JUNIORS: TURNING TO TRENDS
Byline: Kristi Ellis
LOS ANGELES — It’s been a tough year for juniors.
Battling more retail consolidation and a weak holiday selling season in 1995, makers of junior apparel downsized, trimmed overhead and tightened margins.
Spring business has been flat at best and tough for small and large producers. Results from initial shipments have been less than satisfactory, but many makers are hopeful that summer business will pick up.
Most are focusing on fashion as opposed to basics, banking on the idea that consumers want novelty, which is what sold for spring. They said the strong interest in crepes and novelty treatments should carry into summer.
“We didn’t do any basics,” said Darryl Johnson, sales manager of Magazine Clothing Co., based here. He said 98 percent of his business is novelty.
Johnson acknowledged that business has been soft, noting that his volume fell 25 percent to $3 million in 1995 from $4 million in 1994. Price points also dropped, to an average of $7.75 last year from $9.75 in 1994.
“Business has been brutal for everybody,” he said. “It’s been up and down, and it’s been a bad year.”
But Johnson claimed that business was still strong in novelty bodies and novelty fabrics.
“We are doing well with pucker tops and a hot crepe-back satin in pastels and brights for spring,” he said. He added that fitted and tank bodies are selling well, but that regular, shiny satin is dying out. In its place is a crepe with a soft matte finish and no sheen.
Crepe with satin embellishments and linen have proven to be winners for Sterling Sportswear, a division of Shirin Tex in Dallas, according to Tracey Craft, vice president of operations.
The fledgling company did over $1 million in its first year selling mostly to specialty chains.
Currently booking their first spring orders, Craft said crepes in vanilla and black have been strong, as have linens in natural and black.
She said the company has done well with a basic denim blazer and novelty items. A spaghetti-back top with a five-strap cross was also strong for spring and will be carried over for summer dresses.
Contrary to some others, Z. Cavaricci reported a healthy spring business in tops and novelty fashion items, according to David White, president.
The company posted a 30 percent increase in volume in 1995 to $75 million and projects sales of $90 million this year, White said. Basics have seen the biggest reorders with the majors.
“Most recently, we have been doing ‘road trip’ jeans and shorts with a lot of labels,” he said.
For summer, nylon in shorts, skorts, skirts and shirts will be “huge,” according to White, in addition to Lycra spandex tops.
Z. Cavaricci’s summer line has a lot of bright blues and turquoise and black with trim.
White said price is not an issue. Prices dropped on basic jeans about three years ago to $48 from $56 retail and they have stabilized.
“This will be a good white year,” said Billy Curtis, president and owner of Los Angeles-based Billy Blues Inc. The denim company has booked a lot of shorts for spring. Zipper treatments, tie-fronts or tie-backs and a Seventies influence have also been key focuses.
“Tie-front denim, wrap crop tops, side-wrap crops and halter tie-back crop tops in eight-ounce, ring-spun denim have also been good for us,” he said.
Items checking well at retail include contour waist jeans, tie-front denim and novelty jeans. Curtis said shorts are not checking well yet, but should be booked for Feb. 29 and March 15 deliveries.
But Curtis admitted that because of retail consolidation, his $20 million volume has evened out, and he said it’s hard to tell when it will pick up.