A spot check of retailers around the country revealed ‘cautious optimism’ in the air and an intense hunt for newness. We check the list twice.
Ken Downing, Fashion Director
A new lady: The idea of ladylike polish for women of every age is tremendous and it’s influencing everything, from the top-handle bag to gloves to pumps to a clutch for a younger customer.
Color: Our customer really responds to color, and we’re going after bordeaux, roses, wines, purples and reds—from brilliant reds to deep reds—in a big way. The reds are a great transition from spring’s corals but with a more saturated palette. Color-blocked handbags are all over the runways, particularly in exotic skins, but it’s not a patchwork ’70s effect, it’s more graphic and artful.
Jewelry newness: We’re crazy about gold now, particularly from Hervé van der Straeten, a famous furniture designer who has embarked on jewelry. He does amazing pounded fashion gold jewelry with light-as-a-feather cuffs and interesting earrings. The button earring has also made a big resurgence, particularly because of all the high rufffled and lace blouse collars.
There’s also a return to fashion stones that look like fine gemstones (i.e. cabochon cut). We also saw an immediate response to sapphires and blues after Prince William gave Diana’s ring to Kate. That sapphire looks perfect with peacocks, teals and emeralds.
The must-have: Every designer is doing their iPad cover, and we’re doing them in a much bigger way this year in leathers and even a very novel one in cable-knit cashmere by Katrin Leuze. For resort, we’re seeing bold citrus colors, hot pink and even neon.
The new fur: I’m very excited about the fur chubbies; a 3/4 sleeve that you just toss over your shoulder. Very ’30s/’40s Hollywood Glam.
New York; Rick Weinstein, VP/Director of Merchandising/Sales/Marketing
On optimism: I am “cautiously optimistic.” If there is a reason to shop—whether for holiday parties or gift giving—there’s a likelihood that the customer will come out to shop. If she doesn’t have a reason, you need to give her one.
On pricepoints: I’m trading up. The customer with money is still shopping and she’ll always pay for something special. Having said that, I always make sure that we also have special things at a broad range of pricepoints; we don’t like to turn anyone away. I am always on the hunt for novelty. Now more than ever, if it’s in her closet she won’t buy.
On missed opportunities: Last year we sold out of fashionable weatherproof boots and are going after that this year in a bigger way, going a bit funkier to layer in with my classic looks. Fur accessories—both real and faux—also sold out early. Regarding fur, this will be the second year for the trend, so I’m buying selectively.
The next It bag? I am definitely trading up, especially in my handbag department; I’ve been selling exotics like never before and I I love the authentic skin clutches by Paola Dangond from Colombia. I’m adding new handbag designers. I’m trying to create the next It bag.
Always expanding: I’m always growing our scarf and hat department and this winter we’re very excited about knitted fur aviators, slouchy hand knit berets and ski caps with appliqués. At Searle, coldweather and fashion go hand in hand.
To drive impulse buys: We’re adding more perfume, jewelry and items of the day to drive sales. We focus on one item every day that is selling well, bring it up to the wrap desk so everyone gets to eyeball it.It tends to make it sell exponentially better.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Kim Coppola, Co-Owner
Adding impulse items: During Spring/Summer, we added items under $10, with the $5 a winning price point, at our cash wrap. We’ve been selling these exotic floral pin-clip-pony tie items for $5 and adding them to hats, scarves, hair, purses, tops, you name it. The client usually buys multiples. We sold feather hair extensions like crazy too.
Lower profit margins: For Holiday we plan to increase the $50 & under pricepoints for the small gift giving items while still offering the rare, exotic, high-fashion luxury items at a slightly lower profit margin. Quality matters to the consumer; she’ll find the best price out there.
Avoiding price wars: Customers just need to scan a bar code with their smart phones and source the best price anywhere to purchase with the touch of a button, so we work closely with designers like Pietro Allesandro to carry rare and ever-changing styles to avoid such price wars.
Small necessities: Due to the massive increase of iPhone users, we plan on increasing more tech gear, specifically cases that protect the phone and can hold a few other small necessities. Small, stylish, cross-bodies, wristlets and belt bags are also key.
Growth areas: Fingerless gloves and anything fur (faux or genuine) were a smash last year and we didn’t have enough. We’re also adding more styles in leather belts. Our hats are rapidly growing all season and getting quite a reception from all ages thanks to Dorfman Pacific. We’re focusing on the cloche hat, fedora and military cap.
Growing social media: To keep our following Fashionistas current on the here and now in the store, we’re using e-mails, MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and even phone calls on a daily basis. We send out different promotions and we offer additional discounts for re-tweeting.
