The History of Who Buys and Why

By Mercedes Gonzalez, owner Global Purchasing Companies

Mercedes GonzalezIt’s not just about trends
Besides knowing what is on-trend, fashion retailers need to understand consumer behavior. Knowing why people buy, what they buy, and how much they are willing to spend (known as consumer price resistance), means understanding where consumers’ values truly lie.

For example, during the financial crisis 2008, people were losing their homes and jobs, but designer shoes, which start at $800, never dipped in sales. Consumers gave up expenses like going out for lunch or taking taxis, but they were not giving up their shoes. They even started shopping at fast fashion retailers, like Zara, and pairing $100 dresses with designer shoes and bags. And guess what? That high-low chic worked and looked great.

But was high-low chic an iconic look of the new millennium? If we take a close look at the whole time period, we see that the common denominator was actually comfort. Every year there was a new crisis: Y2K, 9/11, SARS, the war in Iraq and Anthrax. You get the picture. In times of crisis, people look for comfort; in their clothing (bamboo fabrics), in their footwear (Crocs) and in food. People stopped going out as much and entertained at home. That became the new normal.

Seeing the future
As we examine fashion in this decade, consumers are becoming fatigued on many fronts. Fast fashion is slowly but steadily losing traction. People are tired of walking into a room where everyone is wearing almost the same thing. They are dissatisfied with poor craftsmanship and thinking more about social responsibility when making purchases. They are spending dollars on well-crafted and limited-production items that have an interesting design direction.

Another area of fatigue is the sad or guilt story. Consumers do value items that are ethically made, but there is concern for how genuine these claims are. Even Made-in-the-U.S.A. claims have come into question over items like watches that are assembled in the U.S. but contain parts made overseas.

Which brings me to consumer price resistance. As a rule, it doesn’t matter what things cost you to buy, it only matters what the consumer is willing to pay. There are many factors that go into that judgement, especially the story behind the product. Today’s consumer sees buzz words like “fair trade,” “eco friendly” and “sustainable,” and labels with the maker’s name and photo as the new normal and expects them to be value-adds that don’t correlate to an increase in price. Think about an organic tomato merchandised at Whole Foods in a wood cart with locally made, fresh mozzarella and a hand-painted sign of the farm’s name. You pay top dollar for it because of the story you perceive from the display. Now did you know that Walmart also carries organic tomatoes but at probably half the price?

My end-of-the-year predictions
Boutique retail businesses are thriving. U.S. consumers are not necessarily money-poor, but time-poor. They expect an expert to attend to them during the shopping experience and will pay for it. Investing in properly training your sales staff will be important.
It’s also an election year, and sales typically drop more than normal during the October before the vote. Plan fun, in-store events to help draw customers in, like a how-to workshop that shows them how a favorite summer dress can be layered up for use in winter. I also warn you not to post the slightest hint of anything political.

On the flip side, November should really be an excellent month. Remember, retail is a form of therapy. Consumers who feel relieved from the election will…guess what…go shopping to celebrate, and people who feel sad and depressed over the election, well, they’ll go shopping too. Plan your OTB accordingly.

One last note. Don’t guilt consumers into a purchase. Give them real reasons to buy as opposed to making them feel like they’re doing charity work. Extended store hours, local delivery service, exclusive or limited-edition items, gift wrapping, are just a few touches that bring real value to shopping at your store.

Hear Mercedes Gonzalez speak at August Atlanta Apparel. Visit AmericasMart.com to add her seminars to your Market Plan:
Thursday, August 4:
10:30 a.m. ǀ Capturing the Social Occasion Market
3:30 p.m. ǀ Retail Math

Friday, August 5:
10:30 a.m. ǀ Sweet 15 (Quinceañera)

Room to Grow

Step by step success with a Florida children’s retailer
By Jessica Harlan

When Kelly Leigh couldn’t find the clothing styles she wanted for her son, she did what any entrepreneurial-minded mom might only dream of doing: she opened her own children’s clothing store.

Getting started
She opened Kelly and Kayden in Windermere, Fla., in fall 2015, and quickly discovered that running her own store was far different than managing others. “Working for other industries, I knew my customer and I knew what our brand and focus was,” says Leigh. “But when I started this new adventure, it was unknown.”

