These are tough times to be in designer retailing.
Battling escalating prices for European collections and the shaky economy, American department and specialty stores are facing particular challenges with their designer business this spring. While stores say the designer business appears to be flat to slightly up so far this season versus a strong spring last year, they're cognizant of the price-value relationship when bringing in collections and are scrutinizing prices more than ever.
Some admitted that even their loyal designer customers have experienced "sticker shock" when they've seen European prices that have increased by as much as 20 to 40 percent. A few said tourists are picking up some of the slack, given the weak dollar against the euro and the pound.
On top of all their economic and consumer concerns, retailers are grappling with designer delivery delays at several European houses. Among the prominent designer labels said to be arriving late are Chanel, Zegna, Nina Ricci, Roberto Cavalli and Prada.
"I would say it's not across the board," said Jim Gold, president and chief executive officer of Bergdorf Goodman. "There are plenty of designers who, season in, season out, ship like clockwork. Others, season in, season out, ship with great inconsistency. Shipments come in late in the window, probably a good week to 10 days, which can have a material effect on sales."
Gold declined to specify brands shipping late. However, he did offer a possible explanation: "It could be perhaps due to the growth in China, the Middle East and Russia. That could be putting pressure on the supply chain."
In addition, retailers said internal issues, such as warehousing and distribution changes, fabric innovations and restaffing of design teams, affect deliveries. "A change in a designer can wreak havoc," said a retail source.
"This is nothing unusual," said Ron Frasch, president and chief merchandising officer at Saks Fifth Avenue. "We haven't had unusual delays. There are problems here and there, but there is no broad statement. This is not affecting business. What is affecting business is the economic climate."
Several high-end stores are offering incentives to buy designer clothing, whether it be through points or discounts. Neiman Marcus, for example, ran an ad in The New York Times on April 23 offering consumers $200 toward a regular-priced item if they spent $500 anywhere in the store from April 23 to 26.
Overall, retailers said bright colors, prints, dresses and "anything really special" appears to be driving spring business.
WWD informally polled high-end department and specialty stores around the country to see how their designer businesses are faring this spring.
“What he has done at Vuitton is really exceptional,” said @gameofthrones’ actress Gwendoline Christie on @mrkimjones’ final show for @louisvuitton. “He has rebooted luxury in terms of making it commercial, viable and contemporary. And most importantly artistic. He has never compromised his artistic vision for the sake of commodity.” (📷: @zefashioninsider)
After seeing a demand for men’s wear from its customers, British contemporary women’s wear label @ariesarise has added a men’s wear component and will launch a unisex collection with @mrporterlive. The 20-piece collection includes jackets, denim, logo T-shirts and more with deconstructed ‘90s vibes. Set to launch on January 18, you can shop the pieces on Aries’ website and on mrporter.com. #wwdfashion
“And so spending so much time with a character who thinks like that, inevitability you try and analyze yourself and go back and think about your own demons and dark chapters that you had in your life,” says @thedanielbruhl of his role in TNT’s “The Alienist.” The show, set in the Gilded Age of New York, also stars Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans. Head to WWD.com to read about how 39-year-old Brühl prepared for the role and why he thinks the show is so relevant to today #wwdeye ( 📷: @Eriktanner)
Now that Celine Dion’s collection has topped $10 million in sales, the pop superstar, fashion icon and newly-minted industry player is eyeing growth in Asia. Read the full report by @tiffanyap, link in bio. #wwdnews #celinedion
“My personal philosophy to beauty is paying attention to oneself. I love to be outdoors, lots of fresh air, trying to take care of yourself as best you can. I always notice that comes through,” says Felicity Jones, the global face of @shiseido-owned @cledepeaubeauteus, which launches today. Head to WWD.com to read more about the actress’ love for beauty and how she prepared for her new role in “The Basis of Sex,” playing the young Ruth Bader Ginsburg. #wwdbeauty (📷: @dandoperalski)
Among the familiar faces at @off____white’s show was a surprise figure: Japanese artist @takashipom, pictured here on Wednesday morning. Other show-goers included @jerrylorenzo, who spoke about his upcoming project: a @nike collaboration for back to school, with designs inspired by his childhood on the West Coast. Sitting in the front row were Future, Don Crawley, @miguel and more. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: Stephane Feugere)
According to @laurentsai, former “Terrace House: Aloha State” cast member, she didn’t know she was auditioning for the Japanese version of “Real World.” “I was telling a couple of my friends and someone’s like, ‘That sounds a lot like Terrace House.’ I was like, ’No it can’t be.’” Turns out, it was. But Tsai isn’t just a reality star — she’s an illustrator who has worked with Starbucks Japan and most recently, she’s dipping her toes into the fashion world. Head to WWD.com to read about her time on the show, modeling and her art. #wwdeye (📷: @danieldorsa)
More changes are coming to New York Fashion Week: Beginning with the spring 2019 collection, @alexanderwangny will move his New York show to June from September, adopting a biannual schedule with collections shown in June and December. Additionally, the @cfda is planning for an official summer/winter fashion season taking place as soon as June and December 2018. Read more about the upcoming changes on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @slovekinpics)