Facing intense competition both online and from major stores, specialty retailers shopped carefully for distinctive items, lifestyle togs, denim and jewelry at the trans-seasonal women’s market held Jan. 25 to 28 at the Dallas Market Center.

Orders were split about evenly between spring and summer deliveries and pre-fall and fall, according to sales agents. Buyers responded to a range of hues, from soft blush and peachy neutrals to earthy shades of green and blue and vivid prints.

“People are buying closer to need than they ever have,” said Tom Striegel, owner of Striegel Sales. “This is the first time I kept spring [samples] from my sportswear lines like Nic + Zoe and that was unheard of in the past.”

He described the show as “excellent,” led by stalwart Nic + Zoe and his debut of Liverpool jeans and Neon Buddha tops.

“Everyone wants to see something new, so anytime you have that it’s really good,” Striegel said.

Like last year, the market gained some traffic from the big Total Home & Gift show that ended the day before.

“Everyone is diversifying their mixes,” said sales agent Pam Kramer.

She did well with Vendula novelty handbags in the shape of a caravan trailer and a new line of neutral-hued jersey separates, Pearl by Dana Stein.

Offering soft pants and tops such as a poet’s shirt and a tie-front jacket, the clothing is meant to go from “flip-flops to heels,” said Stein.

“Novelty tops and jackets and denim are still a key driver,” said sales agent Brad Hughes, who exhibits 50 fashion and accessories brands in his showrooms.

Hughes has been inking deals to represent higher-priced labels nationwide, including St. John and German imports Riani, Laurel and Princess Goes Hollywood.

“If the retailer is price conscious, it’s not where we think the real future is,” Hughes asserted. “The customer can buy that anywhere and online. Our stores are trying to find things that aren’t on Amazon or in department stores or discounters, so we have to be really creative.”

Donald Reeves said his business has doubled since he expanded his showroom to the former Ritz Group space and mixed in slightly higher-priced labels such as Peace of Cloth. Bestsellers included Kut jeans, Nvelop, Acrobat, Cullen and Metric.

Brenda Biljanic, owner of BB’s Apparel and Boots in suburban Salt Lake City, hunted for “unique little vendors with that cool wanderlust bohemian vibe.”

In the Scene booth show, she found first-time exhibitor Amy Kaplan, who designed for Erickson Beamon for years before moving to Katy, Texas. Last year, she introduced her own line of mixed media jewelry with a western accent.

Stacey Walters, co-owner of Tres Chic boutiques in Brenham and College Station, Tex., selected spaced glass pearl necklaces from Deborah Grivas as she touched up her spring and summer buy.

DMC president and chief executive officer Cindy Morris said, “Buyers from across the U.S. came to Dallas in force, and exhibitors reported that many retailers confidently placed larger orders with a renewed optimism. Attendance ended up ahead of last January, but more importantly, we continue to grow our loyal customer base, attract new buyers and make sure key buyers attend.”