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"In fashion, tough times do not call for playing it safe," said Bradley Forster, owner of Bradley, a Mobile, Ala., store, and one of many merchants whose sales slumped during fall or holiday. "I'm only buying things with the 'wow factor,' not basics."
Bright colors and bold abstract prints were the most prevalent summer trend, especially in dresses and tunics, which buyers said was an energized category after spring introductions. Jackets, enlivened by new swing and trapeze shapes, were also popular.
The women's and children's show that ended its four-day run Jan. 29 at AmericasMart also offered a smattering of early fall merchandise.
Focusing on contemporary and accessories as growth opportunities, AmericasMart expanded space for new vendors in exhibition areas, including lines such as Ed Hardy, which grew to 15 booths in its third show here. A New Artist area launched featuring lines that were fresh to the mart, with 25 lines making their debut this show. The new product augments permanent showroom lines.
Traffic equaled last year and was described as "typical" for a January show by Chuck Corvi, project manager for apparel trade shows.
"There were bright spots and opportunities to grow business, and low spots, such as moderate areas," Corvi said. "Mom-and-pop stores in small towns face competition from big department stores and other retailers."
Contemporary stores, such as L Boutique in Sarasota, Fla., applauded the increase in younger, hipper product in clearly defined areas.
"I'm seeing more lines here that I used to have to go to New York to get," said owner LeeAnne Swor.
For summer, Swor bought dresses, her best-selling category, from Susana Monaco, Trina Turk and Tracy Reese, and printed tunics and dresses from Black Halo and Milly.
Other buyers, shopping for an affluent, older customer base, said the market was too contemporary, neglecting a customer who demands updated fashion but needs a more generous fit.