Manufacturers might not have been dancing in the aisles at Moda Manhattan, but they were smiling.
The overall mood at the misses’ apparel-focused trade show held Aug. 1 to 3 at Manhattan’s Jacob K. Javits Center was rather positive, despite the fact retailers are continuing to place orders closer to need.
The silver lining: Vendors at Moda reportedly scooped up more orders than last year.
“We are busier than we normally are at an August trade show,” remarked Fredy DiMeco, a sales associate manning the Not Your Daughter’s Jeans booth. “Our business is consistently growing.”
The wholesaler, which sells denim targeting female Baby Boomers, said that its Los Angeles-based location has helped it react more nimbly to last-minute requests of retailers.
“I think there will be an increase in domestic manufacturing in the distant future,” said Britton Jones, president and chief executive officer of Business Journals, which produces Moda. “Retailers are very diligently shopping the market and buying closer and closer to season. They are still a bit cautious…but [at Moda] when they bought, they bought aggressively.”
Whether more vendors will base their operations domestically is yet to be seen, but what’s important is that the mood was “definitely more optimistic” and there was a “surge in buying” versus the prior year, the ceo said.
Jones, who forecast a better holiday than 2009, said vendors and retailers with value-centric, “unique” and “focused” collections would be successful this year.
Agreeing was Product Showroom co-founder Patric Kilcullen, who pointed to his company’s reinterpreted designer styles.
“The consumer is getting smart about shopping,” he said, noting shoppers aren’t willing to pay exorbitant prices. They are looking for separates, such as stylish jackets, tunics, cowl-neck sweaters and wraps, to pair with premium denim or leggings, he said.
First-time Moda exhibitor Elizabeth Grace is another price-focused brand, which provides affordable, trendy jeans for retail prices between $60 and $80.
“This woman does not want to spend over $100.…Everyone is getting out of the mind-set of spending $200 on jeans,” said founder and creative director Liz Doohe, who explained that her company “fills a void in the market” by offering “fashionable” jeans with modern and classic fits to the “advanced-contemporary” consumer over 30.
“As importers and manufacturers, we want a hook,” said Patrick Argenti, founder of Argenti Inc., a New York-based dress vendor. “We want something special…other than a pretty dress.”
Argenti’s “hook” is his firm’s cooperation with AirDye, a company that applies color to textiles without using water. Not only does this save 78,000 gallons of water per delivery, but it also shortens the time to market, Argenti said.
The partnership already has paid dividends, according to Argenti, who noted that, in a day and a half, his orders at Moda tripled versus the same period last year.
Argenti, whose dresses are in about 800 specialty stores, said he thinks he will double his store base next year, and he hopes to secure a joint venture with Bloomingdale’s.
Despite his success, Argenti said he isn’t seeing much of an improvement among his customers, which are mostly independent specialty stores.
“Retailers need to expand their businesses, but they can’t,” he said. “They can’t get money, they can’t get credit.”
Stores are also paying for orders late, another recessionary by-product that Argenti and his fellow vendors will have to live with until the economy recovers further.