UPBEAT PACE AT BOUTIQUE SHOW
Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg
NEW YORK — Despite mixed fall business, buyers shopping the four-day International Fashion Boutique Show, which concludes at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here today, were enthusiastic about spring prospects.
While some stores came through the season with gains, others reported fall volume was even or off by 5 percent or more from 1993. But many noted that holiday sales were sparked when the weather chilled in mid-December, making them feel confident about upcoming business.
For the most part, they also liked the array of fashion-forward and casual merchandise on display at the show.
Topping the shopping lists were such items as:
Short vinyl skirts.
Shrunken T-shirts with insignias or logos.
A-line skirts hitting above the knee.
Overalls in painter styles and in denim.
Casual dresses in solids and in gingham.
Junior and fashion-forward resources, such as House of Field, Flax, Living Doll, Spot Girl, Wednesday’s Child, Angelheart Designs, Chin Chin and Soda Blue, were drawing brisk traffic, with buyers often waiting in line for a seat at the booths. Buyers also crowded in to review lines by GirlVision, Planet Claire and Girly Things.
Looking for skirts, dresses and T-shirts for spring, Michelle Aubel, buyer for Incognito, a 1,500-square-foot store in Ithaca, N.Y., said her budget was even with last year since sales were flat as well.
Aubel said she planned to place orders with Urban Outfitters, PA Company, Kiko, Michael Stars and UFO Clothing. “I’m looking for newness, and we’ve seen some good lines. Spring is usually a good season for us,” she said. “We’re optimistic.”
With a budget even with last year, David Engel, buyer for Villains, a 6,000-square-foot store in San Francisco, said he wanted to find new fabrics for his “hip, young customers.”
Vinyl pants, rubber jackets, polyester dresses and rayon shirts were some of the items on his checklist. Engel said he would buy from Lip Service, Unitryb, Pleasure Swell and Kik Wear. Items that wholesale from $25 to $45 outsell higher-priced items, he said.
Ilan Kornberg, owner of Rona K., a 3,000-square specialty store in West New York, N.J., said he was ordering A-line miniskirts, tank minidresses, apron dresses, jeans, denim vests and skirts with satin belts. With fall business 15 percent ahead of last year, he said he would spend more than he did last January.
Kornberg listed XOXO, Paris Blues and Parasuco as a few of his favorite vendors.
Catering to “young, alternative customers,” Amy Lubchansky, manager and buyer for Threads in Trumbull, Conn., said she was looking for fast-turn items — vinyl skirts, vintage jeans and rubber jackets that wholesale from $15 to $40. Liking what she was seeing, Lubchansky said she would spend twice as much at this year’s show even though fall sales were only 5 percent ahead of last year. Tripp, Antique Boutique and Don’t Panic are a few of the resources that do well in Threads’ two stores, she said. Ginny Hogan and Stacy Richardson, buyers for Vagabond in Columbus, Ohio, said they liked the looks of Dollhouse, Bill Hallman Womenswear and Mantrap. The pair said they would order street-inspired short skirts, baby Ts, vinyl jumpers, sheer blouses and vinyl jackets.
“We do everything from clubwear to casualwear. We’re seeing a lot of good things,” Hogan said. “Everything bright is selling. There’ll be no neutrals for our customers.”
Reviewing Flax’s linen sportswear separates, Lori Friedman, owner of Great Stuff, a four-unit specialty chain in and around Westchester County, said she would order dresses, pants, jackets and T-shirts from Flax, Hard Tail, Odyssey and CP Shades. “I’ll buy the whole collection from Flax. They’re putting a lot of manufacturers to shame,” she said. “The look is right, the price is right, and they’re nice to do business with. The latter makes a difference, but a lot of manufacturers don’t realize that.”
While Great Stuff’s fall sales were even with last year’s, Friedman said she would spend “considerably less” at the show compared to last January.
“I’m concerned about overdistribution. It’s time to be more discretionary. We don’t want lines that are everywhere,” Friedman said. She also said she isn’t buying Eileen Fisher or Urban Outfitters’ Anthropologie line because both firms have stores and have expanded their distribution too widely for her taste.
Deborah Carroll, buyer for D’Carro in West Bloomfield, Mich., was another retailer with a gripe, saying she wasn’t finding enough fast-turn items and was seeing too much repetition among the vendors.
Carroll noted that she did order silk skirts and pants from Yoko Honda and cotton blend separates from Miyo Design.
As for recent business at the store, Carroll noted, “Fall sales were off by at least 15 percent due to the warm weather. The season picked up before Christmas, but that couldn’t compensate for what happened in the fall season.”