WHAT'S CHECKING FOR SPRING

Byline:

NEW YORK--With temperatures on the rise, sales of moderate-price sportswear at department stores and specialty chains over the past two weeks have improved over the year-ago period. Some buyers have reported increases as high as 10 percent.
In an informal poll of retailers around the country, bestselling looks included knit dressing, denim-related tops and twill walk shorts. Here, some early stars.

Belk Department Stores, Charlotte, N.C.
Denim-related shorts, at $24.99, by Lee and Levi's, as well as Belk's own private-label program, according to Susan Powers, divisional merchandise manager. Also strong: wrinkle-resistant pants and shorts in cotton and linen by Lee and EHL by Eddie Haggar. Prices range from $24.99 to $34. Other bestsellers are the $19.99 knit short-sleeved tops by Alfred Dunner and Koret of California.

Filene's, Boston
Pull-on pants and item jackets, in polyester-rayon blends, by Sag Harbor, Requirements and Fundamental Things, according to Phyllis Johansen, vice president, creative merchandising. Average price is about $48 for pants, the same for jackets. Other bestselling items include polyester/rayon walk shorts, at $30, by Sag Harbor; knit and twill short sets, from $24 to $30, by Karen Scott, the store's private label, and Karen Scott's two-piece chambray dressing, including shorts and tops at $14.99.

J.C. Penney, Dallas
Short-sleeve mesh tunics, cotton/rayon T-shirts, woven and crocheted vests and microfiber shells, all from Worthington, its private-label brand, according to a spokeswoman. Other popular items from Worthington include crinkled skirts, skorts and patterned trousers. Prices range from $15 to the mid-$30s.

Weiners, Houston
Sleeveless twill and chambray shirts, at $14, by Miss Erika; $20 rayon skorts and $20 camp shirts by Fritzi of California and Cabrais; cotton rompers, in the low $20s by E.S. Sutton and Joy Mark and $8.50 solid T-shirts from Hanes Your Way, according to Mike Burka, buyer for misses' moderate sportswear.

Carson Pirie Scott, Milwaukee
Walk shorts in cotton/rayon, from $24 to $28, and $38.96 structured blazers in rayon/ polyester, all by Casablanca, reports Bill Lasche, vice president, fashion and product development.
Also popular: 21-inch straight skirts, at $21.96, as well as button-front skirts from Briggs. Another hot look is two-piece knit dressing, from $24 to $28, by Michael Carrie.

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