Byline: GEORGIA LEE
Rep: Judy DeWalt
Sales Firm: Natural Discoveries, a 15-year-old multiline sales firm specializing in contemporary sportswear and accessories, including Aliki, Yamani, Annawear, Back East, C. Wall, CMC Collections, Cut Loose, H. Look, MSAS, URU and Rose Parks.
Atlanta Showroom: 11W127
Base: Sarasota, Fla.
Q: What is your view of the marketplace today?
A: Business is very tough. I feel that we’re going through a transition. People today are overwhelmed with everything in their lives and are trying to simplify. Clothing is an easy place to start. People are starting to buy better and buy less, much like Europeans. They want outfits that are easy. This is why dresses and more casual clothes have been so strong. Specialty stores that focus on better classics with a twist should do well.
Q: How has the sluggish economy affected your business?
A: The economy is tough now and has been all year. In my territory, which stretches from Virginia to Flo-rida, buyers, manufacturers and reps are insecure. I’ve consolidated the showroom from 2,600 to 1,800 square feet and reduced the number of lines from 22 to 10 tried and true lines. I’ve also had to do more road work this year. I think all reps have.
Q: What can a retailer do to compete in a shrinking marketplace?
A: I still believe that service is the number one thing, particularly when department stores are so lacking in this area. Also, retailers are changing their merchandising strategies, going more narrow and deep. They are more cautious now and less eager to take risks. I also believe retailers should advertise, especially when times are tough.
Q: What can you as a rep do to help retailers?
A: I think the most important thing we can do is to give direction and stay abreast of what’s going on in the marketplace. Retailers are so busy in their stores. They need help. Also, we as reps need to give service by helping with special orders, returns, damages and other problems. We should be a liaison between manufacturers and retailers.
Q: How do you rate the Atlanta Apparel Mart in terms of relations with sales reps and retailers?
A: When business got tough, we all had to look at new ways to get business, and the Atlanta Mart has done a good job. The consolidation was a good move, in that it feels busier, whether it is or not, and categories are better grouped together.
Q: How does the contemporary category address buyers’ needs, and what are major trends?
A: Contemporary clothing is geared to baby boomers. We aren’t going to dress like our parents. We want to look younger with a focus on comfort, soft dressing and natural fibers. Contemporary clothing allows individuality and expression for people who don’t want to dress in The Gap look.
Major trends in fabrics are denim and washed linen, for its easy care properties. Also, there’s more color in the market now, which is good, because people are beiged out. The trend is still toward classic shapes with a twist, and the simpler the better.