We recently caught up with Jerry Neckanoff of Nek-Enuf, regular at The New Mart during Market Week, while we were doing our Fashion Week walk-through. Jerry gave us some very useful insights into the "business of fashion." Enjoy!
The New Mart: How has market been going for you?
Jerry Neckanoff: So far it looks pretty busy.
The New Mart: Did you have some accounts show up, or maybe some no-shows?
Jerry Neckanoff: My accounts generally show up, maybe sometimes a day late. Today looks pretty good from just looking at all the showrooms and people who I didn’t even realize who came, people I saw in Las Vegas.
The New Mart: If you had to theorize, why do you think yesterday was a little slow?
Jerry Neckanoff: I think it’s just a little slow in general in the past 6-8 weeks.
The New Mart: Are people buying less or just less buyers coming in?
Jerry Neckanoff: I think it’s a combination. I do think that people have been much more cautious of the last year or so even though the economy is improving, I think that people are afraid to take chances. One of the clearest things that most reps I know say when we talk is that people don’t look for new things like they used to. Years ago when I was in the California Mart we’d set up manikins in the window, you’d have people coming up to windows and looking to see what was different as opposed to going to see the lines that they know pretty well. Just like it’s hard to break into a department store, it’s their philosophy to limit their dollars and the companies they have arrangements with, like the big names, it means there is a smaller window for non-famous names. They still look though because they have to find new things because of all the corporate pressure. With small stores, they just get scared. They’ll only go with what has been selling and sometimes they lose out because they’re not looking enough for new things.
The New Mart: It seems there is a change in ideology.
Jerry Neckanoff: Totally. If you talk to any rep from any other part of the country you’ll hear “The market is slow, but we did OK.” It may not be a completely honest answer because they don’t want anyone to know they’re not doing OK. Big lines that have enough variety, I don’t think that they have slowed down. You have to be prepared to take a risk, and that’s easy to say. You can just increase your size for the sake of it. People go with what they feel comfortable with. There are a lot of lines that are doing really well. I myself gave up my other lines, and now I’m just doing this one line which I’ve had for almost 14 years. But that’s a different element. I wanted to simplify things.
The New Mart: We really appreciate the insights you’re giving us. So many times the trade press will report that people say market week is slow, but don’t offer any reasons. We’re looking for reality.
Jerry Neckanoff: Definitely, people have to risk to make a change and one of the things I always tell my manufacturers is that they don’t have to make 50, 60, 70 pieces especially when it boils down to just 10 pieces that really sell and make the profit. And then if you don’t do that, i.e. don’t make a huge line and make a smaller line and take what’s good, you’re fine with adding another 10 pieces with the half-dozen or 10 that’s good, it doesn’t increase your cost. When people make a line of 50, 60, 70 pieces it costs a fortune.
The New Mart: Sometimes the buyer might like that flexibility, they might like a top but they ask if they can do it in a long sleeve. Would you find that’s more common with boutiques as opposed to majors, or all buyers?
Jerry Neckanoff: They’ll wind up with a smaller, tighter selection. In most cases, I want the buyer to go through the line. You can see how fast some people can go through a line. They know what they want unless they’re brand new and they don’t what they’re doing.
The New Mart: You’re looking to develop relationships.
Jerry Neckanoff: It’s the people who’ve been in the business, they always have the opportunity to show something new to the stores they’ve developed relationships with even if they don’t want anything, they’ll let the person come in and show them because they know them. You do have that entre that other people don’t have once you’ve built the relationships.
The New Mart: What is some of the feedback you’ve been getting from the buyers? What’s going on with them at their stores? Are they sitting on a lot of inventory, do they want to buy immediates, are they waiting to buy?
Jerry Neckanoff: Immediates are much more important in the last couple of years. 10 or 15 years ago you couldn’t get immediates but now there are 2 or 3 industries within this industry. There are people who just make immediates. Some manufacture just for the outlets stores. Left overs used to go to the outlet stores, now they manufacture for outlets. When you see the big name stores, you may never have seen what’s in there, like Nordstrom Rack. Now, there’s not much overstock. It’s a separate buyer that’s buying merchandise for that store. Even when you go into certain outlet stores, say in Camarillo, there you have regular merchandise from their stores because they’re set up that way. They have many stores so whatever is not doing as well goes to the outline, or they may even buy in excess so they can do that. Even those stores, they manufacture their own stuff too. Saks has their own labels just like Nordstrom has 2 or 3 brands.