Strategy: Aim for the educated ones. Bombard them with catalogs. Hold the line on most prices at $100.
It's not an uncommon tactic for a specialty retailer, but what has made it work so well for Harold's Stores, based in Norman, Okla., is the company's extensive development of its own sportswear, accessories and shoes.
Fully 90 percent of the merchandise carries its own private labels, Harold's or Breeches. Harold's sportswear -- classic, with a twist -- has been key to the publicly held firm's steady growth from 14 to 22 stores in the past three years, accompanied by a respectable rise in profits.
Ralph Lauren is the only brand name consistently carried in the stores.
In the year ended Jan. 30, 1993, Harold's had net earnings of $1.05 million on sales of $49.3 million. For only the nine months after that, a period ending Oct. 30, the firm's earnings grew 59 percent, to $1.05 million, or 29 cents a share, and sales grew 24.5 percent, to $42.8 million, with same-store sales charting a 7.5 percent gain. The upbeat trend continued for Christmas, with December sales showing a 24.3 percent gain, including a same-store increase of 6.2 percent.
The company, which went public in 1987, plans to continue growing by opening two to three stores a year and is seeking sites in North and South Carolina, Virginia, northern Florida and Kentucky. In addition, a second unit is planned for Houston plus a second unit in the Kansas City area. Most Harold's stores average 3,000 to 4,000 square feet and are located in the South and Southwest.
Harold's also is fortifying its quarterly catalog into more than a promotion for the stores, although it is still used to build recognition in cities where a new store opens. The company dedicated a staff to it, bought and traded mailing lists and began building circulation, with the result that in the first three quarters of fiscal 1993, catalog sales swelled 81 percent, to $3.7 million.
The first issue to hit 1 million copies was mailed in December. Catering to women from college-age up, who like to look fashionable but not trendy, Harold's has developed a look that emphasizes value, longevity, natural fibers and updated classic taste. For fall, styles ranged from handknitted patterned sweaters for weekend wear to houndstooth jackets with velvet collars that could go to work."We are sensitive to what the consumer wants rather than what the market is screaming," said Becky Casey, chief executive officer and the daughter of founder and chairman Harold Powell. "Our approach is to do what we can to tweak a trend and make it wearable." Most women's apparel sales are complete outfits ranging from $275 to $350.
"We still are trying so desperately to keep $100 as the magic number in our business, except blazers, which sell for $175 to $225," said Casey during an interview at the company's Highland Park Village here. Casey herself is based in Dallas, where the company has a merchandising office.
"We have incredible relationships with a handful of suppliers -- some go back 12 or 15 years -- and we've tried to work together on improving the quality and holding the price," she said.
To maintain prices, Harold's sometimes buys piece goods directly from suppliers to avoid the contractor's markup, Casey noted. This spring, colorful silk and rayon prints will abound in above-the-knee or ankle-grazing sarong skirts, blouses, palazzo pants and vests, with plenty of neutral solid pieces to complement them.
For fall, bestsellers included vests, merino wool sweaters, and jackets or vests with passementerie frog closures and velvet trim.
Jewelry, belts, handbags and shoes are designed specifically to coordinate with the sportswear, which accounts for about 70 percent of sales. Harold's pioneered the preppie style in the Southwest when it opened in 1948 in Norman, and the stores still reflect that image today, laden with antiques, mahogany furniture and kilim rugs. Thirteen of the units have men's departments that are outfitted with props like old steamer trunks and photos of Ivy League teams.
Taking the final spot on the mens’ portion of New York Fashion Week calendar next month will be none other than @tomford. Though he’s shown his men’s wear in New York in the past, this will mark the first time the designer has shown his men’s collection alone during New York Fashion Week: Men’s. His runway show will debut on February 6 at the Park Avenue Armory. #wwdfashion
London-based couture house @ralphandrusso has certainly been in the spotlight, having its dresses worn by @beyonce, Angelina Jolie, Meghan Markle in her engagement photos and more. For couture, Tamara Ralph focused on ornamentation — think: feathers with chain mail, jet embroidery and clusters of pearls and crystals. See the rest of the collection on WWD.com #wwdfashion #couture (📷: @giovanni_giannoni_photo)
Minnie Mouse celebrated her 90th birthday by getting her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. For her celebratory luncheon, @coach’s creative director @stuartvevers dressed her in a custom made prairie dress, complete with Vever’s take on the polka dot – black sequined versions – under a cropped motorcycle jacket. The designer also put his own mark on Minnie’s classic red shoes, infusing the color with sparkles and adding some Coach crystals. “We chose colors that were very Minnie and also represented quintessential Coach elements,” said Vevers. #wwdfashion #nationalpolkadotday (📷: George Chinsee)
@nickjonas is unveiling his first-ever apparel collection through a partnership with John Varvatos. The limited-edition capsule, which makes its debut in spring, also marks the first time the designer has collaborated with anyone on a line. “The process in working with Nick is amazing. It’s inspiring to be around someone who is not only connected with the trade that they do, but also with what’s happening in the environment around him, and how that connects to what we do with style,” said Varvatos. (RG: @johnvarvatos) #wwdfashion
@margotrobbie steps out onto the red carpet wearing @miumiu. The actress is nominated for “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role” in “I, Tonya” at the #SagAwards. (📷: Stewart Cook) #wwdfashion
For @massimogiorgetti of @msgm, the Nineties are his favorite decade. “They had a huge impact on my personal growth. What I like of the Nineties is that they are not so precise in terms of style as other decades…there was actually a bit of everything,” he said. As seen on MSGM’s Spring 2018 show: tie-dye and a bit of grunge, two styles that are synonymous with the decade #wwdfashion #wwddecades (📷: @kukukuba)