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Fill ‘er Up: Dress and Sportswear Houses Stock Up

Stores are starting to replenish inventories that were depleted in response to last year’s lackluster retail sales.

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD MAGIC issue 02/16/2010

With stores starting to replenish inventories that were depleted in response to last year’s lackluster retail sales, executives are eager to tap into that buying frenzy.

This story first appeared in the February 16, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

 

Vineyard Vines is on the move to build its women’s business. The company recently hired JoAnn Slattery as vice president of women’s and children’s wholesale. Most recently, she held that same title at Tory Burch. Vineyard Vine aims to increase this year’s sales by 20 percent compared with last year, according to Jeff Wheeler, vice president of the men’s and golf wholesale divisions.

 

“We’re focused on getting existing accounts to commit to our basics and in-stock program. This business has always been strong for us, and we see even more potential. For example, our men’s collection has recently expanded its polo offering from eight to 33 in-stock colors,” he said.

 

The brand is also trying to broaden its reach geographically and demographically. “Our collection has expanded (particularly women’s) and we hope to capture new audiences this year,” Wheeler said. “We will focus on moving into new markets where we don’t have strong wholesale distribution, and hope to open new accounts that appeal to a new customer altogether.”

 

Third, Vineyard Vines is continuing to expand its customized business with wholesale accounts, a strategy that “has been incredibly successful in the past couple of years,” he said. “Buyers are finally loosening up their inventories and bringing in more merchandise. Our pre-booking for fall 2010 is significantly higher than it has been in past seasons. We feel very positive about the year ahead.”

 

Joseph Simkhai, president of Ravel USA, a $5 million New York-based blouse company, will introduce outerwear and a greater assortment of sweaters and tops at the show. Blouses account for 80 percent of the company’s sales. “We want to give a bigger range of what the customer wants,” he said.

 

Water-resistant zip-front polyester and nylon jackets will wholesale from $59 to $89. Sweaters and tops will range from $25 to $49. Items made of polyamide, a moisture-wicking fabric that is produced in Paris and Brazil, should be of particular interest, Simkhai added.

 

While in Paris, a city he visits frequently to get a read on trends, he noticed that many blouse companies had branched out to outerwear and sweaters. “For me, Paris is an inspiration. If they are doing it, we have to do it,” he said.

 

Showing in Las Vegas allows Simkhai to get a sense for what will be popular in different regions of the country. “If you go to a show in Dallas, they like a lot of color, while in New England, they like everything in gray and brown. Las Vegas gives a good read for the whole country,” he said.

 

Encouraged that major retailers like Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Anthropologie are no longer lamenting the downturn in the economy, Pure & Co., the maker of Pure Handknits, is expecting 2010 to be strong, according to Lyn Baskett, vice president of sales and marketing. While those big hitters were the first to cut back on inventory when business slowed down, now they are ramping up orders, she said. Last year, the label finished up with sales 4 percent down compared with 2008, Baskett said.

 

For spring, Pure Handknits is offering more lightweight options and more artisan-type features such as laser cuts, lace embellishment and chunky knits. The company is branching out into the U.K. and Australia, an initiative that started last year, Baskett said.

 

Neon Buddha, another label produced by Pure, is offering more work-to-weekend options. Jackets have been particularly strong, Baskett said.