Some stores picked up Ulf Andersson dresses.

Buyers attending last week's Nouveau Collective at the New Yorker Hotel were on the move to find practical but versatile items to help lift sales after a lackluster holiday selling season.

NEW YORK — Buyers attending last week’s Nouveau Collective at the New Yorker Hotel were on the move to find practical but versatile items to help lift sales after a lackluster holiday selling season.

About 1,700 buyers checked out 134 booths housing a total of 400 labels at the four-day show, which closed Jan. 9. Those figures are consistent with last year’s January show, according to organizers.

Having introduced clothing last year to the Cummings & Good Design Gallery, the store she owns with her husband, Peter Good, Jan Cummings said she was looking for “wonderful things her customers can’t find anywhere else in the lower valley of Connecticut.” On a whim, before leaving her Chester, Conn., store for the show, she e-mailed Bettina Riedel and was delighted the designer e-mailed back to say her collection would be at Nouveau Collective. Cummings planned to order “low-key basics” from Riedel that can be worn with the “splashy hats and scarves” she sells. Travel-friendly outerwear at Mycra Pac and comfortable yoga clothes at Pure & Co. also appealed to Cummings.

While “practical, wearable items” were at the top of her list, Cummings said she could “play around” with her offerings a bit, since she and her husband have owned the 1809 Greek Revival building that houses their store for 20 years. They are also helping to play up the town’s retail and restaurant scene. Trained as graphic designers, they handle all of its promotional material. To try to drum up more business, they helped create “Cool Deals on Hot Nights,” a program on select Thursday summer nights that offers special deals to shoppers and diners. “We’re trying different things to make Chester a more interesting place to visit,” she said.

At the Mycra Pac booth, Mindy Brush, co-founder of Pavo Real, was also talking up new tactics. Last year she and her husband, Tom, closed all of their freestanding stores, except for the one on Newbury Street in Boston, to take the business online. They hired Sarah Hodges, who was with her at the show, as a partner to focus on the Web. They are still investing in the company but are confident the Internet is the way to go for the future, Brush said.

This story first appeared in the January 16, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Having been in business since 1978 when her husband, then a Boston University business school student, started selling sportswear from a cart at Faneuil Hall, the company has “a devoted clientele” for travelwear, Brush said. In addition to packable Mycra Pac outerwear, they planned to order eclectic knitwear and accessories, Hodges said.

Another retailer, Nellie Spoerl, owner of two Elizabeth Maar stores in Haverford and Newtown Square, Pa., said she was looking for traditional and misses’ suits, sportswear and fur coats. Trying on a floor-length fur at Dero, she said her shoppers are much more inclined to try on a fur and buy it instead of going to a furrier for one. Furs that wholesale from $3,000 to $5,000 tend to do well in her store.

Spoerl was also looking for buy-now, wear-now suits and ordered some from Olivier Goureau, who was showing a variety of European lines. Spoerl tries to select suits that wholesale between $300 and $350.

Business in her store was “phenomenal” all year, but December was “way off,” she said. “People weren’t cautious. They bought electronics and they bought online.”

Exhibitor Ulf Andersson said, “A lot of people have said they had a rough holiday season. I only sell to boutiques, and they are the most vulnerable. If they bought too many heavy coats for winter, then companies like mine pay the price.”

But the L.A.-based designer still managed to pick up six or seven new accounts for his colorful print dresses at the show.

Another exhibitor, Lynne Andresevic of Crayola Sisters, which sells Cordelia sportswear, said a few stores told her they bought dresses too deeply and “they are not selling as well as they thought they would. Shoppers might buy one or two dresses, but it is not a volume-oriented business.”

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