NEW YORK — As temperatures sizzle in the 90s, many shoppers are racing to a refrigerated environment — retail stores and malls.
"We've definitely seen improvement in the swimwear business,'' said Frank Doroff, senior executive vice president of ready-to-wear at Bloomingdale's. "It's the most dramatic turnaround I've seen. Swimwear has gone from minus to plus."
The high of 92 degrees in New York on Monday felt like 97 degrees with the humidity. And more of the same is forecast for the New York region. Relief won't come until Thursday when temperatures are forecast to drop into the mid-70s.
And summer doesn't even begin until next Tuesday, but the response to the heat wave has been reflexive.
Doroff said all of Bloomingdale's warm weather businesses are flourishing. "We've seen a spike in the T-shirt business — Michael Stars, Lacoste, Juicy, James Perse," he said. "A lot of people's summer houses haven't started yet. Sunday the 59th Street flagship had a wonderful day. The tourist business is definitely back in full swing at the New York City flagship."
Jim Skopkowski, general manager of J.C. Penney at Roosevelt Field in Garden City, N.Y., said the hot weather has given women a nudge to buy summer clothes.
"As soon as the weather broke and temperatures went up, we've had tremendous sales in women's sportswear and casual careerwear," he said. "We've had a week-and-a-half of good sales with capris, shorts, tank tops and swimwear."
"July is the real heavy month," Skopkowski said. "People have been in the store during the week and we had a tremendous amount of shoppers on the weekend."
Lord & Taylor's Fifth Avenue flagship is selling swimwear and little black dresses. "The warm weather has really made a difference," said a spokeswoman. "People are coming in to shop and they're shopping for summer."
At the Westchester Mall in White Plains, N.Y., Deborah Scates, marketing director, said Nordstrom's half-yearly sale is drawing traffic.
Robert Guerra, mall manager, said summer clothing is selling briskly. "J. Crew is doing well and we're doing well with several new stores, including Baby Style, a maternity and baby store and Nike Women, which just opened."Guerra said people have to buy gifts for Father's Day and graduation regardless of the weather. The Westchester, a Simon property, has seen brisk sales of the Simon gift card.
A spokeswoman for Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, N.J., said the mall's gift card sales are also up because of Father's Day.
At Banana Republic in Westport, Conn., a manager who identified herself only as Dani, said traffic is higher. "We have a lot of sleeveless tops and a lot of lightweight cargo pants that are selling well," she said, adding, "People in this town go away in early May."
On Long Island, The Americana Manhasset's customer is a slightly different breed. This fashion shopper knows what she's buying before it arrives in one of the designer stores. The woman who shops there has already bought some of her summer wardrobe, but she's still shopping.
"Our customer wears what she wants to wear when she wants to wear it," said Deirdre Costa Major, senior vice president. "At a recent benefit for The Nassau County Museum of Art, one of our customers wore a beautiful coral-colored J. Mendel fur bolero over her evening dress. It was 90 degrees that evening, but she looked perfectly appropriate because of the color and lightness of the fur."
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