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Updating Their Wardrobes

The top 10 stores where women have shopped for apparel over the past three months.

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The spring season is finally in full swing and Scarborough Research, based in New York, surveyed women about where they’ve shopped for apparel in the past three months. Not surprisingly, the majority of retailers chosen were department or discount stores, and three specialty retailers made the cut, too: Victoria’s Secret, Old Navy and Gap. Some of the biggest spring apparel trends shoppers are finding are printed baby-doll dresses, silk jerseys, multicolored tunics, cap-sleeved blouses, peasant-style blouses and wide-leg pants.

WAL-MART

Percentage of women who said they shopped here in the last three months: 51

The world’s largest retailer may be facing negative publicity and undergoing its largest store remodeling program, but women are still major customers. WWD reported earlier this month that the Bentonville, Ark., discounter plans to slow the pace of expansion in the U.S., “focusing instead on making existing stores more profitable.” For example, Wal-Mart is creating better store displays in apparel and home decor. Allen Questrom’s recent nomination to Wal-Mart’s board could also raise the retailer’s apparel status. Questrom is “expected to lend credibility to the panel, along with expertise in fashion….He is also seen as providing insight into relatively upscale products,” said WWD. Wal-Mart currently offers apparel brands such as Hanes, Wrangler, George and Metro7 for women and, for the younger set, Mary Kate & Ashley and No Boundaries.

TARGET

Percentage: 38

At a presentation two weeks ago in Minneapolis, Target chief financial officer Douglas Scovanner told financial analysts that apparel and soft goods accounted for 22 percent of annual sales, or about $13 billion. President Gregg Steinhafel added, “Whether it’s ladies’ apparel or intimate apparel, we’re going to push the envelope slowly but surely to bring our customer along into better goods.” The mass retailer currently offers plenty of designer names for women, including Isaac Mizrahi, Proenza Schouler and Mossimo. Maternity maven Liz Lange also has an exclusive line for pregnant women. Along with designer names, Target has proprietary brands such as Xhilaration and Merona.

J.C. PENNEY

Percentage: 34

If any of the women surveyed live in Manhattan, they won’t have to wait much longer to shop at Penney’s: The company revealed last week that it had signed a letter of intent for space in the Manhattan Mall, near Macy’s Herald Square flagship. After disclosing his goal was to make the retailer “the preferred shopping choice for Middle America,” chairman and chief executive officer Myron Ullman 3rd told analysts Penney’s had developed a five-year plan: “Our strategy includes inspiring our customers with our merchandise and services, [leading] in developing style and quality at a smart price and also [improving] merchandise relevancy.” Penney’s sells a variety of private label brands, such as Worthington and a.n.a., and plenty of well-known names like Liz & Co., Levi’s and Sag Harbor.

KOHL’S

Percentage: 26

In March, chief financial officer Wesley McDonald reminded Wall Street that one of the company’s most important initiatives for the year was its partnership with Vera Wang, which will cover several product categories. “I want to reinforce that the Vera Wang launch will be very widespread,” the cfo explained. “You’ll see this exciting brand in sportswear, accessories, jewelry, footwear, intimate apparel, beginning in the third quarter.” The retailer’s exclusive or private label lines that feature women’s apparel include Daisy Fuentes, apt. 9 and Sonoma; Sag Harbor, Nine & Co. and Gloria Vanderbilt are carried, as well.

OLD NAVY

Percentage: 26

Infants and toddlers, teenagers and young adults, professionals and plus sizes — Gap-owned Old Navy caters to women of all ages. Though the specialty retailer has been struggling lately, same-store sales in March rose 10 percent year-over-year. Thanks to its heavy emphasis on discounts and markdowns, freestanding stores and the retailer’s Web site are constantly offering sweepstakes and perks for shoppers. For example, “The Latest Buzz” section on oldnavy.com is holding a $1,000 shopping spree for all entrants. Popular items this spring for women are gauzy crepe tops, floral eyelet camis, printed baby-doll dresses, strapless seersucker dresses and wide-leg capris. Full-figured women have been buying lightweight thermal-knit cardigans, twill and denim Bermuda shorts and denim roll-up cargos.

KMART

Percentage: 23

Spring fashions available for women at the discount retailer owned by hedge fund king Edward Lampert include the Jaclyn Smith Trench Jacket, Attention Banded Top With Kimono Sleeves and Route 66 Knit Long Skirt. Other brands that cater to female shoppers are Levi Strauss Signature, Joe Boxer, Playtex and Wrangler. Kmart will soon show its younger side and begin focusing on teen and contemporary customers — ones who might typically choose Target or Wal-Mart before thinking of Kmart. Back-to school will feature suede-toe ballet shoes in a variety of colors, messenger and shoulder bags, and T-shirts with skeleton symbols.

SEARS

Percentage: 21

Owner Edward Lampert hasn’t revealed much of a strategy for Sears but, like its sister company Kmart, the retailer looks to be going trendier. For the professional woman, Sears offers its Covington and Apostrophe brands, which feature collared blouses and business suits. But both brands are also inserting more stylish items into their collections to reach out to young women. WWD noted, “As one of the largest sellers of sporting goods and workout equipment, Sears is also expanding its sportswear apparel collections. For the fall, the retailer is featuring loose track jackets and running pants that can be worn to the gym or for lounging around the house.”

VICTORIA’S SECRET

Percentage: 16

Rumblings in the retail industry indicate that certain parts of Leslie Wexner’s Limited Brands empire may be for sale soon, so the group can focus on this innerwear chain and Bath & Body Works. In addition to the lingerie and sleepwear pieces that made Victoria’s Secret popular, the brand sells plenty of women’s clothing: An array of spring dresses, skirts, career and casual pants, jeans, jackets and blazers are all currently available. Victoria’s Secret also offers shoes, swimwear, fragrances and beauty products.

MACY’S

Percentage: 14

Parent Federated Department Stores is turning Macy’s into a nationwide brand and soon will change its corporate name to that of its core department store holding. Popular brands that the department store chain sells are O Oscar by Oscar de la Renta, Betsey Johnson, Calvin Klein, Lauren by Ralph Lauren and Baby Phat. In March, Macy’s announced a new marketing push that targets college women to promote its American Rag apparel brand for young women. Students on eight campuses across the country are being asked to create a print they believe fits the brand, and people will be able to vote for their favorite at americanragcampus.com.

GAP

Percentage: 13

The specialty chain, which is aiming to turn around its fortunes, made a splash last week with the launch of a limited edition collection for women that consists of exclusive pieces from 2006 CFDA Award-winning designers Rodarte, Thakoon and Doo.Ri. Last week, Gap also said that Gary Muto had returned to the company as president of Gap Adult and GapBody. After parent Gap Inc. shut its Forth & Towne concept this June, the Gap brand plans to begin targeting shoppers over the age of 35. Until now, it had been focused on 18- to 35-year-olds.

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