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Shop Talk: Fast Buck Freddie’s

<b>P</b>lagued by bad weather, a dreary economy and a continued decrease in consumer spending, resort buyers are heading to WWDMAGIC in search of holiday and spring items that will invigorate business and pull sales figures up to par. Some stores have...

Plagued by bad weather, a dreary economy and a continued decrease in consumer spending, resort buyers are heading to WWDMAGIC in search of holiday and spring items that will invigorate business and pull sales figures up to par. Some stores have fared better than others, especially those located in warmer climates. For Key West, Fla. retailer Fast Buck Freddie’s, a high influx of in-state travelers and a large repeat customer base have kept the 28-year-old department store chugging along. WWD asked the store’s women’s buyer, Barry Siegel, how tourism, the stagnant economy and manufacturers’ business tactics are affecting sales.

This story first appeared in the August 25, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

WWD: Has the decline in travel curbed business?

Barry Siegel: Reluctance to travel abroad has actually helped business because more people are traveling domestically, especially to and within Florida. We’ve had a continuance of travelers coming to the area well beyond our normal season, which usually runs between mid-December and early spring. Business has definitely stayed strong through spring and summer.

WWD: Who is your key customer?

Barry Siegel: There are about 25,000 year-round residents in Key West and about 4 million tourists who visit each year, so naturally we try to target the tourist market. While we do have a strong local customer base, tourism is definitely an important factor to our business. We have a great deal of repeat customers who shop with us each time they travel to the island.

WWD: What keeps customers coming back?

Barry Siegel: Customer service, plain and simple. Personal communication has always been one of our strong points. We try to stay in touch with all our customers with either mailings or phone calls. It’s important to stay connected with customers. We do some special buying for customers when we travel to shows or regional markets, too.

WWD: Transitional lines and multiseasonal collections are a growing trend with a number of manufacturers trying to capitalize on year-round sales, particularly in the tourist-driven resort market. How is this new tactic affecting sales?

Barry Siegel: Year-round collections are beneficial to us because I often have a very difficult time finding lines that offer pieces we can sell throughout the year. We’re able to keep merchandise in stock that is consistent and more familiar to our repeat customers. I will admit, though, some lines that are so-called ‘transeasonal lines’ at WWDMAGIC are not necessarily lines that can be worn all year, especially by out-of-town visitors. Travelers want something they can wear here, be it around town or on the beach, not back home. Bright colors and loud prints are popular styles in the Caribbean, so lines that rely on neutrals and muddy, subdued tones to create year-round looks just don’t work here.