Indian Summer Tempers Buyers at Fashion Market Northern California

SAN MATEO, Calif.—Buyers were literally taking the temperature outside to see how much merchandise they needed as they visited the three-day Fashion Market Northern California show to browse Spring 2016 fashions.

Many specialty-store retailers walking the aisles inside the San Mateo Event Center were hesitant to go all out for Spring merchandise because the unusually warm weather in Northern California has kept shoppers away from stocking up on Fall merchandise. Slow Fall sales affect Spring purchases down the road.

“In Northern California, we still had Indian summer. The weather here has been hot. In San Francisco, people were walking around without jackets. A lot of inventory is not moving,” said Jacqueline Stone, a Fairfax, Calif.–based representative for Mycra Pac, Escape From Paris, Italca scarves and Pantropic Hats.

She said buyers basically wanted to see how clothing and accessories performed for the holidays before committing dollars to Spring goods. “Because department stores bring in Fall merchandise for 7/30 or 8/30, some specialty stores brought in Fall merchandise sooner, and they’re still sitting on it,” Stone said. “Department stores are moving it out, and it goes on sale. That impacts the cycle of things. It forces specialty stores to follow suit, and it’s not working for either.”

Sheryl Draper is a regular exhibitor, based in San Rafael, Calif., who represents several accessories lines. She said accessories were getting a boost at the show because many stores were freshening up their slow-moving Fall merchandise with year-round goods. “I got more orders for Immediates than Spring,” Draper said, saying the show was good. “They don’t have money yet for Spring.”

Draper represents jewelry collections Zina Kao, Lotta, Anna Sukardi, Anne Koplik and Pom; handbag lines Ellington and Silo; and Fil de Joie, a collection of socks and gloves. She recently picked up boho accessories collection Leatherock, which didn’t have a Northern California representative.

Having lighter-weight goods was a plus for Stephanie Harris, a Santa Rosa, Calif.– based rep for Habitat Clothing, Pure Handknit, Neon Buddha, Caite and Kyla Seo. The result was an incredible show for Harris. “This was a cleanup because of the way my lines break. I saw 28 stores. I’m done for the season. I’m wrapping up Spring,” she said, noting that it seemed business was improving for retailers.

Wait and see

Fern Liberson, whose Fern Liberson & Co. showroom is located in the California Market Center in Los Angeles, wasn’t quite as positive. She felt her sales were down from last year’s October show.

“All in all, it was a little quiet,” she said. Many of her regular buyers said they were planning to wait until January to place Spring 2016 orders. “Usually they would write more Spring, but they were waiting until January. They were hesitant.”

But Liberson saw a few exceptions to that sentiment. The Magdalena line she carries was on fire. “If you have a great line, they are going to do business,” Liberson said. “The line was very well priced and very summery. People didn’t want their competitors to get that line. I wrote for 3/30 and 4/30 deliveries.”

The highest wholesale price point for the Magdalena line made out of gauze was $28. Oversized shirts were wholesaling for $20, and dresses were wholesale priced between $25 and $28. Other lines Liberson carries include Chalet, Inside Out, Joseph Walker and Orange.

Judy Kurgan, who shares the L on 5 showroom at the California Market Center, didn’t start attending the San Mateo show until 2013 and has been building business ever since. This time she opened an account with a longtime store in Truckee, Calif. “Every time I go there I open a new account. I am still in the building phase of my business up there,” she said.

But she noted that business was down a bit due to the unusually warm California weather, which was causing fall and winter merchandise to stack up on the shelves. “Who wants to try on a heavy sweater and a heavy jacket when it is 100 degrees outside?” she asked. “I saw five of my best stores, and they said they would write with me in January.”