Holiday Aftermath: Vendors Stay Lean, but More Shakeups Ahead

NEW YORK — Vendor caution will limit the damage from the poor holiday season, but it won’t stop more consolidation in 2003.Most firms...

But, "out-of-the-door pricing continues to be under tremendous pressure," Upbin said. "Retailers do look to the most recent season, which is a factor. I think January will be helpful. At least, the good news is that the inventory is much more in balance, which would allow these open-to-buys to be more normalized."

Upbin doesn’t think retailers are in jeopardy because of the poor retail season. He said, "I can’t see any major retailer really going out or having to regroup in a major way because of it. I just don’t see it on the horizon."

Still, the climate will be more difficult with regard to markdowns and allowances following the holiday season, he said.

"We’ll do what we’ve been doing, keeping lean overhead, inventories in control and just sharper sourcing," Upbin added. "We’re staying the course. That’s what we’ve been focused on the last two years and we’ll continue that."

Andrea Scoli, executive vice president of Laundry by Shelli Segal, said mergers and acquisitions will most likely not be accelerated by the current market climate, but will occur nonetheless.

"That type of business strategy has become the main objective for large-scale Seventh Avenue firms in general and when you look at the giants like Jones, Kellwood and Liz Claiborne…their strategy is to buy companies," said Scoli, whose firm was acquired by Claiborne in 1999. "I think that makes it tough for small guys and it has changed so dramatically in the past five years."

Concerning inventory levels at retail, Scoli said department stores may have less inventory on paper, but she doesn’t find that floors look empty in the least.

"Have you walked into a store lately and asked yourself where the merchandise is?" she asked. "Have you been to Bloomingdale’s lately?"

George Horowitz, president and ceo of Everlast Worldwide, described business as "pretty good," even though some stores have pushed back spring orders.

"Where they did do business, prices were so low that it wasn’t good for anybody," Horowitz said. "Of course, vendors have to share in that [discounting], but sometimes in an unfair way."
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