By  on April 29, 2008

"Customers are buying a lot of yellows and oranges," said Tifani Wilt, fashion director of Macy's West. "Anything with a fresh and new look, as well as prints or solids. Also, items with feminine detailing in sleeves or necklines, for instance, are popular.

"The jacket has definitely come on as a big item, as well as the 'little jacket' alternative — we're seeing more and more of it," Wilt said.

Describing the weakened economy's impact on sales, she said: "It's been more of a change in volume of sales per customer rather than overall traffic. An item has to be special, and catch a shopper's attention, something unique and not already in her wardrobe."

Fred Levine, who owns the M. Frederic Southern California retail chain, noted that it's his clients' frequency of visits and amounts spent on merchandise per visit, rather than price points, that are being affected by the current economic conditions.

"We're up in kids' sales, but down in men's and women's, so it seems adult shoppers are passing on their own designer wants but still spending on the upscale apparel for their kids," said Levine.

Capri pants, shorts, tailored trousers and pants in general are sales drivers in his stores right now, Levine said, and have eclipsed dresses and short skirts as a trend this spring. Sales of silk and jersey knits have fallen off, though linen hasn't lost its strength as a seasonal favorite.

Levine also has noticed a trend toward particularly bright colors, and environmentally friendly labels, as well. "Burnt orange and any shade of green are the most popular," he said. "I've never bought so much of those colors in my life."

The store is doing particularly well with plaid-patterned capri pants from Fillmore.

Heather Martin, buyer for Belle Gray, a small chain of upscale boutiques in Calabasas and Sherman Oaks, Calif., said the economic malaise has its shoppers skewing toward lower price points and opting for a distinctly more casual style — something that tends to benefit local Southern California and U.S. brands more than European labels. Particularly popular of late, she said, are lightweight cotton and chiffon pieces from Los Angeles-based Nightcap Clothing. Five-pocket fleece pants and short shorts in lace or chiffon are bestsellers."It's basically outdoor loungewear, because you can toss it on and go anywhere and everywhere. It's so versatile that it's perfect for a California lifestyle, especially in spring or summer," Martin said. "It's simple clothing that can be dressed up."

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