DALLAS — Despite generally flat budgets and anxiety about the economy, both the high and low ends got a lift at the Dallas Market Center’s four-day show, which ended Sunday.


Price remained an issue for merchants, who are responding to the demands of thrifty consumers. Many sought dresses, item tops and slim pants that retail for less than $200. At the same time, fashionable bridge labels excelled as an alternative to designer collections at upscale stores. Business was spread across fall, holiday and early spring seasons.


“We have a [retail] cap of $89 to $169 for dresses and we didn’t use to,” said Machelle Williams, owner of Machelle’s in Midland, Tex., as she selected a knit banded olive tunic with tonal sequin trim by São Paulo. “It allows us to move things without people having to think about it. The prices of shoes and European lines have come down and my customers can afford them now.”


Brad Hughes & Associates did well with David Kahn’s new knitwear embellished with studs and sequins wholesaling from $22 to $44, said Michael Singer, a partner at the showroom, which also had a strong response to its introduction of Luisa Cerano bridge sportswear from Germany, as well as Lafayette 148 and Natori. “The macro price trend is downward, but the missing link is fashion that looks contemporary and has high-quality fabric and construction, and fits the designer customer,” Singer said.


Companies that maintain stock in fashion basics such as slim ankle pants and leggings were also in demand. Larry Palnick, owner of Krazy Larry Pants, said his business almost doubled in the first half of this year because he stocks three fits of washable pants in 88 colors wholesaling from $59 to $69. “The reason I’ve been so successful is because of the differences in fit,” Palnick said. “I do a vanity fit, an updated missy with hidden elastic and a contemporary fit. Plus, I do women’s 14 to 24.”


In general, buyers kept budgets flat. But they were upbeat about fall, citing brisk early sales of new styles, especially skinny colored pants to wear with boots, lightweight knit layering tops, dresses and fashion items with feather and sequin details. “My business has been pretty good considering it’s 300 degrees out,” said Sal Trentacoste, owner of Elizabeth’s in Metairie, La. “I’m selling a lot of pants and sportswear, anything cotton and lightweight and tropical-weight wool dresses. We haven’t seen an effect from the [Gulf] oil spill yet. If I can maintain an even keel, I’ll be happy.”


However, other retailers in southern Louisiana cited economic distress because of the halt of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. “We’re a big oil town and the oil field companies are laying off a lot of people right now,” said Donald Usie, co-owner of Partners, a 7,000-square-foot upscale store in Lafayette, La. “My business is off probably 20 to 25 percent. We’re calling customers more and staying on the phone, but they’re not buying as much. They’re scared.” Southwest border stores also are suffering because of drug cartel violence in Mexico. “My Mexican customers are afraid to travel and that has really affected our business,” said Lisa Miller, buyer for Polly Adams in Laredo, Tex. “I’m cutting back to lines that sell and buying closer to season.”


Key Trends

• Chrome and pewter sequins and studs.

• Fitted, color-blocked sheath dresses.

• Draped jersey tops and dresses.

• Jeggings and slim pants.

• Boho, gypsy and peasant looks.

• Indian embroidery inspired by “Eat Pray Love.”

• Prints

• Trenchcoats

• Neutrals: gray, taupe and army green.

• Brights: salmon, watermelon, yellow and blues.

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