Anxiety Rises Over Holiday Season

B-t-s performance raised caution level despite some encouraging signs.

Neely Tamminga, a retail analyst at Piper Jaffray, explained: “Retailers are buying closer to need every year. The industry has been learning, and it’s still learning.”

To retain customers and find new ones, retailers will need to redefine the interaction between fashion and value, she said.

“The consumer has gone away from flashy brands that have no meaning in terms of service, style and quality,” Tamminga said, pointing to upscale department store Nordstrom, which has reintroduced more value-oriented brands like Fossil.

One advantage of the recession, Tamminga said, is it has forced retailers to concentrate on their relationships with vendors and pushed them to “deliver closer to trend.” This has been particularly true in her area of concentration, misses retailing, which showed weakness even before the onset of the recession, much of it tied to lackluster fashion.

Although women’s retailers were more promotional in August than they had been in the same month last year, Tamminga said she was encouraged by new fall product, and believes retailers are generally on the verge of an emerging wovens trend that will influence silhouettes going forward. Skinny silhouettes in denim, tailored to all body types, will also have “implications going into spring of 2010,” she added. “The consumer may not be spending like it’s 1999, but there is reason for optimism.”

There have been a few encouraging signs about September. However, Michael Niemira, chief economist for the International Council of Shopping Centers, said: “Although easier comparisons in September will help to improve the trend for the month, ICSC Research still expects sales will be down about 2 percent from its year-ago level.”


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