Though business remains challenging, positive sales reports from retailers and growing market attendance are boosting optimism among sales representatives at FashionCenterDallas for the upcoming show June 3 to 6.

This story first appeared in the May 20, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“We’ve been making market calls, and the stores are all busy,” said Krista Ward, a partner in Moxiefashions, which focuses on European resources. “My Midwest stores have been sending reorders in the past week. I feel like the recession started in the Midwest with the car industry, so if they are starting to pick up again, then that’s one of the best signs I’ve seen.”

Reps’ confidence also stems from an increase in retailer attendance over the past year, particularly from stores outside FCD’s bedrock territory of Texas and contiguous states.

“I’ve noticed more high-end bridge stores are coming from other parts of the country, particularly the West Coast,” noted Pam Kramer, a partner in Ferrell & Kramer, which shows Michael Michael Kors and other lines.

FCD’s buyer attendance is up 10 percent for the 12 months ended in March over the previous year, according to the Dallas Market Center Co., which runs the venue. The DMC has been marketing intensively to leading specialty stores nationwide and in Latin America, including offering travel incentives.

“It’s definitely made a difference,” said Brad Hughes, who shows 45 labels including Lafayette 148 and Nicole Miller. “The best quality stores are shopping here, and the best out-of-territory retailers are coming at least twice a year.”

“I reviewed my records and was pleasantly surprised that my buyer attendance has been up 23 percent in 2010 over 2009,” observed Susanne Taylor. Her namesake room specializes in green resources and activewear, such as Beyond Yoga and Calvin Klein Performance, and is benefiting from increased crossover buying from fashion stores.

“The largest dollar increases came from Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa,” Taylor added.

But no one is saying the living is easy.

“The biggest challenge for 2010, ’11 and ’12 is that our key retailers have learned they can be profitable with less product, so purchase orders won’t necessarily increase,” Hughes reflected. “It’s still going to be tough for a while. We’re ahead of ’09, but I need ’08, and it’s still challenging.”

Historically one of the slowest markets, the June show has grown in importance as retailers have delayed writing orders for the big fall season. It’s also a market that displays product for virtually every season.

Fast-fashion and contemporary lines will accent summer and fall styles, while bridge makers will present November and December deliveries of clothes for spring 2011.

Buyers are focused on novelty fashions from the waist up — jackets, date tops, jewelry and handbags, reps asserted.

“Everyone has got denim and pants, but they want to look good from the waist up — what you see when you sit at a table,” Hughes offered. “We see that in Lafayette 148 trunk shows. They don’t want black and gray and navy. Matchy stuff isn’t where it’s going.”

Rick Drysdale, who shows young contemporary resources that are in a different part of the fashion spectrum from Hughes’ lines, agreed.

“A big problem is there is nothing that has taken [the buyers] out of denim yet,” he noted. “Skirts are happening as an item but not as a category. Everything is denim-related in the back of their minds.”

The independent stores that are doing best are selling online and marketing aggressively via Facebook and Twitter, reps noted. They are also staging special events to draw customers into the stores.

“I don’t think people are as afraid of price point,” Kramer reflected. “They still want quality and value, but it’s not as much of a determining factor as last year.”

She has had a strong reaction to Dana Stein Everyday Furs, a new label that has excelled with casual knit rabbit jackets and vests with novelty details and fox and leather trim. While the line wholesales up to $592, the bulk of the business is from $86 to $172.

In other news at FCD, veteran rep Scott Dayton is opening a namesake room in 15030 to show Leatherock belts and a new label of hippie-chic embroidered velvet and goatskin boots called Erkan-Demir. Designed by two artists in Laguna Beach, Calif., and made in Turkey, the boots wholesale for $165.

In addition, Magaschoni will open a corporate showroom in room 15389.

“Dallas is a very strong territory for me,” said David Merk, senior vice president of sales. “It has some really big players — the Miss Jackson’s, Halls and Ballins of the world — and all those better specialty stores.”

Meanwhile, Leon & Associates will introduce Ariella, a novelty contemporary sweater line wholesaling from $22 to $32. And Remedy is renovating its denim showroom into an old west saloon with a long bar for showing jeans — and serving beer on tap. An opening celebration is set for June 4 at 5 p.m.

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