INDEPENDENTS’ DAY:THE WRIGHT WAY
A GOOD SALES REPRESENTATIVE COMES BACK WITH A STRONGER PRODUCT AND A WHOLE NEW LINE TO SHOW OFF.
Byline: ANITA J. FINKELSTEIN
ATLANTA — It was a short sabbatical for Jere Wright, who is back at the Atlanta Apparel Mart after a six-month hiatus. Wright, who represented Lilli Ann, the 63-year-old San Francisco-based bridge suit and sportswear company for 18 years, took a two-season break while the 63-year-old Lilli Ann restructured. Now, Wright has signed a lease on a new showroom, 10S336, and has picked up a second company, Toula, to represent.
Wright will debut Lilli Ann’s new look at the January market. The company has streamlined and updated its look, which still focuses on a misses’ customer, but has created a younger looking attitude and increased its sportswear offerings. Randy Allen, the new owner and president of Lilli Ann, is excited to see reactions to the collection.
“I wanted to make it less structured and give it a younger feeling,” Allen said. “It’s not about the age of the customer as much as her attitude.”
Lilli Ann will still offer its signature tailored suits. For spring, it focused on a group of retro styles that were trademarks of the company. The fall collection which debuts at the January market will include the fur-trimmed suits for which Lilli Ann is known and a collection of fun furs. Price points for the line average $160 to $200 for a two-piece suit. The sportswear, which Allen compared to DKNY in feeling, will range in price, with the average piece wholesaling between $65 and $75.
Wright said he finds that most stores which carried Lilli Ann in the past are anxious to get it back. “There really wasn’t a replacement line for the collection,” he said. “It’s very unique, so the stores that had it before are reopening with it because the customer is still there.”
Wright will represent Lilli Ann for the Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee markets, while sales representative Larry Foster (room 11N-204) has the North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky regions.
The Hialeah Gardens, Fla.-based Toula will also show with Wright. The company is known for its handloomed knit special occasion suits and dresses. The Toula line wholesales from $200 to $350. Toula will also be debuting at the January market.
Toula is also producing Eric Stevens, a secondary line which Wright will be showing. The line is a mix of knit daytime dresses and suits that will wholesale from $80 to $100. Wright compared the line with Antonella Preve and said for fall it is showing suits with trims and piping and a group of fashion skirts. A key attraction of both Toula and Eric Stevens is their quick turnaround capability and the fact that they offer both petite and large sizes. “They can turn out an order within eight weeks and do special orders quickly, as well, which is rare for a knitwear company,” said Wright.
Wright says after 18 years in the market he feels both the consumers and stores are more educated and demanding. As a result, he has intensified the service angle of his business by visiting stores more often, offering seminars and trunk shows to stores.
“Store owners want their salespeople to be more involved in the product, so I am doing ‘morning meetings’ to offer them knowledge about the product. The business may have changed, but the customers are still there, and it’s important to offer them value and a good product. That’s what they are looking for now.”