SINGING THE BLUES
RETAILERS HEADING INTO SPRING ARE FOCUSING ON DENIM AS THEIR BEST BET FOR BEATING THE CURRENT RETAIL WOES.

Byline: Deirdre Mendoza

Buy American. That appears to be the prevailing sentiment among buyers, who said they are focusing on domestic goods for spring, while saving open-to-buy dollars in anticipation of unexpected hits.
No one seemed to unduly fear the economic indicators, but all noted the general uncertainty about the recent world events as having an impact on their overall spending. Tried-and-true denim remains a strong category, which many plan to carry over from fall. Buyers said they will also shop for feminine, lacy looks and Victorian influences, as well as fresh, on-trend accessories.

Elisa Bruley, owner, Elisa B., Pasadena, Calif.
“I will be buying a lot closer to plan, and I like having that discipline. Before the catastrophe happened, we had a dwindling economy, so you already had to be tightening your budget.
“Dresses are always important, particularly for spring. I’ll be interested in finding out if denim is going to be another strong category carrying into the season. It’s hard to imagine that there’s going to be anything else they can do with denim, but if there is, or if I think it’s right for the store and my customer, I’ll carry it.
“You see what some of the designers are up to with contemporary and bridge — they are feminine with an ethnic look, a Spanish influence. I think that will sell well with my customer.”

Dana Levin,co-owner, R.K. Shugart, Brentwood, Calif.
“We do 60 percent of our buying in New York and 40 percent in Europe. Due to the tragedy, we decided to look at all of our lines and see what’s accessible, and and then put more dollars into those lines. I’m glad I went to New York in August because I got to see what a lot of them are doing for spring.
“I have noticed that a lot of our stuff is being held up in customs, and we’re filing a lot more documentation. [Goods] are arriving later than usual. We need the merchandise, but we’re keeping in mind that the economy is going to slow down.
“We carry bridge lines such as D&G, New York Industry from Italy, Moschino Jeans and some smaller European lines. This just means I’m going to have to put a lot of confidence in my domestic lines and focus on denim, which is going to be big for spring.
“There’s a lot of nice suiting. We saw a lot of great trousers in white, black and pinstripes for spring. We also like the nice corduroy or stretch wools; they look crisp.”

Aimee English, owner, Little Bohemian, Laguna Beach, Calif.
“I’m going full force for spring. I think we need to boost morale and keep up with the trends. I’m going to carry lots of lace — Free People is big on that — dresses, stripes, a lot of tight-fitted T-shirts, nautical looks and pants.
“Nanette Lepore is going in the nautical direction with a lot of denim and stripes. I’m also buying a lot of feminine dresses with a nautical theme.
“Another thing that will be strong is denim. I’m going for miniskirts, knee-length skirts, dresses, pants and jackets in denim. Some of my main resources there will be Frankie B. and Paul Frank.
“I would say I’m about even with last year in terms of budget. We’ve got one eye on the market, but we’re staying optimistic.”

Pam Cohen, owner, Flip Flop, Manhattan Beach, Calif.
“I’m sure I’m like most buyers in that we’re a little bit shaky about what’s going on with the economy in the next few months. My sales have been steady. I think the customer base has been affected psychologically, but they may not be affected financially. So I’m going with what I normally carry, the upscale, casual brands. That’s what people really demand down here. Even at the holidays, they’re looking for a cool T-shirt to wear with black pants.
“I’m going to be doing some item-y things, and I’ll be starting to manufacture my own line of Ts under the Flip Flop label.
“Right now, I’m selling a ton of denim. The girls don’t care if they have tons of jeans. They’ll buy more. Seven is a strong line for me, but I’m still looking for other lines. I’m probably going to pick it up if it’s fun and funky.
“I do buy some [buying] domestically, and my orders are going to be late because of flights that are delayed. I buy a lot of young L.A. designers: Anna Huling, Petro Zilia, Beautiful People, Miss Vintage, Ya-Ya and Ash Francomb. That’s my mix.”

Erica Berge, owner, Erica Dee, Corona Del Mar, Calif.
“For spring, I’ll be a little more cautious with my numbers. We’re down by about 15 percent from what we would normally spend. I’ll leave dollars open for my open-to-buy so I can move on reorders.
“We sell Theory, Diane Von Furstenberg, William B., Seven, Juicy, Michael Star. Also, small vendors such as Stacey G., who does vintage tile necklaces.
“Generally, we’re headed toward feminine colors, happy-looking clothing and, because of the tragic events, patriotic looks. My store focuses on cute tank tops, sundresses and denims, because we’re here at the beach.
“I was planning to go to the Coterie show in New York, hoping to find new lines, but instead I’ll go to Los Angeles market and do my buying there. I’ll be looking for bottoms. We sell more bottoms than dresses — cute cords, cute jeans. That’s what we sell all day long. Oh, and lots of accessories.”

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