Retailers may have had a few challenging years, but the ones that have weathered the tough times have a secret sauce for their success: marketing, social media and e-commerce.
Retailers are seeing a growing need by customers to get out of their leggings and jogging pants and explore new clothing avenues. But they need to be nudged into stores or at least enticed onto websites to view new styles and silhouettes.
“Customers are out there and are buying,” said Maryann Patterson, owner of Glamourous Fashions, based in San Antonio, Texas. “We have all gained weight and need new clothes and we are tired of wearing yoga pants. “
Patterson was in Las Vegas at the Womenwear in Nevada show, held Feb. 14-17 at the Caesars Forum Conference Center, seeking new merchandise for her business that organizes fundraising fashion shows and events across the country. “I was closed down for 17 months, and now I am back on the road,” she said, noting she drives 40,000 miles a year in her van to set up fashion events across the United States. People, she said,” just want to live again.”
The Womenswear in Nevada show has always been popular with specialty retailers looking for new merchandise for the 30-year-old and above customer. The various ballrooms filled by the WWIN show was chock full of merchandise from sleepwear to evening wear and everything in between.
This year, WWIN had a very busy four days with an added dimension. It was co-locating its show with Iloe Studios, a luxury clothing, outerwear and accessories event that is branching out from its roots established in Chicago in 2012 as the International Luxury Outerwear Expo.
Iloe Studios occupied a separate ballroom next to WWIN and had 30 booths representing 45 better contemporary brands, said Jeff Zuckerman, the show’s chief executive officer. He said this is the company’s first foray into Las Vegas, with plans to be there twice a year as Iloe Studios expands its footprint.
Major brands exhibiting at the show included Dress2Kill, Blanc Noir, Nally & Millie, Liverpool Los Angeles and Kazan. Buying was brisk at some booths and subdued at others.
Peter Casagrande, the vice president of sales at Blanc Noir from Los Angeles, wasn’t disappointed with the show. “I don’t find anyone being cautious,” he said. “The one thing I haven’t heard from retailers is that people are not coming into their stores.”
Blanc Noir attended all the trade shows last year to provide merchandise for e-commerce sites that were exploding. “We never saw a drop in our business,” Casagrande noted.
Blanc Noir had to raise its prices 10 percent but hasn’t seen much resistance because it is still offering items at reasonable wholesale prices, such as outerwear at $91.
With much of its merchandise produced in China, the company has tried to stay ahead of the game by getting its orders in on time to make sure production makes it out of the factories and onto ships. But when that doesn’t happen, air freight has been the way to go.
Lisa Lenchner, whose Los Angeles showroom represented nine brands at the show, said her store customers had an unbelievable fourth quarter, and they expect the same for spring. “People want to get out and live again,” she said.
That was seen in the recent U.S. Commerce Department report that showed retail sales in January rose 3.8 percent from the previous month while consumer prices were up 0.6 percent during the same period. The uptick was nearly twice the median estimate of 2 percent.
Increased retail sales syncs with Stuart Marcher’s belief there is going to be a great need for merchandise in upcoming months. The Los Angeles showroom owner and rep for eight lines sees his customers ordering goods across the board. But supply chain issues still persist. “Even if you place an order, you don’t know if you are going to get it,” he said.
Even the little things aren’t arriving on time. One of his lines, Elliott Lauren, was having trouble getting a piece of metal hardware from China for a jogger pant made in the U.S. It was vital for lacing a draw string around the waist.
Delivery problems haven’t been much of an issue for the Los Angeles Denim Co., a young denim label that manufactures everything in Los Angeles. The company’s selling point is fashionable designs at a reasonable $45 to $65 wholesale price point. “Retailers want an $80 to $90 jeans,” said Paul Hagopian, co-owner of the label that until recently was sold exclusively through the Sundance Catalog.
However, he doesn’t know how long he can maintain that price point. His Italian denim has gone from $6.95 a yard to $7.25 and the minimum wage in Los Angeles will rise on July 1 from $15 an hour to $16.04. “I think made in USA is a boon,” he said, “but it is going to be tough in Los Angeles.”