But not entirely unfamiliar: she’d been dressing her niece, now 12, as well as friends’ kids for years, and as a new mom herself, she had a specific idea of what design aesthetic she wanted in her shop. “My approach is fashion forward and sophisticated,” she says. “Nothing too frilly, no cartoon characters and no visible branding. It’s clothes that you could buy for great family photos.”

She also has to take into account Florida’s unique climate and customer base. “We have so many people from all different backgrounds,” says Leigh. Plus, she has to choose comfortable fabrics for the hot, humid Florida weather: cotton or other soft fabrics and sleeveless styles are an emphasis. Because she likes to be able to touch and personally inspect everything she carries, most items are bought at AmericasMart and other gift markets.

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Finding the right mix
Leigh has worked hard to finesse her assortment of merchandise. Her layette department is 10 percent; baby products such as toiletries, towels and diaper bags is 5 percent; boys’ and girls’ clothing is 50 percent; jewelry and accessories is 20 percent; shoes is 5 percent; and toys is 10 percent.

Originally her vision was to stock clothes in sizes from newborn to size ten. “Kids have such an opinion around the age of 10, and I didn’t want to address that.” But her big girls’ area has already doubled, and she’s buying sizes up to 16 at the request of her customers, who are looking for cute age-appropriate clothing.

Another area that has grown was hair bows. As a mom to a boy, Leigh was skeptical when her sales rep extorted her to carry them. “She told me that stores can pay their rent just on hair bow sales.” But she listened and now her famous “hair bow bar” stretches seven feet.

Planning for the future
As far as pricing goes, Leigh describes her range as “fairly priced.” Merchandise starts at around $5 and goes up to several hundred dollars for higher-end items like formal wear or communion dresses. “I think if you have a wide range of prices, you don’t single out a particular buyer,” she says.

While toys only comprise about a tenth of her merchandise assortment, they’re an important component. “Toys are easy gifts, and they complement the buying people do here,” says Leigh. She carries educational and high quality brands, such as Melissa & Doug and Jellycat plush animals. And the toys make for fun cross merchandising.

Currently Leigh is her store’s sole employee, but she has big plans for the future. “I see our store becoming one of the leading children’s stores in central Florida,” she says. She’s hoping to have an online shopping platform up and running this summer. Other than that, she plans to “perfect what we have” before taking any more steps to grow.

Read more about Kelly and Kayden in the July 2016 Market Magazine.

For information visit kellyandkayden.com or call 407.217.6902.
Photography by Forever Wild Images.

The Top 10 Most Anticipated Trends for 2016 National Prom Market

Style expert Carson Kressley might not have attended his prom, but he sure does know a thing or two about what we can expect to see on dance floors and pageant stages this upcoming spring. The charming TV personality was the resident tastemaker at the 2015 WORLD OF PROM Market at AmericasMart Atlanta.

Carson scoured the Market in search of the best new looks and hottest trends for prom, pageant, quinceañera, homecoming and social occasion in 2016.

Bring a bit of Carson’s je ne sais quoi back to your store with these style suggestions inspired by the style expert’s favorite items from the 2015 national prom Market:

Feathers

Feathers

Fashionistas of a feather flock together. Feather details add a delicate whimsy and tons of movement to gowns. Look for them in a variety of colors on the skirts of both long and short styles.

Geometric Patterns

geometric patterns (6)

The WORLD OF PROM runway looked like the world’s most chic math class with geometric prints appearing throughout the show. Whether as an accent piece or the dominant design of the dress, these bold prints solve the equation for a memorable prom gown.

Florals

florals (3)

While a floral frock may be a mainstay for spring fashion collections, the look is a fresh for social occasion. The floral representations are as diverse as the blooms they portray ranging from printed fabrics, to appliques and beading.

Metallics

metallics (3)

No spotlights are needed with these shiny and shimmery dresses. New shades such as rose gold, pewter and platinum join classic sparklers gold and silver. Bold ladies go head-to-toe shine while others use it as a show-stopping detail.

