IN PURSUIT OF SPRING: DRESSES TOP THE LIST

Byline: Brenda Lloyd

ATLANTA — It’s shaping up to be a dressy spring for the South.
Retailers heading into the October market are looking for eveningwear, dresses for social and casualwear and easy separates. Most are planning the bulk of their spring buy at this market and generally are armed with wide-open budgets. Some will go for immediate deliveries to fill in late fall or holiday merchandise.
Here, a look at what some retailers are hunting for.
Carolyn Kinnebrew Turner, women’s wear manager and buyer, The Kinnebrew Co., Americus, Ga.: “I have already placed some of my spring orders with my more traditional sportswear companies, like Ann May, Elliott Lauren, Erik Stewart sweaters and Central Falls. At this market, I’ll be looking at new trends, and I’ll be placing my spring dress buy. Maybe 40 percent of my spring open-to-buy dollars are still open.
“Also, I’ll be shopping for some last-minute holiday accessories. That will be jewelry, including silver and special occasion jewelry, and I need to place orders for fill-in purses for holiday. I don’t have much open-to-buy for holiday — it’s just fill-ins, and if I see some accessories that will be neat as gifts, I’ll buy those, too.
“I do a lot of networking at the market, talking to friends around the Southeast and getting their ideas about new lines and new trends and then checking those lines out.”
K.T. Nourse, women’s wear buyer, Mark Fore & Strike (18 stores), Boca Raton, Fla.: “I’ll definitely be shopping for spring. Being a resort-driven store, that’s our big season, and I’ve done most of my resort buying. I’ll be looking for dresses, because they’ve been very strong, and for scarves, which go with the dresses; they’ve been strong, too. We carry more classic looks in our stores. I’ll also be looking for lightweight spring outerwear jackets that have an activewear look.
“I use Atlanta to find new resources. It’s easy to shop for those in Atlanta because the building is convenient and easy and conducive to finding new things. We always find a lot of dresses at Don Overcast’s showroom and at Arnold Helman.
“A good percentage of open-to-buy will still be open prior to the show — at least half. But I like to shop both Atlanta and New York and do an overview and then place my orders.”
David Ethridge, president, D. Ethridge, Dothan, Ala.: “I’ll be concentrating on last-minute items to fill in for holiday and to reinforce spring, now that I have done the August market and had a chance to preview what’s out there. Now I can fine-tune the items and accessories and fill in the gaps. I’m also doing in my mind a color palette to make sure I have all the compatible looks. I have customers from age 16 and up shopping in my store, so I have areas that cater to the lifestyle segments of them all, but I want it all to flow together. It usually takes me a day and a half to focus just on direction at the shows.
“I’ll also be concentrating on spring social occasion clothing in October. I buy that a little closer to the season than my sportswear. Lines I’ll be checking out include Karen Lawrence, Cattiva and Victoria Royal for social occasion, and Paris for daytime and evening suits. Then I’ll come back for early spring and look at the Sherry Hill collection, which has beautiful gowns for pageant. And I’m still looking for spring dresses.
“My open-to-buy is still good — I have about 45 percent still open. It will probably be the same as last year, but I’ll buy smarter.”
Susan Perlis, buyer and sales manager, The Big Store, Tifton, Ga.: “We’ll definitely be doing spring full force. We did some in August, but we’ll be predominantly buying spring at this show. We have holiday covered for fill-ins. The only things we’ll be doing are jewelry and accessories, but not much.
“We need dresses and sportswear in particular. We’ll be looking for everything, and that includes children’s, juniors and misses’. We like to look for the right fashion for a price. But price isn’t an issue if it’s the right look. Our look has to be conservative, but with a fashion flair. As for trends, right now, fashion colors are still selling.
“We carry a lot of lines. We’ll be seeing lines like Sigrid Olsen and Cambridge Dry Goods, which we like. A lot of our basics are from Harve Benard and Rafaella, and our big denim lines are Polo and Calvin Klein, and we have Tommy Girl coming in this fall. We’ll be checking these out again for spring, and we’ll be looking for new lines, too. When we get to Atlanta, we have so much to do that we work by appointment, but we’re always open to checking out the new lines that our reps have chosen.
“We haven’t worked most of our spring lines — maybe only 15 percent. So we have a lot of open-to-buy left, and this show will be our big buy. We’ll book the majority of what’s left.”
Mary Annecelli, owner and buyer, Shop of the Rag Picker, Winston-Salem, N.C.: “I’ll be going just for spring — no fall or holiday fill-ins. However, I never pass up something for immediate delivery if it’s spectacular. We work seasons ahead of time, but if I see something that’s wonderful for the immediate season, I’ll buy it.
“My needs are for casual dress and social occasion. The business customer is dressing casually, so I’m looking for dress-up casual. And I love looking for dresses that are casual and for daytime, and I always look for cotton and color — all year long. For social occasion, I’ll look for prom dresses, and the biggest category I always look for is the mother-of-bride/groom dress. Of course, they want something that’s elegant and understated, but different from everyone else. They all say they don’t want the typical MOB dress, and they want to wear it for another occasion.
“I’ll also look for sportswear. Cotton, again, is important, and I happen to specialize in knits. Cotton as soft as cashmere is what we look for. MillerShor silk dresses are always on the top of my list. I also do great with Misty Lane because of its daytime dresses. Maggie London is a good line, and I do extremely well with Renfrew sportswear.
“My open-to-buy at the show depends on whether I like what I’m seeing. I’ve done some spring, but I have most of it still to place.”
Elza Alterman, owner, Elza’s Dress Shop, Charleston, S.C.: “I go to New York a lot, but I don’t have much time to spend there. I like going to Atlanta because I can pick up some ideas that we don’t see in New York. Also, sometimes the lines have different minimums in Atlanta and I don’t have to buy as much.
“I need spring now — dresses, sportswear, evening and cocktail dresses, and sweaters. My spring open-to-buy is all open now.”

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