For Buyers, Jury Still Out on Spring

NEW YORK — FFANY buyers were mixed last week about their prospects for the new season.

“Spring is still questionable,” said Stacey Watkins, a buyer for the St. Louis-based Bakers chain. On her shopping list:”new, fresh fashion.” She predicted that metal treatments, heat-sealed rhinestones and pastel shades would be must-have trends for the season.

John Holden, COO of Wilmington, Del-based Benjamin Lovell Shoes, said the past few months put a damper on his expectations for next spring.”Spring ’12 started out so well in March, but it fizzled out later in the season,” he said.”It was too hot.”

According to Holden, shoppers came into suburban retail locations, but not the city stores.”In the suburbs, they could pull up and park, but in the city, people were not walking around and shopping as much,” he said.

Hoping to spark spring sales, Holden was targeting bright colors such as orange and turquoise. Espadrilles, cork wedges, ballet flats and moccasins were also on his shopping list.

Neca Nelson, owner of Bronx, N.Y., boutique The Real McKoy was more confident.”[Business] is really good right now, and we are seeing better styles for spring than we did last year,” she said, predicting that florals and unique colorways would be hot. N.Y.L.A., Irregular Choice, Beverly Feldman and Luichiny were on her radar for the season.

Corona, N.Y.-based JB Shoes also is looking forward to the upcoming season. Owner Elvis Almonte said the store would concentrate on standout, go-to labels such as Lacoste and Diesel.

Uri Krause, president of Via Veneto in Charlotte, N.C., said spring ’13 has to be better than this past season.”It will continue to be a challenge, but we can expect an increase [in sales] as we start to carry a lot of brands from overseas,” he said, adding that Via Veneto relies on the Micam show to find lines not sold in department stores or online. According to Krause, while the economy continues to impact business, e-tailers remain his biggest competition.

International buyers were feeling more upbeat. Jayke Holt, senior buyer at Shoe Mart in Dubai, was confident about spring because the store has been adding new brands and testing new colors, price points and materials.”I’m very positive [because] we’ve taken calculated risks that worked well,” Holt said.”[Consumers] still want to spend if it’s the right product.”

But there was one issue that concerned Holt: product delivery.”In China, the volume is lower and [many factories] have cut back on workers, so we’ve heard some [brands] will be two to three weeks late on delivery,” she said.