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Signs of Improvement in the Air at WestCoast Trend Show
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August 07, 2009
by Robert McAllister

NUMERO UNO: Larry Hymes with an Ichiban shirt at the WestCoast Trend Show

Menswear buyers and resources attending the Aug. 2|3 run of the WestCoast Trend Show, held at the Embassy Suites LAX North, offered some indications that the recession has bottomed out, as they reported fair to good business coming both at the show and from their stores and showrooms.

BOOK IT: Paperbacks shorts
were a hot item at WCT.

gI think the downward trends have leveled off,h said Dennis McBride, owner of the Laguna Beach, Calif., boutique Indian Summer. gWe expect to see some leveling or slight increases over the next few months and maybe some improvements during the first quarter.h

McBride, who was at the show shopping for Holiday and Spring goods, was basing his projections on improvements in his store over the past three months, as consumers have been less resistant to higher price points and better goods in general.

gWefve decided to recently hold our prices as a result,h he said.

Exhibitors, too, voiced some optimism. Show producer Ken Haruta\who also reps Scott Barber, Sanyo, Corneliani, Saltaire, Leather Island and Soft Collection Belts by Bill Lavin\said he saw 24 buyers over the first day and a half of the show.

gYou canft do that on the road in two days,h Haruta said. gPeople are seeing this more as a one-stop shop.h

Haruta said attendance on the first day of the show surpassed attendance for the entirety of the previous show, held in February.

Buyers at WCT saw everything from suits, dress shirts and accessories from high-end European resources to more-sporty casual lines from U.S. brands.

McBride said he saw enough of his regular vendors to bypass attending the Las Vegas shows later this month.

Added Reyn Spooner rep Robert T. Odenberg: gThe smaller, regional shows are becoming more important. They allow buyers to take care of business.h

Still, Reyn Spooner will be looking to Las Vegas to roll out a newly structured brand, having recently gone back through 40 years of archived prints. Los Angeles private-equity fund Wedbush purchased the popular Hawaiian shirt label last year. Odenberg said the company will tweak some old designs as well as offer licensed NFL and other sports-league apparel.

Matthew Becker of Eton of Swedenfs Los Angeles showroom said his business has been up, due in part to Etonfs stock program, which provides more-fashion-forward styles as well as basics in wrinkle-free weaves.

gThe [in-stock] allows the retailer to be flexible,h he said.

Eton has held pricing, as did Eric Martin of Paperbacks, who trimmed wholesale prices for the companyfs casual shorts to $35 to provide a spark for the new brand.

The pricing strategy has helped land the label in accounts such as Saks, Bloomingdalefs, Neiman Marcus and Atrium. The shorts come in cargo styles, as well as six other cuts, and are available in 20 colors. Martin, who owns The Park showroom with Kristen Aguilera in downtown Los Angelesf Lady Liberty Building, recently picked up the Howe label, which he will be highlighting with Shirt by Shirt at the Project Global Trade Show in Las Vegas later this month.

Another Lady Liberty tenant, Chris Cantrell of the Kascade showroom, was at the show promoting Robert Graham, the colorful shirts line from New York designer Robert Stock.

The brand has been hot, but, even so, Cantrell said the company has gsharpenedh pricing a bit to help put a kick into sales and help stores with their margins.

The company will also be launching a pants line called Robert Graham Laundered, featuring a washed-down collection of khakis, five-pocket pants and shorts priced to retail from $128 to $148. The collection will debut at the MRket show in Las Vegas at the end of the month.

MRket Sales Director and rep Larry Hymes was at WCT highlighting his own lines, which include Los Angeles|based T-shirts label Ichiban and Dutch company ApricotTree.

gPeople want to see America come back,h he said. gThe turns are in weeks rather than months, so thatfs helping in this marketplace.h Hymes said Fred Segal in Los Angeles, Syd Jerome in Chicago and Currents in Florida have been among the stores buying the Ichiban line.

gBusiness is challenging, but stores are seeing some daylight,h he said.


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