Buyers shopping the recent rash of trade shows in New York City surprised even the smartest marketing pundits by arriving in an optimistic mood and showing greater interest in color, prints, and creative accessories. Good price points and value were likewise high on the retailers’ purchase lists.
“Intermezzo was busier than expected,” said ENK chairman Elyse Kroll, discussing the NY trade show that features high-end contemporary designs mainly for handbags and jewelry. “Retailers were less cautious than in seasons past.” ENK has also seen larger booths by exhibitors this year, signals that suggested “designers and manufacturers are starting to feel better about business.”
While business was certainly more upbeat, it has still not come back to where it was prior to the recession. Still, many exhibitors reported good business activity. Orders for Milly, for example, which focused on jewel tones and bold patterns, were up a little from last year. Milly’s prices have remained about the same as 2009, but some firms have dropped prices in order to stimulate sales. At Sunner, for example, wholesale prices were down about 25 percent from pre-recession levels.
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Last month’s Moda Manhattan saw much healthier retail this year than last. Britton Jones, CEO of Business Journals, Inc. noted that “Retailers came in with a hunger, more cash, and bought more aggressively.”
—Lines were apparently scrutinized for quality and value more than ever. Pastels were particularly popular, such as lime green. Bright Floridian patterns were also big movers.
“November to spring is a tough time,” said Cheryl Glense of Ritsi in Montreal. “Our customers are looking for fun things. If it is different, they’ll pay.”
Designers & Agents
Exhibitors at Designers & Agents in New York saw a lot of trends from spring continuing into summer, such as bold prints, geometric prints, florals and neutral colors. Cross-body handbags in multiple shapes and sizes were popular.
While many reported a higher level of optimism this year, there still was an air of nervousness apparent in buyers. “Buying is closer to the season, and that is forcing designers to rework their whole structure,” said Meredith Sherman, sales manager of Seamless Showroom.
Mary Ayscew of Aubrey Co. added, “Buyers are looking for classic silhouettes, color, and simplicity.”
At Fame, exhibitors were up 20 percent. Britton Jones of Business Journals, Inc., pointed out that Fame serves a market segment that is particularly hot right now. “It’s more fast fashion. It is fun. It is affordable. And it’s very profitable.”
Monica Domantay, director of sales for The Addison Story, attributed the good show traffic to accessible price points. “The prices are fabulous,” declared Anh Nguyen of the Jack and Jill Boutique in Philadelphia. She said she was looking for light weight neutrals, softer baby colors and easy to wear dresses.
—Another retailer from Pennsylvania said “People aren’t buying expensive things any more. They’re looking for J. Crew and preppy with an edge.”
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At the Nouveau Collective trade show, exhibitors reported sales running several percentage points ahead of 2009. Sharp-eyed merchandising, timely offerings and abundant staffs to take care of prospective buyers appeared to be coaxing buyers into a good purchasing mood.
Kiki Hughes who owns a specialty store in Philadelphia said business has been hard but she is putting into practice a number of marketing tactics to help build sales. She regularly calls customers to encourage them to visit. She also has trunk shows and private shopping parties in her boutique.
With many retailers spending less, exhibitors said they were emphasizing items and accessories.