AFTER THE CATASTROPHE
BUYERS SEEK OPTIONS TO SHOPPING IN NEW YORK.
Byline: Georgia Lee / Lisa Bertagnoli
Most of the copy for this regional was printed prior to Sept. 11. However, WWD interviewed Mart officials and several buyers in the week following.
Buyers and manufacturers flooded The Chicago Apparel Center with calls asking about the upcoming shows. StyleMax, Oct. 13-16, is sold out, with over 400 women’s apparel and accessories exhibitors.
“No one wants to benefit from tragedy,” said Susan McCullough, vice president, Chicago Apparel Center. “But lots of stores don’t want to go to New York now, whether that fear is rational or not.” McCullough predicted increased attendance at regional shows in the near future.
At Mark Shale, a Chicago-based men’s and women’s specialty store with four Chicago stores, and four others in Atlanta, Dallas, Saint Louis and Kansas City, Mo., buyers will not go to New York , at least during this season, and will spend more time at Chicago’s StyleMax.
“Any honest person would not be sure about getting on a plane to New York right now,” said Scott Baskin, president. “We enjoy New York — and travels there will continue — but right now, we’re waiting to see what happens.”
After closing stores Sept. 11, sales were down 20 to 30 percent the following days. He is currently rexamining open-to- buys, and planning more phone business with vendors, placing buys based on photo and swatches.
Barry Stagman, owner, Stagman, a Glencoe, Ill., bridge/designer women’s specialty store, travels to New York once a month, and was buying there Sept. 11. Undaunted, he plans to continue with New York trips.
“There’s only so much I can do in Chicago,” he said. “People come to me for things nobody has, things I find in New York. I have to go. This isn’t going to stop me.”
StyleMax should draw more buyers than the August Style Show, held Aug. 24-28, which was hurt by poor timing, among other things.
Several factors made the market, which featured resort and holiday wear, “the poorest market I’ve ever seen,” said Nancy Milgram of the rep firm Milgrams Chicago. “It’s so close to StyleMax and everybody’s waiting for that.” StyleMax wasn’t the only event that kept buyers away.
“We are conflicting with Vegas [WWDMAGIC] and Atlanta,” said Heidi Frangella of Heidi Frangella Presents.
Sharon Pitler of the rep firm Sidney Pitler called the show “fair, the same as June,” but saw lots of resort traffic.
Michael Stevison of Dressed 2 Kill did show spring apparel, reporting that business was booming. Stevison sold $220,000 worth of Cambio jeans alone. Sales doubled that of last August’s market, he said.
Buyers found it easy to find things customers would like, though not necessarily for resort or holiday. Jill Haringer, owner, At Last, a plus-size boutique in Highland Park, Ill., ordered clean-line winter swing coats from Chicago designer Paul Sisti, a new find for her. She also ordered pants and tweed jacket from Fasone.
Lisa Hills, buyer at The Wardrobe in Springfield, Ill., said fabrics and quality improved.
Hills homed in buying on resortwear, choosing items from Isda, Eileen Fischer and others.
Diane Berry, owner, Diane’s Boutique in Downers Grove, Ill., found color in red, white and blue sweaters from David Brooks and cropped pants in the same palette, as well as jewel-tone and pastel tailored shirts from Foxcroft.