DALLAS — Tepid fall selling combined with sustained low oil prices took a bit of a toll on regional retailers shopping the Dallas Market Center’s four-day spring market that ended Saturday.
Consumers are saving money at the gas pump, but the oil- and gas-rich states in the region have suffered industry layoffs and slashed royalty checks for landowners.
Retailers generally reported their spring plan was even or down a bit on last year, and some planned to place slim orders now and fill in later.
“It’s been a dicey year for retail,” said Scott Harner, who represents AG Jeans, Sanctuary and other labels in his namesake showroom.
Traffic edged up about 3 percent and the average order was flat to down slightly at the corporate showroom of Sharon Young, according to Ed Vierling, chairman and chief executive officer. The Dallas sportswear firm exhibits seven better-priced lines, including Ali Miles, Multiples and Slimsation.
“There was some caution in the air with the specialty stores and we’re hearing from our major stores that it’s been difficult for the last couple of months,” Vierling said. “In Texas, we’ve been kind of recession proof and this is the first time with what’s going on with oil that we’re starting to feel it a little bit.”
A number of buyers start working the show by appointment on the day before it officially opens. Torrential rains and regional flooding during the last two days of the show likely deterred other retailers who hadn’t yet made the trip.
Bright spots included soft contemporary tops, dresses in a variety of silhouettes, short shorts, and higher-waist pants and jeans.
Johnny Was’ corporate showroom was busy with buyers writing the namesake vintage-inspired, easy-fit boho tops and dresses, as well as JWLA and Biya labels.
“I don’t know how it can get any better,” said showroom manager Vickie Mullen.
In general, fresh fabrics included mesh, sheer overlays, metallics, marine prints, giant floral and butterfly motifs, and Art Deco-patterned sequins. The palette offered a wide range of colors, including metallic gold, cantaloupe, coral, marigold, aqua, porcelain blue, chartreuse and bluish-greens, along with many shades of gray, and black with white.
“I heard so many bad things, but we had a nice increase over last year’s October market,” said Ann Wilson, a partner in Harold Wilson & Associates.
Acrobat bridge-priced contemporary tops recorded its best market ever, she noted.
“The number of stores coming to Dallas Market is smaller, but the quality of our retailers is better so our numbers go up,” Wilson said. “They are ‘A’ stores.”
Retailers said business has accelerated as temperatures cooled down.
“The main thing that affects business in Houston is the weather,” said Carrie Schwartzenburg, owner of Raspberry Rose in Rice Village shopping center. “People are ready to buy when the season hits.”
Schwartzenburg ordered contemporary tops to wear with jeans and casual dresses, and planned to test a few high-waist flare pants.
“Our girls love things they can throw on and go,” she said. “Dresses are easy.”
Sales are up 10 percent this year, Schwartzenburg noted, adding, “I tend to underbuy and then scramble. I’m very conservative.”
Miriam Garvey shopped for contemporary tops and a “ton” of denim by Seven For All Mankind for her namesake store in Kansas City, Kan. “They are loving flares and skinny, and that black leather look or faded vintage look,” she said. “They are resisting crop pants.”
Business is even with last year, she said, adding, “I’m selling a lot of special orders [at trunk shows] and not as much off the floor.”
Challenges in the oil business didn’t deter industry veteran Jennifer Frost from opening Belle Ami in early October in Houston.
“It started to slow down a little for some people, but I feel like women still shop,” said Frost, who bought for Hemline in Houston for 10 years.
She cited Greylin as a favorite for color, fabrics and silhouette, singling out dresses and a culotte jumpsuit. She also invested in Sanctuary tops, AG jeans and “cute” tops and dresses by Press.
Cindy Morris, president and ceo of the Dallas Market Center, said the show had drawn new buyers from the upper Midwest in addition to retailers in its traditional territory, which includes Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas and Mississippi.
“We continue to welcome new showrooms and add temp exhibitors into the marketplace at a faster pace as 2015 draws to a close,” she added.