Holiday spending may mirror back-to-school trends, surging late in the season.
"This holiday will not be that bad for fashion," said Marshal Cohen, chief retail strategist at The NPD Group. "Customers will not be distracted by too many new, must-have electronics, and it seems like people will return to more traditional gifts, with women rebuilding their wardrobes."
Rising interest payments on mortgages, increased home-heating fuel costs and weather will all play a roll in consumer spending at retail this holiday, predicted Stanley Officina, president, Ultimate Financial Solutions.
The increase in foreclosures and "for sale" signs could translate into softer spending come the holidays, said David Reza, senior vice president, Milberg Factors.
"If consumers can't meet their mortgage payment, they are not going to buy new clothes," said Andrew Tananbaum, president and chief executive officer, Capital Business Credit LLC. "But it really depends on how deep the foreclosures run and the weakness of the economy. More data is necessary."
TNS Retail Forward expects holiday sales this year to grow at the weakest pace in five years. The weakness can be expected to spread beyond the home improvement sector into the apparel and accessories channels, as well as other home goods channels, the firm said.
While a strong b-t-s season typically correlates to a strong holiday, experts agree that overall expectations for the season are not "smashing." One of the biggest contributors to a possible mediocre holiday could be the continuing decline of impulse shopping, NPD's Cohen said.
Historically, 26 percent of holiday spending is derived from impulse purchases, which dropped to 19 percent last year. Impulse shopping, which includes buying a personal item that isn't expected or a gift for someone that wasn't on the consumer's list, is a substantial part of purchase power, making up about one-third of all fashion apparel purchases.
"When impulse is removed from the equation it can be the biggest contributor to a good holiday or bad holiday," Cohen said.
The rise of online shopping and gift cards has made impulse purchases less frequent and harder to push.
The navigation of many retail sites is not conducive to suggestive selling, and Cohen suggests companies, through their Web sites, should help the customer understand other items they should purchase. "If I buy this sweater, what other products would I like? No one in retail is utilizing suggestive selling online," he said.But Cohen does cite Ann Taylor, Lane Bryant and Victoria's Secret as retailers beginning to make use of Internet functionality.
Gift cards also have made holiday shopping too easy for shoppers, allowing them to enter the store and head straight for the cash register, bypassing other possible purchases. Instead, retailers should reward the customer for buying a gift card and give them a reason to buy more and shop the store, Cohen said.
"Stores are not driving impulse. There is so much self-service and discounting. Retailers need to create hot products and a forum where salespeople interact more with customers and educate them about the right gifts," he continued. "Everyone has sales, what else can you offer?"
Department stores are especially guilty of not making adjustments to bring back impulse, and are losing market share to specialty retailers and mass merchants, Cohen said.
Only some of the luxury retailers like Neiman Marcus or Bergdorf Goodman have made a concerted effort to create excitement with unique product and personalized customer service. "Since the designer market caters to a financially more stable customer base, I would expect that it will suffer less impact than the discount market," Ultimate Financial Solutions' Officina said.
But the biggest winners this holiday season will likely be in handbags and accessories, which are expected to take away sales from footwear.
"I have not seen anyone at a retail level put impulse into shoe shopping or speak to the customers," Cohen said. "I am watching the momentum in footwear from two years ago dissipate, with many people instead turning to accessories."
“Azzedine has been one of the biggest influences in my life. He has always been such a strong, loving, fatherly figure to me. I call him Papa. His designs are indescribably unique, they are pieces of art. He knew how to make the female form look its loveliest. I have so many memories of him; my favorite might be during my first show with him in Paris. He liked me and he wanted to help me get more work. He called all his friends at Kenzo and Comme des Garcons, and asked them to book me. They said, ‘But she can’t walk!’ And he said, ‘but she has such a great ass!' His friendship and support has been the great privilege of my career. I can't imagine life without him. Repose en paix mon Papa.” - @stephanieseymour tells @wwd. #wwdfashion (📷: @steveeichner) #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa, flanked by two of his closest friends, models Stephanie Seymour and Naomi Campbell.
He designed Seymour’s dress for her 1995 wedding to Peter Brant, and treated Campbell (who famously called him Papa), like a daughter. For more on the legendary designer, tap the link in bio. #wwdfashion #alaia #azzedinealaia
Azzedine Alaïa's “I-did-it-my-way” ethos stood out starkly at a time when brands are experimenting with consumer-facing fashion shows, coed formats and trans-seasonal collections – anything to perk up lackluster sales of ready-to-wear in an age of Insta-everything. “It’s not creation anymore. This becomes a purely industrial approach,” the late designer told WWD in an interview last year. “But anyway, the rhythm of collections is so stupid. It’s unsustainable. There are too many collections.” Read more about the iconic designer’s life and work on wwd.com, link in bio. #wwdfashion #azzedinealaia (📷: @WWD Archive, 1986) #alaia
Sneaker reselling app @goat’s latest exhibit, "The Greatest: New York," tells the story of New York's sneaker culture. To celebrate the exhibit, an intimate crowd gathered on Thursday night at the pop-up gallery space, located at Platform in Culver City, to hear guest speaker and illustrator @esymai talk about her own rise in streetwear and women in the business. "For me I'm just someone who is creative. I like to create things," said Chang. #wwdfashion
Azzedine Alaïa, one of the most iconic couturiers of the modern era whose body-con designs defined Eighties fashion, has died in Paris. The diminutive Tunisian-born designer, known for his structured knitted dresses with fitted waists and impeccably cut, figure-hugging second skin silhouettes was deeply admired by his peers, and counted supermodel Naomi Campbell - his adoptive daughter - among his inner circle, one of a gang of glamazons including Farida Khelfa, Carla Bruni and Stephanie Seymour who became ambassadors of his style. (📷: Alexandre Guirkinger) #wwdblast