Thanks to an ample selection of trends — with color leading the list — plus a good economy and an item-driven market, retailers are heading to March market with increased open-to-buys and plenty of enthusiasm for another strong season.
A majority told WWD they will concentrate on writing fall, with a few tacking on immediate fill-ins or a head start on holiday.
While many retailers hope to find some categories that have been absent from the market for a while, like suits and dresses, they also hope to see many of spring’s trends move forward, the biggest being color.
All report doing a phenomenal business with color, from T-shirts to novelty pants to beaded bracelets.
And even though fall typically means toned-down colors, brighter shades are more requested lately. Retailers think brights would work back nicely to brown, which is proving to be this fall’s gray.
Some other trends selling strongly include skirts that fall just below the knee, stretch, embellishment and prints, especially animal. Fake python and alligator-printed clothing and accessories are important for fall. Retailers also plan to move forward with basic animal prints like leopard and zebra.
The bohemian and ethnic trends have resulted in a surge in novelty leather and suede items. From colored to printed to basic neutrals, retailers plan to sell all silhouettes and accessories at a range of price points.
And even given the current importance of bohemian and soft dressing trends, many merchants report needing more structured clothing for customers who prefer traditional or career-oriented looks.
Keep an eye out for the men’s trouser, which is expected to make a comeback. So are sweater jackets; fitted, sexy jackets, and suits. The majority of buyers said they want to find updated, contemporary versions of suits that are softer, unique and interesting. Retailers also will look for mini and bustle skirts; looser, novelty knits; blouses; casual, evening separates; longer, chunkier jewelry; unique accessories from local designers; and novelty jackets and coats.

Larry Estes, owner, Mary Raab & Co. (aka Suite 106), Charlotte, N.C.
My open-to-buy is up 15 percent from last year. I’m interested in looking for fall, but not holiday — and some immediate goods, if they’re available.
I’ll focus on items because it’s the trend, although I prefer outfits because it’s easier on us and on customers.
Color is important for fall. I don’t think vendors will move forward with it as much as I’d like, though. I would like to see bright magentas and turquoises that work back to black and gray.
For pants, I’ll wait to see what the next trend will be. This spring will probably be the last season for capris. The trend had too much overkill. It’s not really a length for fall, anyway. For suits, I’ll check out Garfield & Marks and Iris Singer. It would be nice to see some jackets as separates, too. Cashmere is too heavy for our climate, so cashmere blends usually do better. They also aren’t as pricy. I’ll look for lots of textures when it comes to knits — anything that’s interesting.
We’ll do some leather and suede, but not so much colored. Neutrals are better. I’ll stick to pants and jacket separates, instead of leather suits.
For accessories, novelty bags and belts will be important. We’re not a big source of accessories, so I don’t do that much jewelry. The scarf will be big, if structured comes back.
I’ll visit & Trousers, BCBG, Joseph A for knits, Garfield & Marks, Iris Singer, and ABS, Laundry and David Meister for social occasion.

Jane Bonomo, owner, Bonomo’s, Blacksburg, Va.
As far as our open-to-buy goes, we closed our Roanoke, Va., location in October, so we’ve downsized quite a bit. Plus, you can do a huge volume, but still not make any money.
For March, I’ll still be looking for eye-catching items, although there’s been more of a demand for suits. We also always carry a good variety of basics and classical looks like trousers. My daughter carries the more fashion-forward lines in her nearby store, Soul Mate.
My customers haven’t been into fancy looks lately. I phased out dresses. Softer dressing like sweaters have been good, especially twinsets. I won’t do any more, though, unless it’s something exceptional. I’ll also get a decent selection of cashmere. Embellishment works for us on sweaters, but it has to be subtle. The trend is still weak for us in general, though.
Color remains important, especially blues. I thought I had too much, but they keep buying it. For fall, I’ll probably concentrate on more basic colors with red accents. I have to be careful with prints. We had some great printed blouses that sold out, so I’ll probably go forward with animal prints in smaller items like scarves. I won’t overdo it. I may try snakeskin.
Three-quarter sleeves continue to be strong, but all types of necklines sell. It depends on each customer’s age and tastes. I do a big accessories business. Patricia Locke is my number-one jewelry line, especially for earrings. I also sell hundreds of scarves. Hiroko is great. I didn’t do pashmina, though. Novelty bags aren’t important for me either. For this market, I’ll look for items like the pine cone necklaces that I used to sell hundreds of. Some lines I’ll visit are Cynthia Max, Russ Barens, Ingenuity and David Brooks.

Terry Sadowski, owner, Plaza Suite, Greenville, S.C.
We had a really good fall season last year, so my open-to-buy is up about 20 percent. I buy close to season, so I’ll mostly write fall.
Betsey Johnson and Nanette Lepore are my two bestsellers. I’ll also look at French Connection, Flax and Nooshin.
Our business still focuses on items, rather than career, but I hope to find some contemporary suits for younger career girls. There are not a lot of resources for unique suits, though.
Dresses are big, especially for homecoming. They wear anything from long, to more casual evening separates. Around holiday, I really try to have party clothes. Betsey Johnson is my number-one dress line. Mannequins is good too.
Cashmere knits did okay last year. If I go ahead with cashmere or mohair it will be a more unique look, in a novelty silhouette. Knits have to be interesting for Southerners to believe they’ll wear it enough to justify the price. We did well with the thicker, fuzzier rayon sweaters for spring.
For bottoms, all types of pants continue to sell, from wide-leg to skinny. Cropped pants and anything with stretch are especially good. For skirts, knee-length and long are the best, with midcalf being the weakest. For fall, I’ll do some minis. I found some unique ones for spring, too.
I’m not sure about necklines, yet. Although deep V-necks do well now, I don’t think I’ll move forward. My customers still look for funnel necks.
Animal prints are important, too. I’ll do some python. Pony fur will be big, too, but I don’t think I’ll do it in clothing. I bought lots of pony fur accessories in bright colors, though. I hope to find some new accessories in Atlanta, especially from local designers. I like to find smaller companies, for items like handbags in animal prints. I also sell shoes. Betsey Johnson is my best accessories line.
For jewelry, I’ll do lariats and other wider, longer necklaces. The ethnic trend is still good, from Oriental to American-Indian, jade and turquoise looks. We did really well with shawls this year. Scarves weren’t so big, though. I didn’t carry any pashmina.

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