ATLANTA — Blame it on the weather.

Ice and snow storms made it impossible for many buyers to get to the Atlanta Apparel Mart women’s and children’s summer and early fall market. It was an extra blow to what is usually the slowest market of the year. The six-day event ended Tuesday.

“Six of our 11 Southeast states were affected by the weather,” said Peg Canter, director of the Atlanta Apparel Mart, who said attendance was down 8 percent from last year.

She said local hotels had many cancellations.

“We were headed for a decent show, but you can’t control the weather,” she said.

Buyers and exhibitors agreed that the weather and the market’s late date affected sales and attendance, but most said there were still some positive results and success stories.

“With fewer buyers, we have been able to give them individualized attention. We’re also seeing buyers who have more time to look at new lines they don’t usually have time to see,” said sales representative Larry Parkinson.

Trish Zetterberg, owner of Summerville Rags, an 1,800-square-foot store in Augusta, Ga., agreed that reps had more time for her and as a result she had a good market. She was shopping for soft, yet classic looks for her traditional customer.

“I did a lot of buying. I know it was a down market for some people, but I had the chance to find some great new things,” she said.

Her open-to-buy was up slightly, and she bought from Joseph Ribkoff, Pezzetti Silk, Bushwacker and Balinger Gold. She also ordered from two silk lines, C’est City and Blue Ice. Zetterberg is experimenting with a coat section in her store and said the new microfiber coats are great for the South, working both as rainwear and as evening wraps. She bought from Galee and Mycra Pac.

“I brought some in this season and customers loved them, so I’m expanding the concept,” she said.

Sandra Smith and Nicole Aranatia, owners of four Rubin’s stores in the Bahamas, were looking for pretty floral dresses and casual clothing. They said they were buying Liz Claiborne, Nostalgia and Byer of California. Smith said their open-to-buy was even with last year.

“The economy has made us much better buyers. We’ve had a rough year and we’re being very selective. We really pick the lines apart, and if we both don’t feel great about something we’ll pass it up,” said Smith.

Patricia Almond and Kim Boone were also shopping as a team for their new 1,100-square-foot store, Calendar Miss in West Columbia, S.C. They were looking for embellished sportswear and dressy eveningwear. Almond said she had been leery of opening a store in this economy, but decided there was a need for a store carrying prom and pageant dresses and eveningwear in their area.

“Finding something for a special occasion was impossible, people are looking for beaded and sequined dresses here,” she said.

They bought sportswear from Peppers Collections and Fantasy Sportswear and eveningwear from Mike Benet, Landa Dresses and D’Shawn. Boone said it was their second time at market and that the trip was successful.

“We had a planned strategy, and we got everything done that we wanted to do,” she said.

Sales reps Phil and Kathy Tunks said while many of their appointments were canceled, they had a good amount of walk-ins. Kathy Tunks said buyers are still searching for color, and one way to draw people in is to put all their color up front.

“Our lines are leaning toward more sophistication, but right now people are looking for fun and frivolous, and that causes a problem.”

Nevertheless, Phil Tunks said Action Wear and Johnnuy Was, two contemporary lines, were doing well for market along with Rafia, a novelty sweater line. “There’s a positive attitude in the market, and we’re still going to end up with a pretty good season.”

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