Tulsa, Oklahoma; Judy White, General Manager
Pricing strategy: We’ve always offered a tiered “good, better, best” strategy. But while we still need to make sure we have those high-priced items, we’ve increased the percentage of our “good” merchandise. People are still concerned about the economy, but they haven’t stopped shopping; they’re just more selective.
Silver rush: Many of our fine jewelry vendors have changed to include more silver due to the high price of gold. But our fine jewelry customer hasn’t switched to costume jewelry since she always bought both anyway. What we’re finding now is that she’s buying silver and costume instead of gold and costume.
Categories to exploit: We’re really going after tech items. It seems every vendor is doing cases for the iPad or iPhone, but you have to find the more interesting ones. We dabbled in Echo’s iTouch gloves last year and we couldn’t keep them in stock so we’re going after those in a much bigger way. Everyone has a touch phone these days.
Color: Gloom and doom will only go so far; eventually people will go out and shop for something they don’t have, and color is what’s attracting them now, particularly in handbags and jewelry in vivid corals, kelly green and bright pinks. We’re doing very well with new handbag vendors Hammitt and Rebecca Minkoff.
Let the fur fly: It’s really interesting to note that it’s June now and you can’t believe how well we’re selling fur and fur accessories in our fur salon. And it’s hotter than Hades down here in Oklahoma right now!
Palm Beach, Florida; Randi Jennifer Siegal, Owner
Differentiating from department stores: We actually got rid of a lot of accessories—especially certain contemporary handbags—because nearby department stores starting carrying the same brands. Customers started buying them there so they could use coupons or store credit cards with reward points, and we just couldn’t compete. That said, we do well with Lauren Merkin clutches as well as Sea Bags, which are made out of actual sailboat sails with motifs like anchors. We’re in Palm Beach, so we sell that year-round.
Power of Chanel: We don’t carry Chanel but I’m still amazed at the power it has. I went out to dinner with nine girls and every single one had a Chanel bag!
Vanity touches: We don’t carry cosmetics but we’ve been carrying a ton of Essie nail polish, including hot pink, hot orange and nautical blues. In Florida, you don’t have the nail salons on every corner like you do in New York, so women pick them up here when they’re shopping for apparel and accessories. We haven’t seen the holiday colors yet but we always buy the new collection.
Makeup-themed flip-flops: Speaking of cosmetics, we stopped selling Havaianas and picked up a great flip-flop line called Tkees. It’s all based on makeup, with collections themed by Lipsticks (berries), Highlighters (metallic), Glosses (patents), Creams (suede), Liners (darks), etc. There’s even a French Manicure style, with a pale pink base and white top.
Hitting all demographics: We’re still doing really well with scarves—from Love Quotes to Leigh & Luca—because they hit customers of all ages. We recently added colorful dyed scarves from Tolani. Glitz not gone: Last holiday we had so much glitz—including Lurex stripe, grommets, sequins and sparkle—and we still didn’t have enough. I’m still focusing on costume jewelry and embellished hoop earrings did really well for us. We just picked up some vintage wooden bangles from Lavender & Rice, and we’re going forward with RichRocks, which can be classified as very trendy icing. This August market I’ll be looking for more bangle sets that are reasonably priced.
Kasia Romo, General Merchandise Manager
All about color: Since we merchandise our accessories stores [140 at latest count] by color, we have the opportunity to really make strong statements. But we’re finding that a woman doesn’t need to wear only black, red and metallics for holiday; she can change things up a bit. We have opportunities in the color piece and we’re working more closely dictating those palettes to vendors.
She’s a lady: We’re loving the whole feminine trend, with the laces and a lighter color palette of pale pinks, sea foams, ivories, etc. We’re doing choker styles and collar necklaces, and while we’ve always done cameos, we’re going to do them this holiday in ivories and pale pink tones, not black.
Materials: We’ve always done well with shell and we’ll continue to update it. Glass takes color extremely well and that will be a strong fabrication in illusion necklaces, statement pieces and bigger floral statements.
A new scent: We’re in a testing phase for fragrance, and will eventually develop our own. Regarding cosmetics, we haven’t done nail polish yet, but since we’re a color resource, it’s a natural.
Optimistic: I’m very optimistic about Holiday. From what I’m seeing, there’s a lot of newness to get the customer excited, from shoulder dusters to big chunky bracelets.
Transition to resort: We found that we can do a better job transitioning into the resort season with fun, feminine and bold colors and doing it a bit earlier. She really wants that pop of color. But when you merchandise by color and have so many skus and you switch the season, it takes two months to flip that switch. We have to bring the newest fashion forward. By then, the yellow table, which will have darker mustards, will start to pop with the lighter shades of yellow. So it tells the customer what’s coming.