Byline: Rusty Williamson

DALLAS — An intense battle to snare the attention of price-conscious retailers has resulted in a price war of sorts among moderate makers.
The lure of hanging in major department stores seems especially sweet for vendors who now are only doing business with specialty stores or are in the majors only on a small scale. To keep competitive, prices are generally holding even.
“We’re looking to become more of a chain-store customer label,” said Kobi Levy, production manager at Bila, Los Angeles. “It would help us grow in volume and also inspire us to produce lots of different lines for different departments.”
Bila now has about 200 active accounts, including Nordstrom and Jacobson’s, as well as lots of specialty stores.
Levy expects business to swell 40 percent this year, especially if the company’s hopes of being picked up by more majors are realized.
Wholesale prices at Bila are $29 to $58, and the fall collection includes lots of velvets and prints.
Chuck Goldstein, owner of Confetti, Los Angeles, a casual misses’ knitwear firm, lamented that department store buyers are often reluctant to try something new.
“If you don’t have a name, they don’t want even to look at you,” said Goldstein, whose 1,300 accounts are nearly all specialty stores. “They say, ‘Call us back. Call us back. Call us back.”‘
Goldstein added that competition to entice price-savvy buyers is causing a fierce contest for store dollars.
“The competition is very keen,” he said. “So we’re working closer to the belt. We’re not cutting prices, but we are holding even.”
Goldstein hopes to double sales this year, as he did in 1996. To lead the charge, he’s hired eight additional salespeople and plans to send them across the U.S.
Confetti, wholesaling for fall from $10.75 for a knit top to $25 for a detailed jacket, also recently expanded into corduroy and denim and expects the move to fuel new business this year.
Rachel Pinker, owner of In Vitro, New York, a novelty shirt firm, said the best way to swell a business is to constantly offer new products to keep things fresh.
“Every time a buyer comes in the door, there has to be something fresh,” said Pinker, whose shirts feature a medley of themes, from animation to urban graphics.
“And we go in separate directions with our designs for different stores,” she added.
In Vitro projects it will triple business this year, based on its diverse and expanded offerings, including new accessories and innerwear collections.
Pinker last month launched a company called Retro Fit that designs and merchandises T-shirts and some separates for rock bands. It also has contracts with a few bands to do T-shirts and glittery iron-on transfers.
Pinker plans to show off her new venture at music trade shows and probably will display some goods at WWDMagic, along with In Vitro.
Arvind Sharma, president of Design Action Group, New York, plans to increase his dress business by 50 percent this year with a strong presence at trade shows.
Selling mostly to specialty stores, Sharma said he’d also like to add department stores to his client list if the terms were right: COD or approved credit. Wholesale prices for fall are $10 to $35.

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