Byline: Rebecca Kleinman

Many retailers are focusing their attention on novelty-driven items or fun accessories to spruce up their spring buys. Whether it was denim, suits or sweaters, novelty was the key word to define the season’s direction.
The novelty denim craze, fueled by a seemingly endless pool of international manufacturers, shows no signs of waning. Retailers said they are looking for a wide variety of denim novelties, including stud embellishment and different washes.
On the suits front, retailers said they are looking for piping or unusual buttons, as well as slits. Buyers are also in search of lightweight cotton or cotton blend sweaters with embellishments.
Though frustrated that customers still cling to black, retailers said they plan to bring in a good deal of color. Aside from the proliferation of bright hues, which includes the return of preppy favorites pink and green, buyers said black-and-white stories are a classic must-have for spring. Retailers are also on the hunt for bold colorful prints, including geometrics, large florals, plaids and conversationals.
Low-rise pants paired with hip-slung belts are expected to be a key look this spring. On the dresses front, retailers said the most important factor is versatility — dresses that can make the transition smoothly from the office to a formal dinner or evening affair.
Accessories continue to be sought-after for spring. Belts, scarves, bracelets, hair ornaments, gold jewelry and bigger or dangling earrings are all very popular. Magnetic closures are increasing in popularity, especially in boutiques catering to a mature clientele.
Retailers who prefer writing closer to season will concentrate on holiday and view spring, while most others will dive into spring.

Gail Monroe, owner, G. Monroe’s & Gallery Boutique, Pinehurst, N.C.
“I need a ton of accessories, fill-ins and spring basics. I’ve already written some spring by my main lines like Bellepointe, Catherine Stewart, Inspired and Christopher Radko. “For accessories, I like Sassy South and Golden Stella showrooms. Costume jewelry does very well, especially knockoffs. I’d rather sell more volume at lower prices than add a fine line at a higher price. With the current economy, people are buying more accessories to stretch a garment’s looks.
“Gold and bigger pieces are having a stronger impact. Everything was silver or two-toned in the last couple years. Anything with a magnetic clasp has been very successful too, since many of my older customers have arthritis or live alone.
“I don’t have a particular handbag line, but my customer does like knock-offs in this case too. I tried carrying $200 to $300 bags, but they would only buy them on sale. I’m seeing a slowing in bags in general, though, with the growth being in costume jewelry.
“I will move forward with color because my store is in a resort location. I really like North Carolina-based Mack and Mack’s colors. They do about 31 colors in all silhouettes. They’re easy sizing and can go in the washer and dryer, too.
“Since my customer is older, they’re not as strong on prints. I will touch on all types though in toile, florals, geometrics, animal [prints] and conversationals.
“My customers travels a lot, so they resist linen. One [customer] just told me she doesn’t want to ever see another piece of it.
“I do well with novelty sweaters. I’ve built up my lines over the years and have a whole room devoted to them. For spring, I need lightweight options.
“I would love to find a nice dress line. Everyone is crying for one. I also will move forward with cropped pants.
“My open-to-buy is the same, but I’ve shifted around dollars by taking some from basics for accessories and novelty items.”

Jan Weyant, owner, Jan’s, Opelika, Ala.
“I’m moving entirely forward with spring. I may pick up some party dresses for holiday, depending on how the others move. We do a big holiday season.
“My main manufacturers are Emil Rutenberg, Canvasbacks, Chetta B., Karen Kane and Nancy Bolen for City Girl. Dresses are hard for us, but I write Donna Morgan, or Laundry for the younger girls. I also need lightweight, cotton knits from Michael Simon and Rich & Levy. It’s important that they have special touches.
“I’ve already bought some prints from Tessuto. Several did well last year, and I expect them to be even stronger this time. I won’t devote more than 20 percent, though. My fashion-forward customer will like toile.
“Cropped pants will be with us for a while because there’s a certain customer who will always like them. My customers from [ages] 16 to 96 request them. They like them better than shorts, but I sell some bermudas by Tommy Bahama and Telluride. We have so many pro golf shops here that I concentrate more on fashion and leave the tailored looks to them.
“I’ve already bought some minis for my younger college girls, moms or single girls who want to look sexy. I tried them three years ago, but they didn’t take off. I won’t do that many this time around either because I doubt they’ll be as big of a deal as they were in the 1960s.
“I sold a lot of suits last year, so if I can find some pretty ones, I’ll buy them again. I like Albert Nipon and Kasper.
“Denim is good again. Anytime I find novelty denim, I buy it. It always sells. Some are Susan Bristol and Nancy Bolen. For the kids, I write whatever’s hot, like Frankie B. or Vitamina.
“I do a lot of jewelry, especially since we have a good-sized formal section. I also fell into mother-of-the-bride after so many requests. I shop Barse, Erica Lyons and Tim Philbin for hats like Chapeau Creations and Timmy Woods bags. I can’t keep magnetic jewelry in — in all styles, western to ethnic. Dainty, floating looks continue to sell for prom.
“Belts are coming back strong. Because pants are lower on the waist, bigger, hip-slung styles are better. I also will pick up some chain belts and bags, and evening bags with cute embellishment.
“My open-to-buy is five to 10 percent up. I’ve been in business for 36 years and haven’t seen any tremendous swing due to the economy. August was a little slow, but we had a good spring and summer.”

Annette Olsen, owner, Annette Dean, Richmond, Va.
“I’ll write all of spring from many of my devoted lines like Barry Bricken. Their fabrics are wonderful and it’s not too funky, which is a good fit for Virginia. Ballinger is a little more forward. I do a lot of items, like a shearling jacket. Even as warm as it is, they’ve all sold. People are looking for collector’s pieces.
“I’ll look for suits, but not the ones from 10 or even five years ago. They have to be special and not too confined. I also need dresses. That’s a market someone should focus on things that aren’t too funky, but simple and clean. As for social occasions, I think Atlanta caters to too much glitz. I prefer the Armani philosophy, but at a better price.
“I’ve bought more color in the past few years than ever. Neutrals bore me. Sometimes the color is more important than the cut. Barry Bricken does some beautiful ones in Italian fabrics.
“Since pant and skirt lengths are all over the place now, I will go more with what looks right than a specific trend. But regarding sleeves, I prefer a three-quarter or sleeveless over short sleeves. I sell more trousers than skirts because women find them more comfortable. Garfield & Marks, Jenne Maag’s jean model and Plein Air are good. My customers especially like them for travel.
“I’ll do a little bit of prints. Too many can be bothersome, so I’ll just disperse a few here and there throughout both floors of the store.
“In accessories, I do a big business with Ralph Lauren scarves, both bulky and tiny jewelry styles, and wide belts. Skinny versions are over. I also always carry black and brown alligator belts.
“My open-to-buy is the same. I just go with my gut.”