While much of the buying action at the various trade shows this week focused on immediate and holiday deliveries, the main topic of conversation was whether the customer would enthusiastically return to stores this fall and resume her buying habits. Retailers believe fall will be a pivotal season to determine the shape they’ll be in for Christmas and spring. Many retailers said they were combing the trade show aisles in search of fill-ins, new names, good prices and special pieces to reenergize consumers.
This story first appeared in the August 5, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
THE RETAIL VIEW
Elizabeth LeBlanc, buyer, Shop, Shorewood, Wis.
“It’s a small show, but there’s a lot to see, and I feel like we have to be here since a lot of these brands never come to Wisconsin. We are really looking for some handbags for holiday and also investment pieces that people can have for a long time. Nothing too trendy.”
Randi Siegel, owner, Rapunzel’s Closet, Palm Beach, Fla.
“We came looking for cute pieces that are not expensive from the popular labels we usually carry or lesser-known labels that can merchandise well with the popular brands so the customer thinks it’s more of a label than it is. We found that a lot of brands are using softer materials, more for comfort, but they are so wide and slouchy and have zero hanger appeal.”
Crystal Kleine, owner, Ella & Henry, Chapel Hill, N.C.
“This is the smallest Intermezzo I’ve seen, and I knew there wouldn’t be as many buyers walking around. I would think people need to come find some new things to keep people shopping, but maybe they know something I don’t.”
Carol Winter, buyer, Lester’s, New York
“We’re looking for immediates, but we’re finding more for September deliveries. There’s not as much new merchandise for immediates as we had hoped. I think it’s well stocked with people that we’ve bought from before and we know will deliver. Some of the trends we’re looking for are party dresses, motorcycle, sequins, embellished seams and leggings.”
Rebecca Parliman, owner, My Sister’s Favorite Things, Lavallette, N.J.
“Right now, we’re looking for fall. We want the prices to be low but [the clothes] to be trendy. The more sparkle, the better.”
Lee Gaston, owner, Bessie Blue, Belmont, Mass.
“We’re looking for holiday. Our customer is midrange, in her 30s, 40s and 50s. They want something comfortable — they’re not getting dressed up this season. They’re price conscious. They want accessories, something that can snazz up a basic, but they’re not willing to invest a lot of money in a garment. They want to get a great piece for $65. Here, there’s no challenge. You can walk into a booth and spend $25 on a garment. [Fame] seems like it’s gotten a little smaller, but the vendors you want to see are still here.”
Susan Mattox, owner, The French Shoppe, Nashville
“We’re here to find new vendors — we’re always looking for a new name. We’re looking for newness, freshness. We’re trying to get people excited. We’re buying smaller quantity but more variety. Traffic in the store has been OK; it’s really not that bad. But it could be that Nashville is insulated somewhat. Business has been stable and steady for us.”
Joyce MacConnell, manager, Crysti & Company, Rehoboth, Del.
“This is a fill-in [show] for us. Immediates are very important because of what we sell — we’re a beach store. We want things right away. Blouses and tops are big for us. We’re buying five tops for every bottom. I’ve noticed there’s not a lot of people here today. The foot traffic is down.”
Monique Cicerchia, assistant buyer, MHP Retailers, Washington
“We’re looking for items and special pieces that will bring customers to the store.”
Nancy Ward, owner, Cornucopia boutique, Charleston, W.Va.
“I am always looking for something new. Scarves were such a big hit last season, and we are hoping they will be a big item again.” Accessories, she said, are a key category in these tougher times. “If you can’t or are scared to buy a whole new outfit, you can buy a new scarf or necklace and make your outfit look brand new. Accessories are huge.”
Whether they were scouring the shows for immediates, cash and carry items or holiday favorites, retailers walking the August trade shows in New York were clearly on a mission.
• Neon colors
• Sparkles — beading, sequins and crystals
• Abstract and floral-printed silk and chiffon dresses
• Clean denim
• Novelty sweaters reminiscent of Bill Cosby favorites
• Colorful, printed dresses, at times loosely inspired by Emilio Pucci
• Embroidery and embellishment to add perceived value to the garments
• Metallics, from sportswear to outerwear
• Bohemian looks
• Leggings and layering items
• Hardware details
• Bright colors, especially yellows and blues (turquoise, sapphires)
• Stretch satin
• Prints of all sorts — florals, oversize, graphic, watercolors, abstract
• Embellishment, especially jeweled necklines
• Jackets and cardigans for women “who want to cover arms for church and temple.”