By  on June 15, 1994

ATLANTA -- Discounter giants are going after the junior sportswear business in this area, allocating prominent space to the category and tapping into several hot summer trends: color, short-shorts, vests and baby-doll dresses.

Target seemed most trend-conscious, while Wal-Mart had the best prices, based on visits to three local stores. Kmart seemed to be less certain of its merchandising approach.

At Wal-Mart, on Johnson Ferry Road in Marietta, Ga., the junior section was marked by a big "Trends" sign and was clearly visible from the front door. The theme for summer seemed to be brights, with some ruffles thrown in.

There was a huge selection of ruffled blouses from Bonjour. They were shown in natural linen with long sleeves at $16.92, in rayon floral prints with short sleeves at $14.92 and in cotton flannel plaids at $9.92.

The shorts selection was expansive. There were bright red, yellow and blue denim shorts with cutoff bottoms or ruffled hems from Bonjour at $11.97. No Boundaries also did bright short-shorts in yellow, orange and purple at $9.92. Coordinating tops included bright cropped rib cotton shirts from No Boundaries at $6.92 and sleeveless denim shirts in stripes and solids from Bonjour at $7.92.

The department was small and just about everything hung from crowded rounders, but clothes were organized by size and color, which made shopping easy. There was some fashion signage from Bonjour with full-length shots of models in coordinated outfits hanging above the advertised clothes. Price signs with Wal-Mart's slogan, "We sell for less always," were everywhere. The major labels seemed to be Bonjour, Gitano, No Boundaries and Jeanjer.

Fashion items included a little striped denim wrap skirt from No Boundaries at $13.92 and a black and white striped cotton and Lycra spandex short catsuit with cutout shoulders from Bonjour for $16.92. But there weren't any of the little floral skirts, apron dresses or denim vests that seem so hot this spring.

Target, on Johnson Ferry Road in Sandy Springs, Ga., featured juniors just inside the door in an area labeled Junior/Misses. Target has dedicated a large area to the category and items were displayed on shelving units, wall hooks and rounders. There was a Gap-like look to the department.Earth-tone colors and flannels were big here. Flannel showed up in sleeveless shirts from Sostanza at $12.99 and in little baby-doll dresses from Italian Club for $14.99. Denim shorts in eggplant, hunter green, indigo and natural from Chic were $16.99. There was also a big unit with cubicles filled with solid and striped T-shirts in earth tones and muted pastels from Trend Basics for $5.99 and $6.99.

A large selection of baby-doll dresses and apron dresses from Pellini, Sostanza and BHCC were priced from $16.99 to $24.99. Silk and cotton vests from Honors were $15.99.

Fashion signage hung above many of the displays. Display posters featured J. Crew-like photos. Several of the posters had two shots each, one of a model in a head-to-toe outfit and the second a still life of the featured item. Price and item descriptions appeared between the photographs. Target's "Expect More, Pay Less" slogan was at the bottom of each sign. There were also single-shot displays, each with a full-length photo of a model and an arrow pointing to the featured item.

At Kmart on Piedmont Road in the Buckhead section of Atlanta, there was a small section filled with denim shorts, flannel shirts and plaid bodysuits that looked like the juniors department, but there was no signage to distinguish it from the rest of the department, which was labeled "Ladies."

A large, crowded rounder was filled with denim shorts from such makers as Bonjour, Chic and Denim Republic, priced from about $14.99 to $18.99. They weren't arranged in any particular order; it was more of a search-for-your-size setup.

There were many other rounders filled with random mixes of merchandise, but there were a few organized displays. A group of athletic-inspired apparel from Latte featured sleeveless hooded plaid cotton shirts for $13.99, matching shorts at $7.99 and leggings at $11.99.

A wall display showed sleeveless flannels from Sasson at $13.99 and from Denim Republic at $12.99. Flannel boxers from Denim Republic at $6.99 were hanging right beneath them.

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