NEW YORK — The waiting is over and the shopping has begun.
A flurry of new better-priced sportswear lines from some of the industry’s largest vendors, including Tommy Hilfiger Corp., Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. and Jones Apparel Group, have now hit department stores, giving shoppers their first crack at the new merchandise.
A glimpse of changes to the better universe, which comes after years of relative stagnation, can been seen at Macy’s Herald Square flagship, touted as the world’s largest store.
While all of the new lines aren’t represented at the store, the third-floor better area offers a tableau of what’s happening across the country, where stores are hoping the new lines capture consumer interest and get the cash registers clicking.
“We will pick up double digits in spring,” said Robert Jezowski, executive vice president at Macy’s East, of the store’s expected sales percentage gains in the better area.
The store is looking to do this by basically maintaining its business with some of the core better names that have anchored the floor, while the new entrants provide the growth.
Though he declined to cite exactly how the floor space has shifted with the new lines, Jezowski noted, “We’ve really tried to balance out dollars per square foot.”
However, there doesn’t appear to have been massive cuts, rather a balanced approach toward blending old with new. “I want to keep my traditional customer and I want to add on a fashion customer,” he said.
Duking it out in one corner of the better floor is Lauren by Ralph Lauren, now produced by Polo, and Jones New York Signature. Jones made the Lauren line under license until a litigious breakup last year.
While that may be the battle royal fashion insiders are watching, customers entering the floor are first met by H Hilfiger, brought to the department store channel exclusively by Federated Department Stores, Macy’s parent. Federated has sole claim on the line through this year and is running it in almost 100 doors.
“Our goal is to be different,” said Jezowski, noting H Hilfiger’s prime positioning.That reasoning carries through with prominent displays of Federated-owned brands such as Alfani, which is offering more looks this season, and Charter Club.
“Private label’s our number one priority,” he said.
The floor also includes looks from Patrick Robinson’s first collection with Perry Ellis; Grace, a career line from Republic that’s just hitting department stores; knitwear from Joseph A., and regulars such as Sigrid Olsen, Liz Claiborne and Jones New York Sport.
Louis Mastrogiacomo, divisional merchandise manager, said, “Macy’s has a very strong career customer.” Accordingly, the store has added some bridge suits to the better area. This also jibes with the more put-together look that’s growing in popularity and is reflected in many of the new lines.
“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback — this past month has been outstanding,” said Mastrogiacomo.
Mastrogiacomo said the three big new names — H Hilfiger, Lauren and Signature — are all beating plan and all have the potential to succeed. “If you look at the product, they’re all different,” he said, adding the various looks will appeal to different customers.
While there had been some construction that was finished up last year in the Liz Claiborne area, which has a large helping of space at the end of the floor, the store’s better area is still a work in progress.
“It’s about one-third of the way we want it to be,” said Jezowski.
Signature, Lauren and H Hilfiger are slated to get new in-store shops in the fall. The new Calvin Klein line might also be added, he noted.
On Jezowski’s wish list is a main center aisle, better lighting and new music.
“We want to make it more efficient and pleasant,” he noted. “We want to make it simple. That’s our goal.”
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