THE BRIGHT SIDE
SCOTT HARNER’S RECIPE FOR SUCCESS IS A POSITIVE OUTLOOK AND THE MARKET INTELLIGENCE TO MAKE IT HAPPEN.
Byline: Rusty Williamson
Scott Harner is an optimist — but he backs up that positive energy with plenty of research.
Harner is a 20-year fashion industry veteran who, with his wife, Terry, has owned a multiline better-to-designer showroom in Dallas for five years, and his optimism comes from his love of fashion and a strong belief that he can help women’s specialty stores thrive.
But it’s not blind faith. Harner spends up to 25 weeks a year on the road, selling his lines, in addition to working his showroom at markets. He makes a habit of combing the market for salable fashion collections that contain hot items, and also swears he always listens to retailers’ needs.
And with a 25 percent sales gain budgeted this year, on top of double-digit increases in 1999, there’s good reason for him to look on the bright side.
“Every road trip, I learn something new,” said Harner, just back from a dizzying itinerary that included a week at New York’s Coterie market, preceded by a two-week road trek visiting stores across the Southwest and a five-day Dallas summer market in late January.
“Traveling keeps me in touch with stores and their sales associates, who are actually with consumers and get feedback on their needs. This business is more than a store coming to market and saying, ‘Gee, I like this line.’ “
And what kind of feedback is Harner getting from stores heading into fall market?
“Business is now more item-driven than ever. Six months ago it was soft and neutral lifestyle dressing. Now stores are asking for younger, hipper and fresher items that still have a misses’ fit. It’s an exciting time in fashion, because there is so much newness everywhere.”
Harner predicted retailers would sizzle this fall with gently shaped jackets; luxe trims such as leather, fur and beading; textured fabrics, and novelty touches including embroidery, rich vegetable and jewel color palettes and status brands.
He recently started carrying Italian designer label MCM Jeanswear, a logo-driven apparel collection from luggage maker MCM.
Harner also signed Jacqueline Conoir, an edgy Canadian sportswear collection for working women.
They join his roster of updated dresses and items, contemporary novelty knits, travel separates and clean-cut blouses and sportswear.
“We try to have collections in our room that complement each other and offer unique items. When I’m shopping the market for new collections, I look for visual exciting merchandise — a product has to be fabulous and jump off the rack. Other facets have to be there, too: a great fit, solid funding backing the label and a reliable production schedule that will get the clothes to the stores on time.”
Harner said he was constantly scouting the global marketplace for new lines to carry in his showroom, and made about eight trips to New York each year.
“If the look is right, stores will buy the apparel at market. They’re interested in something that will excite the consumer. Stores know that women have the money and will spend it, if the fashion looks right.”
Exclusive or unusual merchandise is also high on stores’ wish lists when they visit Harner’s showroom.
“We specialize in vendors who don’t sell to the majors. One of the first questions buyers ask when they see a line is, ‘Do the majors have it?’ Specialty stores have to be different with product and service. The stores that understand that concept are the ones that are doing really well.”
Scott Harner & Co.
Principals: Scott and Terry Harner, room 4B55
Lines: Geometrie by Deborah Laws, Angelica-Val, Donna Degnan, MCM Jeanswear, Mary Jane Marcasiano, A’nue Ligne, La Loop/Fi Fi, Babette, Jacqueline Conoir, R&B.