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Spring Retail Remains Dreary

Spring might be in full swing, but retailers haven't seen sales warm up.

NEW YORK — Spring might be in full swing, but retailers haven’t seen sales warm up.

Heading into Memorial Day weekend, department store buyers and independents said business has been even tougher than predicted this season — and promotions are already ramping up.

“[Spring selling] has not met anyone’s expectations. It has been more challenging than we expected,” said Debbie King, VP and DMM of women’s shoes at Bloomingdale’s, which was gearing up for its holiday sale. “But we have been maximizing opportunities and we have been very aggressive in reorders.”

King noted that styles from Tory Burch, Sam Edelman and some high-end designer looks are still selling at full price. “The flat sandals business is strongest. There are lots of sandals for less than $100,” she said. Looking ahead to fall, Bloomingdale’s is hoping to inject excitement by adding 17 new brands, King said, although she declined to name them.

Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing also reported success with flats this spring, citing strong sell-throughs with Tory Burch and Chanel, in particular. Regarding overall business, Downing said, “Our customer may not be buying as robustly as she did in the past, but what she is buying is fashion-forward, trendy and super-special shoes.”

Meanwhile, a number of department stores were hanging out the sale signs last week. At Nordstrom, the retailer kicked off its semiannual rack sale on Wednesday, with a select assortment of shoes discounted from 30 to 50 percent. The three-week event was widely publicized in advance with telephone calls to customers.

Barneys New York sent an e-mail blast to customers last Tuesday announcing a “secret sale” with several shoe styles, including Pierre Hardy and Fendi, marked down as much as 40 percent. In addition, prices on pre-resort Manolo Blahnik styles were reduced by 40 percent for one day, on May 19. The next price break is set for May 26.

And Saks Fifth Avenue, which was largely vilified last fall for breaking price earlier and deeper than its competitors, has begun discounting bridge lines including Stuart Weitzman, Kate Spade and Cole Haan by 30 percent. Select designer styles also are beginning to see price drops.

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