DALLAS LIKES IT LIGHT
Byline: Rusty Williamson
DALLAS — Buyers at the International Apparel Mart’s fall II and holiday market kept the focus on lightweight dresses and sportswear, trend-driven contemporary collections and a touch of eveningwear.
With retailing on a roll and most stores citing stronger sales against a year ago, the impetus was strong to keep consumers happy and coming back for more, said buyers. And there was no hesitancy to book salable merchandise and insure plenty of stock for the fourth quarter.
Such a methodical approach almost overshadowed the fact that it was a slow June market as far as traffic went. The five-day show ended June 8.
“It was a typical June market: a smaller show marked by serious players,” said a mart spokeswoman. “June is always important for accessories, which did well as a category along with contemporary styles, among others. There were lots of small specialty stores here for the first time, and June is a good place to begin. It’s less daunting than a huge megamarket.”
Dallas June shows often showcase a range of seasonal collections, from fall and holiday to resort, the last for those vendors who break lines early. Sales representatives took the market’s overall slow pace in stride and looked forward to the resort and early spring show, Aug. 20-24.
Gene Gorman, a principal at multiline showroom Merle Gorman & Associates, said the market was quiet and traffic was down about 20 percent.
“We found the quiet mood to be a little ironic because business in stores was pretty good through May,” said Gorman. “The buyers present, though, were reasonably aggressive — our average order against last year was a little up.”
Meanwhile, stores kept level heads about the uptick in spring businesses, reasoning that to keep the momentum they had to work to keep their customers interested. Shopping lists and resultant showroom order forms were closely scrutinized and fine-tuned before being finalized.
Debbi Corkedale, buyer at Leon’s, Waco, Tex., a five-unit women’s better chain with stores in central and east Texas, shopped the mart for subtly embellished holiday items and fall immediates.
Her budget was even and she took most order forms home before confirming purchases.
“We’ve had a great spring, and customers seem to be reenergized to spend,” said Corkedale. “But I always take a cautious approach. And I wait until August to buy holiday and heavier knits, especially sweaters. It’s just too hot to start carrying heavy sweaters in the summer.”
Nearly half of Leon’s sportswear sales are generated by Howard Wolf, a sportswear and dress vendor. Corkedale has ordered Howard Wolf’s stretch suede and corduroy, embellished denims and a palm-print group of sportswear that’s evocative of early spring.
She also liked St. Germain’s casual denims, twills, microfibers — especially the purple and teal groups — and the velvet and jacquard items; Mureli’s coral, turquoise and lime silk sportswear; Mili’s embellished T-shirts; Nino Wong’s rayon print dresses and sportswear, and Lorizoni’s neutral-palette sportswear, some with soft embellishment.
At Olivia’s, Sarasota, Fla., owners Annika and Ulf Sandstrom cater to a wide spectrum of customers, from young and contemporary to retirees who come to town for the winter.
At market, they bought lightweight apparel in fall colors, though finding it took a bit of work.
“It just doesn’t get cold, but customers want something new when the seasons change,” said Annika Sandstrom. “Sometimes, we really have to scrutinize the market, but we always find merchandise we like.”
Among their picks were Laundry by Shelli Segal’s metallic matte jersey and spandex sportswear and dresses in gray and burgundy; Emil Rutenberg’s bronze matte jersey lightly embellished dresses for casual social occasions; Subtle Tones’ jewel-color linen dresses; Work Order’s twill pants, and lightweight sportswear from Kathleen Sommers.
“We’ve learned to keep our customers in mind and not get carried away buying things that aren’t right for the store,” she added. “We note the trends, but stay practical.”
For Phyllis Walker, owner of Del-Ann’s, Dallas, a women’s specialty store in business more than 50 years, immediates to make it through the hot Texas summer were high on the shopping list, with bright and citrus colors predominating. For fall, she went classic with a more neutral palette and sophisticated fabrics.
Del-Ann’s caters to affluent customers in the University Park and Highland Park neighborhoods of Dallas, near Southern Methodist University.
At market, Walker liked wedge-shape linen dresses in coral, purple and black from California Sportswear; yellow and green floral print dresses and skirts from Rialto, and neutral camel hair and wool looks from Isda & Co.
Kay Snow, owner of Penelope’s Place Boutique in Coco Village, Fla., left orders for immediate dressy and casual sportswear and activewear, mostly in lightweight fabrics to counter the balmy Florida summer and early fall.
With an even budget, she booked cotton and denim sportswear from Opal by Lorraine Wardy, lightweight early fall dresses from Platinum by Dorothy Schoelen, denim casual looks from Designs by Pat Dahnke and denim-and-crystal items from Simply Barbara.