NEW YORK — Ah, the tribulations of a retailer: demanding customers, gambling on styles, getting shipments on time and more.Stacey Pecor, owner of Olive & Bette’s, a three-unit contemporary sportswear chain here — with a fourth to open at 384 Bleecker Street in August — is prototypical. She faces all of these pressures. WWD accompanied her on a buying trip to four different wholesalers to see what works for her boutiques, what doesn’t work and what prompts her to make those decisions.Pecor, who carries labels such as Theory, Nanette Lepore, Velvet, Tibi, Generra and Michael Stars, said her customers usually shop with a specific item in mind. They may have watched Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) wear it on “Sex and the City,” or seen the clothing in a magazine feature, she said. Her clients are serious about fashion, so it’s important for Pecor to provide them with something distinctive.Pecor headed out to the market last month looking for items to sell for early fall, as well as fresh styles to fill her new Bleecker Street shop. Here is a diary of her travels, some of the things she bought and didn’t buy and why.
Stop 1: Tamara Henriques at Items Showroom
Salesperson: Theresa Barone, owner, Items Showroom.
What Pecor found: “Tamara’s boots are constant bestsellers in the stores; right now I am completely sold out of one style and there are 35 customers who already paid for them on a waiting list,” Pecor said of the black boots with red hearts painted on them. “They were featured in the New York Times and they just sold right out. I am waiting for those to come in, but in the meantime, I am looking for new boots for a July delivery.”
Pecor has sold $150,000 worth of the boots since January. She said she could sell much more, but because of the increased demand, Tamara, who is based in London, is having a hard time keeping up. From start to finish, it takes about eight months to make one pair of the $118 retail items because they are all hand-painted. The average wholesale price is $49 each.
Pecor ordered some new styles, such as the tweed-painted boots in colors like brown, blue and pink. The pink ones will be exclusive to Olive & Bette’s for at least six months.
“Stacy has really been a launching pad for us in New York,” Barone said. “So we really try and work with her to provide her with exclusives.”
In addition to the tweed boots, Pecor ordered a new wavy-stripe style; black, white and red dog-printed boots, and the paisley model.
What Pecor did not find: “I have been really aggressive with Tamara to come out with more prints,” Pecor said. “Right now she is working on some animal- print boots that are great, but really, I could be selling so many more of these boots and she just cannot make them fast enough. Now there are so many companies making boots similar to these, so the pressure is especially on now.”
Pecor said she did not like the newest boots available for fall. Done in the signature rubber, the boots are made with a shoelace in the front, which is not functional, but exists simply for the look.
“My customer would love the print and would wear these with a cute skirt,” Pecor said. “But she wouldn’t like the tie. It just looks like it doesn’t belong. It’s unnecessary.”
Stop 2: Ella Moss at L’Atelier Showroom
Salesperson: Samantha Schwartz, sales representative.
What Pecor found: “I’ve been doing really well with Ella Moss’ signature striped tops and dresses,’’ Pecor said. “My customers come in asking for it since Carrie wore it on ‘Sex and the City.’”
Pecor hopes to purchase some more tube tops since selling out of them within a week. She needs the clothing in medium and large sizes, because they seem to be cut small.
“I only have small and extra-small left,” she said.
Pecor said she also would like to find some new pieces. She adores the long, striped top in black with a hood that sits flat on the back.
“I love this,” she said, “I think these long tops are so great. I wish people were doing more of them. They are so flattering.”
What Pecor did not find: “I am actually pretty disappointed with Ella Moss right now,” Pecor said. “I was really expecting to go in and see a lot, but I just think this season was a miss.”
Pecor said she particularly didn’t like the Alaska group, which included a series of wool and acrylic tops. They are made thin for layering purposes.
“They just don’t look expensive to me,” she said of the group, which wholesales at about $45 each.
Pecor said she was hoping to see some more miniskirts, as she sells more of them in the fall than in spring and summer.
“Girls feel more comfortable wearing a mini with tights in the fall, so I tend to sell more for fall,” she said. “The skirts that Ella Moss has this season are the same ones she has been offering for seasons now. I was hoping to see something new.”
Stop 3: Splendid at L’Atelier Showroom
Salesperson: Eleanor Pan, sales representative.
What Pecor found: “I carry a lot of T-shirts, but Splendid has some of the great basics,” Pecor said of the contemporary T-shirt line.
She ordered more basic long-sleeved v-neck and crewneck styles in some of the new colors being offered, such as bright pink and plum. For the end of August, Pecor placed orders for light jersey crewnecks and turtlenecks.
“The turtlenecks are great to wear under jackets,’’ Pecor said. “I’ll sell a lot of them.”
She also placed orders for thermal zippered sweatshirts with hoods, as well as a French terry hoodie: “My private school girls, stroller moms and tourists will all love them,” she said.
Pecor also placed orders for the French terry and Lycra spandex pants, which are consistent bestsellers in all of her stores. This season, Splendid shows the pants with cuffs at the ankles. Pecor asked for them without the cuffs.
What Pecor did not find: “Really, I think Splendid looks great,’’ she said. “They are a great company to work with. They provide exclusives; I am 70 percent sold-through at this point, and they are our number four vendor right now. The only complaint I would have would be to offer some more colors. I’d love to see a really nice green — they don’t have one this time.”
Stop 4: Seven For All Mankind
Salesperson: Anja Michals, sales representative.
“I am really trying to build up my denim business,” Pecor said of jeans, which account for 5 percent of her business. “My customer comes to me for everything else — T-shirts, accessories — why should she be going to someone else for jeans? To me, this is business I am missing out on.”
While she doesn’t carry many denim brands yet except for AG, Seven For All Mankind and James, Pecor said she was determined to pick up Seven For All Mankind since it’s so popular among her customers. The only problem was that, when she first tried to buy from it, Seven was not accepting any new accounts because it was having difficulty delivering on time to its existing accounts.
“It’s a problem, but a good problem to have,” Michals said. “We are really working hard to get everything fixed.”
To convince the salespeople at the company to take her appointment, Pecor sent the showroom packages highlighting the number “7.”
“I sent them 7-Up, and all of these other things until they would see me,” Pecor said. “Finally, they did. The only problem now is that I can only carry them in two of my stores since they couldn’t handle shipping to the third one. And AG sells better for me than Seven does. Maybe I am not selling them correctly. That’s what I’m here to see.”
This has become an issue for Pecor, since Seven For All Mankind will only sell to her Madison Avenue and Columbus Avenue shops and her best-performing store for denim is the Spring Street location.
Pecor wanted to place orders for white jeans, which Seven For All Mankind wasn’t offering this season, as well as cropped jeans that tend to sell well for early fall. She may order more cropped jeans, but said she would prefer them to ship first.
“Seven has such an amazing product,” Pecor said. “They are everyone’s basic. My customers tell me all the time that they own several pairs of Sevens. So I really would like to get more of them in the stores.”
Olive & Bett’s Top Five Vendors
- Autumn Cashmere
- Tamara Henriques
- Michael Stars