MARKET OUTLOOK: UPBEAT
Byline: Wendy Hessen
NEW YORK — After a relatively robust holiday season for accessories, vendors are looking to next week’s market in a confident frame of mind.
Although January is not generally considered a major accessories market, manufacturers say they are positioned for a healthy spring and there still is considerable business to be written for the season.
In fact, some designers and manufacturers reported they were still receiving significant reorders in late December for immediate deliveries.
Fashion jewelry has begun to rebound, the onset of winter across much of the country resulted in heavy demand for cold-weather merchandise and runway trends for color and texture are already enticing some consumers into the stores for resort and early spring shopping.
Here’s the outlook as expressed by some key accessories executives going into market week.
Tom Lawson, president of handbag maker Holiday Fair, which markets collections under the Perry Ellis, Capezio and Looney Tunes labels, is very optimistic.
“Ninety-five percent of our spring business is already booked, and we are well on our way to completing major fall programs,” he said.
Lawson added that with many retailers narrowing their focus in categories and fabrications, Holiday Fair’s philosophy of being fashionable but not trendy or gimmick-oriented has paid off.
“We try to be middle-of-the-road enough to appeal to a broad range of consumers shopping at Dillards and May Co. or Federated,” Lawson said.
Reflecting the current strong pace of business, the company sold nearly $900,000 at wholesale the last week before Christmas, goods that buyers wanted to get on their selling floors immediately, he said.
Holiday Fair, he said, would explore other distribution channels, including drugstore and sporting goods chains, and premium markets, all of which will contribute to gains this year. Lawson said the company was racking up a gain of approximately 18 percent for 1995 against 1994.
Showroom owner Cynthia O’Connor said she got calls through Dec. 20 for immediate deliveries on merchandise from her 10-designer roster, particularly Dana Kellin jewelry and Kate Spade handbags.
“November was our strongest market ever, and I feel we’re positioned properly for January,” O’Connor said, pointing out that the designers she represents have “gotten their names out to the public.” For the January market, she expects a gain of 25 percent over last January.
“When stores find lines that have sold through, they have gotten smarter in terms of planning ahead and making sure they have product in the pipeline,” O’Connor said. “I’m very optimistic, but still looking over my shoulder all the time.”
Among the key trends O’Connor expects retailers to seek during her run at the Accessorie Circuit here and in her showroom during market week are small-scale sterling silver jewelry, structured handbags and novelty fabrications in hats and hair accessories, and lots of color.
“For the first time in a long time, we don’t have to be afraid of color, whether it’s pastels or brights,” she said.
Erwin Pearl, president of the fashion jewelry firm that bears his name, agreed the outlook is brighter than it was a year ago.
“Even though it isn’t quite clear what the final numbers will be, I do believe that jewelry as a whole was better this Christmas than last. We have had early reports that we did quite well at some of our major stores, and our own two stores here did well also, all without promotional events,” said Pearl.
He said his positive outlook is partly because two important trends — silver and pearls — are areas his company has expanded and developed in the last year.
Elaine Gold, owner of the scarf firm Collection XIIX, attributes the demand for accessories to recent ready-to-wear trends and to the fact that accessories are showing more freshness than apparel.
“We’re back into understandable, great American sportswear, which gives women more confidence about buying clothes and therefore, accessories,” Gold said. “There is also newness in accessories. Two years ago in scarves, for instance, we were limited to a few materials; now there are drawers full of new fabrications.”
In addition to her own line, Gold’s company produces licensed scarf collections for Ellen Tracy, Anne Klein and Robert Lee Morris.
Gold said her firm is coming off a strong holiday season and is optimistic about spring.
Color and diversification in fabric and prints will be Gold’s focus for January. She expects satin stripes, satin chiffon, sandwashed crepe de chine, printed metallics, Victorian florals and architectural designs to be among the top performers.
Scarf designer Kevin O’Brien scored big early in 1995 with his handpainted devorA scarves, quadrupling his sales since last spring and achieving near sellouts for fall and holiday. O’Brien said he expects spring 1996 to be “at least as good as this past fall.”
Besides a lot of white, some of which is handpainted with delicate floral prints, O’Brien will offer super pale colors in a specially woven and processed devorA satin that he developed with a mill in Lyon, France. Hair accessories company Skaffles is betting on its newest product, the Sun Band, to generate big sales during market week. The item is a pair of sunglasses with teeth on the insides of the temples; when the wearer pushes the sunglasses up to the top of her head, they become a headband; the teeth anchor them in the hair.
“We think that buyers will be coming in and looking for new products, products that will give consumers a reason to spend money,” said Steve Weiser, national sales coordinator. “The retail business desperately needs something right now that will get people to take out their wallets, and I think this is the kind of item that a woman can see and think, ‘I could really use something like that.’ “