Retailers struggled to get kids into stores as students wrestled with the idea of going back to school last month, leaving most of those reporting with modest August increases.
Among those releasing comparable sales on Thursday, there was general agreement that stores got much of their business late in the month, as Labor Day approached, and only after a combination of vigorous promotions and cooler temperatures established more of a sense of urgency about buying apparel. Thomson Reuters put the mean increase for the month at 3.5 percent.
Among the small sample still reporting monthly results, Gap Inc. fell slightly below expectations, with a 2 percent increase that was just below the 2.2 percent increase tabulated by Thomson Reuters. The Gap and Old Navy brands, expected to grow 2.8 and 1.3 percent, respectively, registered comparable gains of 2 and 1 percent, while Banana Republic, expected to recede 0.4 percent, instead grew at a 2 percent clip.
“We continue to meet our goal of driving consistent positive comp-sales growth on top of last year’s strong performance,” said Glenn Murphy, chairman and chief executive officer of Gap. The 2 percent corporate increase came on top of a stronger 9 percent increase last year, a pattern repeated by other stores, which saw low-single-digit increases versus gains in the mid- to high-single-digit range in August 2012.
Similarly, L Brands Inc., formerly Limited Brands, was up 2 percent against an 8 percent expansion in last year’s month, with Victoria’s Secret ahead 3 percent and Bath & Body Works up 1 percent.
Janet Kloppenburg, analyst and president of JJK Research, noted that, based on Thursday’s comp reports and her own retail checks, business was difficult for those serving younger customers, with multibrand retailers, especially those serving the surf-and-skate market, generally doing better than monobrand retailers.
“If you dissect the Victoria’s Secret numbers, you find that the one area where they had a little softness was in the Pink apparel business,” she told WWD. “That’s a high school or college-age student, in many cases, who you would think would be gearing up with clothes to take back to school. Clearly, and across the board, the back-to-school consumer was very constrained in August, while business was better for those serving the missy customer. And a lot of the business came at the end of the month, a good deal of it during Labor Day weekend.”
Among the possible explanations, she noted, were less discretionary income for teens as their parents recently have favored high-ticket purchases, such as cars and even houses, and the difficulty of replacing the high volume generated last year by the strong growth of colored denim.
“The kid is paying for something that’s new and authentic,” she added. “When it’s something already in the closet or that’s become a commodity, they’re either not buying it or buying it at one of the discounters. With August behind us, September will be more of a test for the missy merchants.”
The strongest performance among those reporting Thursday came from Costco Wholesale Corp., which, excluding fuel, registered a 5 percent increase in its U.S. stores, with softlines the strongest category, comping in the low-double-digits, and apparel and jewelry standouts within the area. With sales of $7.95 billion in August, the final month of its fiscal year, Costco joined the ranks of U.S.-based retailers with more than $100 billion in annual sales, finishing fiscal 2013 at $102.9 billion.
American Apparel Inc.’s comps were up 3 percent, versus 14 percent a year ago, as it struggled with the transition to a new distribution center. The two teen retailers in the sample, Zumiez Inc. and The Buckle Inc., beat expectations with increases of 3 and 1 percent, respectively, and Stein Mart Inc. continued its recent winning streak with a 3.8 percent increase, the second highest among the stores tracked by WWD.
“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