NEW YORK — In these uneven economic times, stores and vendors are trying to bend a little when it comes to prices. Attendees at the Moda and Fame trade shows at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center here Monday said they are addressing increasingly price-conscious shoppers.
Donna Senk, who has owned Paparazzi, a Watertown, Conn., store for the past 19 years, said business is “a little better than last year,” due primarily to the fact that she and other Main Street retailers have banded together to attract shoppers and “upgrade the area.” Five block parties are now held annually. In addition, there has been a concerted effort to woo more seasoned retailers, she said. “There are real players on Main Street now,” she said.
In search of cocktail dresses, Senk said shoppers will no longer spend $300 to $400 as they once did. Black was among the labels she planned to check out. To accommodate price sensitivity, Senk said she was looking for items that retail from $100 to $250, with $150 and $175 being the right price for many recently. Minuet was a show favorite for her.
Senk was also looking for labels that sell exclusively to brick-and-mortar stores. “Competition with Web sites is the toughest part of doing business. Customers will come in and try things on. They will take photographs of what they like and then they will ferret it out on the Internet to get the best price. And they used your dressing room to do it,” she said.
Rumi Yasuda, owner of the four-year-old Japanese e-commerce site Rish NY, was browsing with the ailing currency exchange rate in mind. As the Japanese yen is getting weaker, she is seeking more affordable brands for what she described as the site’s annex-type lines. The Japanese currency is 20 percent weaker than it was a year ago and 40 percent weaker than it was four years ago, Yasuda noted. Ninety percent of the sites’ shoppers live in Tokyo, she said.
On average, Rish NY shoppers spend $100 for accessories and $200 for apparel. Dresses were at the top of the checklist, since pants and skirts tend to be more difficult to buy online due to fit issues, she said. Lucy Paris’ secondary label FRNCH was a winner for its “amazing low prices and good quality,” Yasuda said. Aimed at women between the ages of 35 and 50, Rish NY is known for its evening dresses, which typically do not exceed $400.
Adam Suchin, a sales representative for French, said dresses and tops for immediate through October delivery were in high demand. “Clearly, they’re buying closer to need. They’re still looking for value items and they are not spending heavily. Anything that retails for less than $100 is a pretty safe bet,” he said.
Ann DeStefano was on the hunt for brands to stock the Style by Nicole boutique she plans to open with her daughter Nicole next month in North Palm Beach. Having owned and run another store, Butterflies in Westchester County, for many years, the elder DeStefano knows what she is getting into. “We want to offer something that is a little more sophisticated than the typical Florida look,” she said.
Jamie Bernstein, assistant buyer for the activewear e-tailer Carbon38, walked Fame and Moda for more of an overview than actual orders. What she was looking for were hot accessories, technical ones and stocking stuffers from such resources as Triple C Designs. Having grown rapidly in the past year — due partially to the market’s strength and shoppers’ continued interest in boutique fitness classes — Bernstein said, “Our whole concept is for the office-to-the-gym or the gym-to-the-office. And we want to elevate that style.”
Melissa Filippi, sales manager for Kingdom & State, a London-based company that aims to build its East Coast distribution, said retailers were stopping in for “very comfortable” items such as the label’s boyfriend T-shirts, A-line dresses and “cute skirts.” The brand has a stronger base of stores on the West Coast and in the Midwest since its U.S. rollout stemmed from trade shows in those areas, which tend to be more affordable than New York ones, she said.
Do + Be’s trade show manager John Lee said stores were looking for transitional clothes and larger sizes. But the Los Angeles label plans to continue to offer retailers its customary three smalls, two mediums and one large for each style ordered, as opposed to more large styles. “They are saying all their customers are pretty big,” he said.
With two stores in Bucks County, Pa., Beady Ott, owner of two Apricot Lane boutiques, said shoppers are “cautious about spending and they have to perceive they are getting value for their money. But I find they always spend on food. At one of my locations, they will come in eating nuts or ice cream, or carrying the leftovers from the meals they just had.”
Customers are hesitant to spend much money on summer clothes, since the season tends to be shorter and they feel they get more use out of fall-winter items.
Los Angeles-based sportswear labels like Anama and Double Zero, “do really well” in her stores, she said. “But with young people, you’re competing against H&M and other fast fashion stores. Somehow they don’t seem to have a problem wearing something only four times and having it fall apart. I come from a generation where our mothers taught us to buy good, quality pieces that would last,” she said.