Fringe

fringe (2)

The ready-to-wear fringe trend has made it to social occasion. When this dance-floor-friendly element is paired with posh fabrics and the right accessories, there is no doubt the look is just right for a special evening.

White

white, crop top

The wedding day is not the only opportunity for a show-stopping white gown. Youthful silhouettes, fun embellishments and party-ready accessories confirm that the wearer is going to the dance rather than going to the chapel.

Crop Tops

crop top, pastels

The crop top has been on trend for a while now and continues strong for 2016. Designers are updating the look with a crop top/cut outs hybrid that still shows some skin, but keeps the dress as one continuous piece.

1970s Glam

70s glam

Disco fever abounds with 1970s-inspired looks. Dancing queens make a statement with cut-outs, sparkles and party-ready pants-suits. Make sure the styling is modern to keep the look classy instead of costume.

Lace

new lace

Ladies are turning to geometric patterns in lieu of the traditional floral lace that has dominated the social occasion run way for the past few seasons. Blooms are used in a color-on-color technique that adds an interesting texture to gowns of all styles.

Pastels

Pastels, lace

These sweet and feminine shades take it up a notch with head-turning elements. Crop tops, embellishments and even head-to-toe sequins in these heavenly hues yield modern looks that are perfect for spring celebrations.

The WORLD OF PROM market will take place from August 4-8.

Going Global: 7 Tips

What you need to know about working with international vendors
By Jessica Harlan

Crossing the borders and exploring the offerings of manufacturers and distributors from all over the world is sure to give your store a distinctive product mix. But it can be daunting to work with a supplier from another country where the currency, language, customs and standards might be different from yours.

But establishing an international roster of suppliers is worth the extra effort to find unusual products and to incorporate trends into your assortment even before they start catching on in the U.S.

Insider Info
AmericasMart is the perfect place to find international suppliers; you can travel the world while staying on one interconnected campus. We spoke with some of the global exhibitors at The July Atlanta International Gift & Home Furnishings Market to get their best tips on how American retailers can best work with suppliers from other countries. Here’s what they have to say:

Image courtesy of Eightmood

Image courtesy of Eightmood

1. “A vendor who has gone through the hurdles of entering the U.S. Market is determined,” says Fredrik Axelsson, sales director for the U.S. for Eightmood, a home furnishings design company based in Sweden. “If you see what you like, start a dialogue, establish a partnership, place an order, and grow together.”

2. During an in-person conversation, be sure to ask questions if you don’t understand, and don’t be afraid to summarize or restate the discussion to make sure everyone is on the same page.

3. Bring a tape measure – basic measurements might be different in other countries. Outside the United States, most countries use metric measurements, so having a tape measure (or downloading a conversion app on your smartphone) will allow you to translate sizes for your market.

4. The way products are designed or constructed might differ too, says John Goumas, sales and marketing vice president for Australian company OneWorld Collection. “In America, lampshades are mounted with harps and finials, and in Australia, our lamps are done the English way, with the shade that attaches to the base of the bulb.” While OneWorld has adapted, redesigning its lamps to reflect the American market, some products just might be different from what’s expected – and that’s part of what makes it unique.

Image courtesy of Evelyne Prélonge

Image courtesy of Evelyne Prélonge

5. Double check details about financial transactions to make sure there are no unexpected costs associated with your orders. “Make sure the price includes transport and duties,” says Marylou Altounian, brand manager for Evelyn Prélonge. She also recommends retailers make sure they can set up payment in U.S. dollars via bank transfer or credit cards.

Image courtesy of Tissage Art de Lys

Image courtesy of Tissage Art de Lys

6. Plan for longer delivery times. One of the challenges to working with an overseas source is that getting goods might take longer. Aureline Maillard, spokesperson for French company Tissage Art de Lys says her company typically proposes DDP delivery (Delivery Duty Paid) and does everything possible to limit the time it takes for orders to be delivered. Altounian also recommends double checking that quoted delivery time includes transport time, since sea freight can be as long as four weeks.

