WWD Week in Review 7/17/09

The top stories for the week ending July 17, 2009.

CIT Peril Puts Industry at Risk

The industry is facing potential turmoil after CIT Group Inc., which provides basic financing for thousands of small- and midsized apparel retailers and vendors, said it probably won’t be rescued by a federal bailout. After days of intense negotiations, the New York-based commercial lender said there was “no appreciable likelihood of additional government support being provided in the near term.” The company said it was “evaluating alternatives” with its advisers. The disclosure raised the possibility of a bankruptcy filing by the financial giant and left many vendors and retailers in limbo about how they’ll finance their fall shipments and finance their businesses. The crisis adds another nightmarish facet to California’s economic woes. (Click for more CIT history and facts.)

Romancing the Shopper: Retailers Get Personal

Battling the recession, designers and retailers are wooing customers at intimate gatherings that range from informal fashion presentations in private homes or hotels to in-store events after business hours. The goal: to inspire shopping by offering an exclusive experience and interaction with fashion arbiters. Independent specialty stores are moderating price points, tightening inventories, negotiating harder with vendors and working to cultivate relationships with their customers. Meanwhile, Fashion’s Night Out, an effort to bring shopping back in style, is gaining more participants. And key department and specialty stores held weekend promotions in which spring and summer merchandise was reduced 40 to 80 percent.

Wal-Mart to Launch Green Product ‘Index’

Unveiling plans for a worldwide sustainable product index, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. president and chief executive officer Mike Duke said consumers are demanding more accountability on how products affect the environment. “It is estimated that the global population will reach 9 billion by 2050,” he said. “Natural resources for everything we grow, eat, drink, make, package, buy, transport and throw away is outpacing the earth’s capacity to sustain it.” Meanwhile, the world’s largest retailer stands to gain considerable ground in its public image and labor relations for its support for affortable health care, the centerpiece of President Obama’s domestic agenda.

Golden Gate to Acquire Eddie Bauer

Private equity firm Golden Gate Capital has emerged as the winner in the race to snatch up Eddie Bauer Holdings Inc. with a $286 million cash bid. The offer will be presented for bankruptcy court approval on Wednesday and the deal is expected to close early next month.

Appeals Court Hears Tiffany Appeal of eBay Case

The five-year legal battle between Tiffany & Co. and eBay Inc. moved to a federal appeals court Thursday. The two sides agree on at least one thing: There are counterfeits for sale at the online auction house. But they differ on whose duty it is to prevent those knockoffs from being sold.

Chicago Plans Streamlined Fashion Week

Chicago’s annual Fashion Focus will be condensed to a long weekend Oct. 22 to 25 on the theory that a shorter event packed with runway shows, shopping and industry seminars will attract more buyers, tourists and national press.

Kylie Minogue to Launch Inverse for Men Fragrance

Kylie Minogue is quite fond of the guys in her life — and the Australian singer plans to show her appreciation with her first fragrance for men, which will launch in September. Other fragrance launches recently announced include Apple Bottoms by Nelly, Bulgari Blu Eau de Parfum II and the Gentleman’s Collection by Aramis, which consists of eight men’s scents introduced between 1974 and 2006.

Industry Betting on Denim for Back to School

In a landscape pockmarked with liquidations, reduced inventories and discounting, retailers and brands are targeting denim as the vehicle to drive sales in the year’s second most important selling season. Gap Inc. and Guess Inc. are going back to their heritage for fall and stressing denim in their merchandise plans, and Levi Strauss & Co. thinks an uptick in denim interest will help turn around lagging volume. A shift toward more affordable prices in many lines should also prove attractive to shoppers who have pulled back on spending because of the recession.

Haute Couture Fashion Trend: Jacket Club

The black jacket got the tony treatment, whether rendered in point d’esprit lace at Dior, toughened up with slashed sleeves at Chanel or decorated with folkloric embroidery at Christian Lacroix. (Click to see all the looks.) For men, designers made a show of fearlessness with red suits, coats, bags — you name it. (Click to see all the looks.)

Men’s Fashion Trend: Boys of Summer

For spring, men’s designers at the Collective and MRket are dreaming of an endless summer using ethereal thin fabrics, summer linens and buttery leathers. Key looks of the season incorporate cropped pants, sleeveless jackets, unconstructed blazers and weightless trenches to provide a new youthful approach to traditional men’s wear heritage pieces. (Click to see all the looks and the Men’s New York Market Preview special section.

WWD Back in Time: Cirque du Soviet

In 1972, six months after President Nixon’s historic trip to Moscow, the Soviets sent an envoy of their own to America. The Moscow Circus, a one-ring affair featuring all manner of weight lifters, jugglers, acrobats and tightrope walkers, performed in November at Madison Square Garden in a theater then known as the Felt Forum. (Click to see full-size images.)

Click to see the previous WWD Week in Review (7/10/09).