a bit retro. So I feel we’ll be able to take the success of last year forward.”
Colors that are making tops look new are tones of purple, from plum to deep eggplant, with accents of burnt orange and green.
“The green has been toned down so it’s not as citrusy, which looks much better,” said Pollock.
A buyer from Mercantile Stores, Darcy LaCour, was looking through knit tops at the Urban Outfitters booth. She described her areas of interest as “screen-print T-shirts, newness in the junior market and getting a feel for fall.”
Browsing through the young/contemporary area at an XOXO division, three buyers from Charlotte Russe, a San Diego-based chain of 33 stores, said they were scouting for new trends and color palettes.
Rachel Luna, a buyer of lingerie and gifts for Charlotte Russe, said that active apparel was a strong trend.
“We’re not making many buys,” Luna said. “We have just come to the show to get a feeling.”
Canadian retailer Rick Salsman, owner of The Jeanery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said that business at his seven City Street casual junior stores has been about even with last year’s. “For the past 2 1/2 months, we have been creeping ahead,” he said.
He and Kathy MacGillivary, vice president of merchandising, were at the show to shop denim lines.
MacGillivary said that flares and slim legs are the best-checking denim silhouettes. She said she was also looking for better-value tops but had a hard time finding them. Halters and tanks are two silhouettes expected to check well.
Among the exhibitors, Lisa Norwitch, director of sales at Gemma Kahng, was part of the Cotton Inc. pavilion with Kahng’s Uniform bridge line, where she said she’d been seeing good quality retailers. “I’ve met with some international trading companies and made appointments with stores like Fred Segal Melrose and Mercantile,” said Norwitch.
Sonja Rountree, Dallas showroom manager for Andrea Jovine, said she’d seen plenty of accounts ready to write fall. Popular shades included deep brown, plum, blue tones and gray paired with bright green.
About 90 percent of Jovine’s fall line is knitwear, and the general knitwear trend boosted the label’s appeal, said Rountree. She said she was seeing a “nice mix of department and specialty stores.”
Jim Crowther, regional sales manager of Z. Cavaricci, said the company lowered its wholesale prices 15 to 20 percent across all categories late last year. Basic jeans now run from to $21 to $23 and fashion jeans from $23 to $28.
He said plaids are selling well, and the “bell-bottom is back in any fabric.” Stretch suede flare-leg pants with a zipper in back in black, tan, rust and olive are also among the top fall items.
Logo T’s are among the best-selling items, he said, adding, “The smaller the logo the better.” V-neck space-dye tops wholesaling for $8.50 are also among the top selling fall items. Belted space-dye halter tops for $13 to $14 are also strong.
“The show really started to pop by 3 p.m. on Tuesday,” said Gregg Fiene, an owner of Lola Inc., the maker of XOXO. “It looks like people came into town, because our licensing booths have been jammed,” he added. He had nine booths for his licensees, in addition to his core lines, bringing the total to 20.
Fiene said that shoes and watches were selling well. The watch licensee booked more than 1,000 watches in the first two days, he added. He said he expected to do over $500,000 in business in his core lines alone.
Motor launched a junior line — Ignision — at the show. The Motor line is contemporary, with outerwear prices ranging from $80 to $130. Ignision has lower prices, with tops ranging from $20 to $28 and outerwear ranging from $50 to $70.
Chad Kladstrup, national sales manager, said the company opened several new accounts while doing strong business.
Loren Camilleri, sales representative for Urban Outfitters, which had several of its junior and contemporary-price sportswear lines at the show, said she’d worked with “a handful of new accounts,” as well as “getting social calls from accounts that we’ve already written.”
“The business has been top-driven, with motifs like camouflage doing well,” she said. “We’re still selling the hippie look, like space-dye or embroidered gauzy voile shirts. We’ve been getting reorders on those.”
Younger, smaller exhibitors capitalized on the walk-by traffic. Sugartooth, the year-old junior division of Cash Skateboards, did well with such items as an acetate crepe tube dress priced at $24.
Jerry McKinish, the firm’s owner, said that volume last year was $150,000. Based on orders from the Action Sports Retailer show in Long Beach and WWDMagic, he expects it to double this year.
McKinish said he expected to do about $25,000 to $30,000 in business at this show.