In a spot check, department and specialty stores reported that spring selling is off to a robust start, with double-digit increases in such categories as designer, contemporary, some accessories categories and denim. Consumer confidence may be down, as worries over jobs and the economy continue, but after a long, dreary winter, customers are excited about fashion again, said retailers. And, up against a soft quarter last year, things are definitely looking positive.
“This was a very difficult time last year. It is great to see business back with such strength,” observed Judy Collinson, executive vice president of Barneys New York.
Consumer demand is being fueled by fashions that are some of the most ladylike and colorful in years, retailers said. Pinks, in particular, but also yellows, greens and oranges, are popular across the country, and short tweed jackets, flirty skirts and pretty cocktail dresses are being scooped up by consumers from Boston to L.A.
“The business is really strong, so everybody’s in a good mood,” said Kal Ruttenstein, senior vice president, fashion direction, at Bloomingdale’s. “The feminine trend is really doing well. Color is what’s really selling across the board, both primary colors and soft pastels in feminine shapes in lighter-weight fabrics like chiffon.”
Tweedy jackets are selling well in every category, and “pink is the best color,” observed Ruttenstein.
Bloomingdale’s, which has gotten behind the dress business for spring, is carrying many exclusives from designers such as Calvin Klein, Zac Posen, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan. Its designer category has seen sizeable gains this spring, with Chanel’s business doubling and Giorgio Armani’s business running close to double digits ahead, he said.
Most retailers surveyed said their designer business is showing substantial increases this spring, with the customer responding enthusiastically to all the colors and prints on the selling floor.
“The business has been phenomenal. Our customers are back, and back strong,” said Bob Mitchell, co-president of Mitchells and Richards, women’s and men’s specialty stores in Westport, Conn., and Greenwich, Conn., respectively. The gains are being led by accessories, shoes and jewelry and ready-to-wear, he said, and the spring business has gotten off “to a great start.”