Has this tip post helped anyone? It would be great if you read these posts when it was first created and to see where you guys are at now. What worked and what didn't? What would you do over?
That's correct, you will see a wide range of dates depending on the retailer. Small boutiques are even harder to guage because they are on their own timeline which could depend on their cashflow and financials.
A general rule would be 3 months before the actual date of each season - up to 6 months before the actual date of each season.
A reminder: If you plan to become a vendor of a retailer, always be sure to ask for clear requirements on their finishing choices. They may require you to apply their hangtags on a certain location, fold them a certain way, box and label them a certain way, UPC barcodes, etc.
Also plan ahead...if you plan to design for Spring 09, you should already have designs for it and be getting prepared to approach retailers at this point. This way you allow plenty of time for print or cut&sew production.