Image courtesy of Moe's Home Collection

Image courtesy of Moe’s Home Collection

7. Take advantage of a vendor’s offerings. At Moe’s Home Collection, a Canadian/American home furnishings company, the company can sell a retailer a whole room package, from the rug to the furniture to the lighting and decorative accessories, and even has available photography for retailers to use in promotions. Inquire about promotional materials and bundled assortments to help give your imported merchandise a boost.

Read more tips for working with international vendors in the July 2016 Market Magazine.

For more information: Eightmood, Inc. – eightmood.com, 561.801.5400; Evelyne Prélonge – evelyne-prelonge.com, +33 1 85 08 59 55; Moe’s Home Collection – moeshomecollection.com, 800.967.9942; OneWorld Collection – oneworldcollection.com, 630.870.4799; Tissage Art de Lys – artdelys.com, +33 3 20 75 42 10

The Daily Strut Sponsored by Esley Collection

By Briar Davis

During the June Atlanta Apparel, The Daily Strut sponsored by Esley Collection showcased a vibrant young contemporary collection of pieces that were perfect for any occasion. The collection included classic silhouettes, a bold use of patterns, feminine flair and other timely trends. Watch for the up and coming looks this season: denim, fringe, lace and more.

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The Daily Strut Sponsored By Gracia Fashion

By Briar Davis

Gracia Fashion sponsored one of The Daily Strut shows during the June Atlanta Apparel Market. The line showcased a timeless assortment of fashions in black and white along with a slew of fun pieces mixing solid color statements and brightly patterned styles. Be on the lookout for tiered ruffles, touches of lace and playful prints this season.

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4 Tips to Sell More Accessories & Shoes

By Christina O’Flaherty

What’s a little black dress without a killer pair of heels?

Is the latest look really complete minus the handbag that ties it all together?

The right accessory can make or break an outfit, and the versatility of accessories make them optimal options for add-on sales. Read how you can boost the sales revenue in your store with these four easy tips for selling accessories:

Measure Shoe Size
If a customer falls in love with a shoe, only to learn it’s not available in their size, they can easily become frustrated and leave your store empty handed. It may seem like a hassle, but measuring their foot before pulling any shoes is the best way to show them all of their options off the bat, save both of you time, and get them engaged in conversation. 

Pique Curiosity
Bring out a few extra shoe options when you pull their requested shoe, like a different style shoe in the same color. Wait for them to ask about the extra boxes BEFORE showing them. By engaging them in this manner, you’re piquing their interest instead of trying to push something on them. This goes for accessories as well. Ask them if they’d like to see what necklace or bag other customers paired with the outfit they’re buying. A simple open question can do wonders.

Inspire Complete Looks
Create tangible displays around your store that show complete outfits from head to toe, as well as smaller areas that display your key items styled with accessories. Add scarves and jewelry to clothing on hangers or pair the latest “it” bag with some of your seasonal bestsellers. More options mean more sales opportunities.

Showcase on Social Media
In the age of Instagram and other social sites, more and more shoppers crave styled looks. Post photos of your employees wearing the latest accessories, ask customers to post themselves wearing their purchases (you can also offer a contest or discount for this), or work with a local stylist for help. They’re experts in mixing the new and the old so you can always offer your customers something “fresh” in the store.

Now that you’ve learned tips for selling more accessories, it’s time to stock up on the latest trends!

Trends to Watch

Trend: Wrap-Tie Footwear Line: Kristin Cavallari by Chinese Laundry

Trend: Wrap-Tie Footwear
Line: Kristin Cavallari by Chinese Laundry – 310.838.2103; ChineseLaundry.com

Trend: Runner Line: TOMS

Trend: Runner
Line: TOMS – 310.566.3170; Toms.com

Trend: Bowling Bag Line: Toregrossa

Trend: Bowling Bag
Line: Torregrossa – 732.991.2992; TorregrossaFashions.com

Trend: Natural Stones Line: Mliz

Trend: Natural Stones
Line: M. Liz Jewelry – 561.251.7007; MLizJewelry.com

Make sure to check out the Atlanta Apparel Market this weekend (June 2 – 5, 2016) in Building 3. Explore temporary collections on Floors 2 – 4 like Shoe Studio and JFA: Jewelry & Fashion Accessories, plus a wide mix of accessories and footwear in our showrooms on Floors 6 – 13.