"The manufacturers are having a hard time finding something that will resonate with people," said Nan Napier, owner of Tres Mariposas in El Paso, as she reviewed Joie's black wool, yak and cashmere cocoon sweater. "My customers want to be stimulated and it takes something new to stimulate them. There is still a lot of, 'I'll buy accessories instead.'"
Gary Rosenblum, national sales manager for sportswear firm Parameter, said retailers and vendors "are afraid to go out on a limb when business tightens.
"The evolution of fashion in bad times is not as quick as in better times, when people are more willing to take a risk," he said. "Everybody has to come out of the box in ways of creating business in a different way, at every level of wholesale and retail."
May market is traditionally slow in Dallas. Salespeople speculated the early timing may have affected traffic since retailers could postpone holiday orders until the August show. Nonetheless, FIG exhibited the most resources ever for this market, with 68 lines at its Shop temporary show, in addition to the hundreds of vendors in permanent showrooms.
Shelli Mers, executive director, noted that a highlight of the market was the dedication of a painting in memory of Jeff Feinstein, the respected owner of Cotton Island here, who died of a heart attack in January at 59.
Business in Texas and Mississippi has been good relative to other regions, sales representatives and retailers said. But anxiety over the presidential election and the economy inspired caution, and buyers kept an eye out for value pricing.
"Everyone is working harder, but I've heard pretty positive reports from my stores," said Greg Mider, owner of The Mider Group showroom.
Sales at Talula in Dallas are up 10 percent this year, though owner Victoria Jackson kept her budget flat and planned to pick up immediate goods later as needed. "We have looked at things we can get better markups on, and we've brought prices down on belts and handbags," Jackson noted.