DIFFERENT STRATEGIES STILL ADD UP TO BUSINESS IN CHICAGO
Byline: Rebecca Kleinman
CHICAGO — The slow economy didn’t pose as great a threat as expected at the Chicago Apparel Center’s StyleShow, though it did affect some buying strategies.
Attendees at the event, which ran June 8-12, were satisfied overall with accomplishing their goals of writing fall fill-ins, previewing holiday and perusing new or different lines. However, retailers were more cautious, searching for lines that excel in reorders, limiting their number of dollars spent up front. They also focused heavily on special items that entice consumers to buy, versus investment pieces and basics.
“I am definitely more cautious, since I’m seeing a drop in sales that I haven’t seen in 10 years,” said Connie Champion, owner of Catherine’s, a specialty store in Iowa City. “But it’s nothing to be alarmed about. It’s just that I’m used to having a 20 percent increase every year.”
Slight slowdowns have crept into Chicago’s affluent areas, as well. Maureen Reaney, owner of the Out of the West boutique in Lincoln Park, felt fortunate to have based her business on T-shirts and jeans.
“They’re not as risky as some categories because everybody needs jeans or can spend $40 on a T-shirt and still look great,” she said.
Edye Cohen Gershman, owner of the Nicchia boutique in Glencoe, located farther up the North Shore’s coast, reported a drop in big purchases like cars and jewelry, but not in clothing, as long as it’s the right look.
Attributing her double-digit sales increases to helping clients build on solid, investment pieces, she said, “People still need clothes and want something fresh for the weekend, but they want to maximize that piece. It’s not an impulse buy.”
Diane Lazzeroni, co-owner of E.M. Lou, a specialty store in Brookfield, Wis., agreed that value and versatility are the current catalysts in purchases.
“A piece has to have crossover appeal, like it can be worn to a fancy party or with a pair of jeans,” she said, citing Charlotte Tarantola’s black and white, striped sweater with rhinestone touches as an example. “I wouldn’t have bought it without the detail and my customer wouldn’t either.”
Joanne Lukas Szymaszek, co-owner of Three Graces boutique in Milwaukee, looked to a combination of Eighties glam and Western influences. Describing a duster with fur trim as reminiscent of “a Forties’ evening coat that should be worn with a long cigarette holder and painted, red lips,” she wrote a variety of dressy separates with Lurex, lace, feathers and fake and real fur and plans to evolve the trend further next market with bustiers.
Filling in with sweater coats of all lengths, from right below the bottom to dusters, and categories from casual to dressy, also was high on her agenda.
“They go as quickly as we can get them in,” said partner Pamela Hedges, listing Margaret M’s pinstripe and tweed suits, Fabrizzio Gianni’s “funky jeans that fit a woman’s figure,” and Arnaud de Paris’s printed denim as other key items.
Within accessories, they picked up more western-themed belts with rhinestone buckles, hoop and geometric, dangling earrings and Moulin Rouge-inspired chokers. Hedges predicted cashmere will remain important for holiday even with the dipping economy.
“The better and more novelty cashmeres always sell, especially for holiday gifts,” said Champion.