By  on June 14, 2005

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."

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