Byline: Kristi Ellis

LOS ANGELES — Stretch fabrics and unusual prints scored with buyers placing fill-ins and advance merchandise at the spring market of the California Mart here.
Some retailers have been enjoying a relatively strong fall, but apparently weren’t ready to splurge on open-to-buy. Budgets were generally running even or slightly ahead. Still, there was a willingness to order, and that, with stepped up traffic, made for an active market, leaving exhibitors in a satisfied mood.
A spokeswoman for the mart said attendance for the five-day show, which ran through Nov. 5, was up 5 percent compared with a year ago.
“This has been one of the better markets that we have had in a few seasons,” said Peter Jacobson, a partner in Creative Concepts, a multiline showroom. “We have seen accounts from Manhattan to Panama and from Japan to San Diego.”
He said that his showroom had taken “quite a bit of paper” and picked up new accounts. “The consensus is that the market is more optimistic than in the past few seasons,” Jacobson said.
Et Vous, a better line in the Creative Concepts showroom, booked anything with stretch, according to Barrie Taylor, an account executive. She said that little V-neck pieces with fabric blocking in cotton and Lycra spandex ordered well for spring, as did rayon knits from Italy. Nylon pants were another key seller.
Kristi Williams, a West Coast sales rep for Platinum by Dorothy Schoelen’s corporate showroom, said that even though budgets were flat, “this is a big paper market for us.”
Platinum’s Silver Connection label did well with linen burnouts and animal prints for spring. Rayon animal prints in bronze and pewter attracted orders in the Platinum line.
Among merchants on the hunt for novelties was Beth Pilney, a buyer for The Little Traveler, just outside of Chicago, shopping for both spring and fill-ins.
“This is where I like to catch the trends and get serious,” Pilney said, adding that her spring buys “drag on” into January and February. Her open-to-buy, hovering around $50,000, was even to last year’s budget.
Different types of items, she said, were essential for her store, a 75-year-old Victorian mansion converted into a retail complex that attracts customers with daily fashion shows and its own restaurants.
“They come to us for the unusual, and I have to run a little harder to find it,” Pilney said. “I need to find the impulse items that people can’t find on the East Coast…I do better here than anywhere else.” She shopped accessories wholesaling from $15 to $85 and apparel ranging from upper moderate to better.
Citing items found at the market that she would probably order, Pilney said, “There were incredible embroideries from Guatemala in the Tenango line and beautiful silks in bright colors in the Aliki Yamani line.” She also said she found “fabulous hats” from Sonni Hats.
Shirley Duffy, owner of Annie’s in Castle Rock, Colo., said that her store carries a lot of soft dressings for a more affluent clientele. Shopping wholesale prices ranging from $60 to $150 for dresses and sportswear, Duffy noted she liked Mike & Tod’s sportswear and picked the line up as a new resource.
While her volume has been running ahead 8 to 10 percent this season, she noted she was keeping her budget about the same as last year at $22,000. She did note, however, that in her search for items, “we are trying to get away from lines that you have to buy six in the same style from.”
For spring, Duffy is banking on muted colors such as butters, lavenders and silvers, as well as looser, flowing silhouettes.
Jorja Marzella, owner of Ambience, San Pedro, Calif., also was shopping with a budget even with last year for her store that carries misses’ and better contemporary lines.
“We are trying to commit three months in advance for January and February deliveries,” she said.
Marzella ordered vintage suits from Zelda and washable linen separates from Flax. She also placed an order with Angel Heart.