By  on March 31, 2005

Spring is in the air, and shoppers must be itching to get out of doors and into stores by now. BigResearch, an Ohio-based firm that focuses on retail, has ranked the favorite department and specialty stores of women 18 and older who shop most often for clothing at those store types (remaining percentages fell into the “other” category). Three out of the top eight specialty chains are owned by Charming Shoppes Inc., America’s largest plus-size specialty retailer.

1. J.C. PENNEY  
24 percent
Carrying brands such as Worthington, Levi’s and St. John’s Bay, J.C. Penney takes top honors as the department store where women most prefer to shop for their clothes. The company operates over 1,000 stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico and is said to be the target of a leveraged buyout orchestrated by private equity firm Cerberus.

2. KOHL’S 
22.7 percent
Shoppers have clearly taken to Kohl’s tag line, “Expect Great Things.” This Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based chain has increased its store count by almost 18 percent to 637 stores from a year ago. Another 95 stores are expected to open during fiscal 2005 with a focus on the Southeast region, specifically Orlando and Jacksonville, Fla.

8.3 percent
Sears’ alliance with “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” host Ty Pennington and Kmart’s recent buyout of the company have kept this $36.1 billion retailer busy. WWD said in February that Sears, in conjunction with Latina Magazine, is putting together a new women’s collection, hoping to strengthen its presence in the Hispanic market.

4. MACY’S 
6.7 percent
In 1866, Macy’s made business history when it became the first retailer to promote a woman, Margaret Getchell, to an executive position. Its parent, Federated Department Stores, announced in February it would merge with May Department Stores. Federated has said most of the May stores will be converted to Macy’s stores.

6.4 percent
Dillard’s offers a superabundance of upscale women’s lines such as Ralph Lauren, Anne Klein and Michael by Michael Kors. The retailer continues to operate under many of late founder William T. Dillard’s original marketing philosophies but is struggling to keep up with its competitors. 6. ROSS 
5 percent
Sales topped $1.2 billion for the year, but comparable stores were flat for this discount retailer, whose tag line boasts “Dress for Less.” Chief executive Michael Balmuth admitted that fiscal 2004 was “challenging” but assured initiatives were now in place to improve issues such as distribution productivity. 

3.8 percent
Previously owned by Target, Hayward, Calif.-based Mervyn’s is now owned by a consortium comprising Cerberus Management, Sun Capital and Lubert-Adler/Klaff Partners. The new ownership might help the retailer, which caters to working mothers between the ages of 25 and 49, regain its footing.

3.5 percent
This retailer operates over 60 department stores in the state of Florida. Founded in 1915, Bealls is owned by Bealls Inc., a billion-dollar retailer that is privately held and still run by the family. Bealls Inc. also operates Bealls Outlet and Burke’s Outlet chains.


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