Byline: Kristin Larson

NEW YORK — Looking for relief from the economy doldrums, retailers sought out novelty items, casual clothing and soft, feminine looks at Fashion Avenue Market Expo, which ended its four-day run here March 5 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.
“We’re looking for things that are unusual, maybe a new line or two. We’re a very eclectic store,” said Anne Carney, co-owner of Garbo & Sasha in Frenchtown, N.J., as she perused Two Star Dog, a better casual line featuring wool separates and novelty items. “Still, we’re not buying a whole lot for now, maybe spending $10,000. It’s really fill-ins.”
The third edition of FAME featured merchandise geared toward summer and early fall, although immediate deliveries for spring seemed to drive orders at many vendor booths — perhaps speaking to the cautious buying persisting among retailers.
“Buying has been mixed,” said Robert Graves, national sales manager for Two Star Dog. “We definitely have people writing closer to season.+We’re having success with boiled wool jackets and novelty items, but basics are slowing.”
Meanwhile, comfortable and casual knits were on the buyer list at the moderate- to better-priced Solitaire line.
“People are booking fall deliveries,” said Nicole Ramirez, representative for the Spencer, N.Y.-based line. “And more people are interested in knits, cashmere and silk knits. I’ve had a bigger response this show than before.”
Store owner Yana Mayerman of Pastiche in Old Greenwich, Conn., was shopping for summer, searching for “fun, novelty-like” clothing. Regarding the vendor assortment, Mayerman said: “I’d like to see more clean looks, not just over-sized and loose, but stylish and flattering looks that real women can wear.”
Still, the economy’s slowdown was felt at the show.
“Buyers are cautious and they are finding they need to fill holes quickly,” said Beth Doyle, owner of the retail wholesale novelty-driven, moderate firm Moe Momentum Clothing. “It’s been slow, but I didn’t have high expectations. My retail business is doing well because I was cautious and now I have money to spend. I bought here as well.”
One vendor that generated a stir, perhaps via its splashy booth display with bright lights, oversized images and promotional spice racks — coordinated to match the fall merchandise — was Putumayo.
“The show has been rather slow, but we’ve been doing well,” said Megan Hotze, sales representative. “We really worked hard on designing our booth and it draws a lot of people.”
Putumayo offers the right mix of novelty separates that are designed to be comfortable, said buyer Rose Atkinson of Elaine’s in Sayville, N.Y., who wrote orders for immediate delivery and for fall.
“We like novelty and the fresh colors,” Atkinson said. “These looks fit our store because we have a misses’ customer and they work well with her lifestyle.”
Overall, 350 exhibitors represented 700 lines at FAME, and about 4,500 buyers attended the show.
Britton Jones, president and chief executive officer of Business Journals Inc., which produces FAME, said: “People are still being a little cautious in buying, but because of that, they’re writing higher-quality, more selective orders.”
Still, it takes some time to weigh the success of any trade show, noted FAME president Sam Starr.
“People are breaking new things here,” Starr said, and the key is “three months down the road, what accounts have you opened.”