Retailers Do More With Less Inventory

Inventory levels at many retail chains are down 15 percent or more from a year ago, but instead of simply going on the defensive against stock gluts and consequent markdowns, stores quickly are learning to make their existing inventories more productive, bringing merchandise into stores closer to when it’s needed and being more selective in what they buy and replenish based on actual sales results. Unseasonably cool, stormy weather combined with persistent weak demand and doubts about the economy to produce deep reductions in most stores’ results. Additionally, specialty clothing stores cut 2,300 jobs last month to employ 1.43 million, while department stores eliminated 1,200 positions to employ 1.53 million, according to the Labor Department. Yet one bright spot in retailing appears to be children’s wear.

Scoop NYC Feels Credit Squeeze

Scoop NYC, the contemporary retailer created 13 years ago as “the ultimate closet,” is under increasing financial pressure. Several factoring companies have stopped giving Scoop credit and approving orders. The chain, which was purchased about two years ago by billionaire Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Cos. LLC, is said to be undercapitalized and has been slow in paying its vendors, according to financial sources. The news comes on the heels of a federal lawsuit filed by 17 former employees alleging labor violations.

Couture Rides the Economic Storm

Do dresses with six-figure price tags have a place in fashion magazines at a time of economic crisis? That’s one question weighing on the fashion industry. Meanwhile, executives cite an expanding global clientele for couture and continued press interest, albeit now skewed to emerging markets. A WWD Blog post reflects on how couture, the apex of the fashion pyramid, is on the cusp of big change and it’s made for a confounding week at Paris Haute Couture Fall 2009. (Click to see Couture Week images and full coverage.)

Well-Wishers Line Up at Lacroix

Christian Lacroix on Tuesday presented what very well may have been his last haute collection, perhaps his last of any sort, for the house he launched from his poufy Patou springboard back in the high-flying Eighties. After his show, the designer lingered at the end of the runway, where he was mobbed by well-wishers, many red-eyed and wistful and wearing “Christian Lacroix Forever” badges distributed by Countess Pia de Brantes. (Click to see all the runway looks and backstage images.) The outpouring of support comes after employees at the 22-year-old fashion house were informed last week of a restructuring plan that could see the workforce cut to 12 from 124.

Brüno’s Day Off

After two years of crashing catwalks, punking celebrities and assaulting heterosexual America with his high-fashion flamboyance, “Brüno” hit the big screen this week, thrusting the fashion industry into a rather glaring spotlight. Sacha Baron Cohen’s film premiered in Hollywood despite the passing of Michael Jackson a few hours before, and Universal Studios banned reporters from asking questions about Jackson on the red carpet. The studio also made a last-minute decision to cut a reference to The King of Pop from the movie.

Retail Thriller: Stores Rush to Sell Michael Jackson Merchandise

Retailers and apparel vendors are scrambling to get Michael Jackson merchandise into stores to capitalize on fans’ hunger for a piece of the iconic pop star, who was honored last week at a two-hour memorial service in Los Angeles. Not surprisingly, celebrity weeklies also are seeing a bounce in newsstand sales from coverage of the King of Pop’s death. Meanwhile, the WWD Blog looks at how postmortem profits may be the true measure of an American icon’s popularity and offers a personal fashion tribute to the Gloved One. (Click to see photos from the Jackson tribute.)

Emerging Designers Set the Pace in Berlin

There was no doubting the energy pulsing through the city during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Berlin. The four-day event saw a packed city, with taxis scarce and subways jammed: not Berlin’s normal scene. And the calendar was full, not only because Bread & Butter, Premium and four other trade fairs were running concurrently, but also because scores of designers and fashion brands that had chosen the city as their showplace of choice for spring 2010. (Click to see the collections from Berlin Fashion Week.)

Celebrity Lines Lose Their Luster

From Jennifer Lopez to Mandy Moore and Paris Hilton, the glow has worn off for some celebrity contemporary clothing lines because of oversaturation, competition and the overall pullback by recession-battered consumers. Marketing in the future might revert to more low-key endorsement deals or mimic the successful strategies of entertainers who don’t put their names on the merchandise, such as Gwen Stefani, with her L.A.M.B. brand; Jay-Z’s Rocawear, and Justin Timberlake’s William Rast collection. Meanwhile, Timberlake is fronting two scents from Play, the Givenchy fragrance brand, set to be rolled out in the U.S. this fall.

Costume Jewelry Shines on the Red Carpet

Call it a sign of the times: Celebrities have fine jewelers tripping over themselves to loan them some of the world’s rarest and most expensive pieces, but more and more actresses are opting for costume jewelry. “It seems counterintuitive,” said Elena Kiam, owner of Lia Sophia, one of the country’s largest direct sales jewelry brands. “Celebrities can borrow or buy anything they want, yet so many of them choose to wear costume.”

WWD Back in Time: The Rolling Stones in L.A.

Following the release of their 1972 album “Exile on Main St.,” the Rolling Stones launched a much-publicized tour with stops in Canada and the United States. “Mick gathers weird crowds,” one concertgoer told WWD. “It always feels like there’ll be trouble.” And there was certainly reason to worry. (Click to see full-size images and more Rolling Stones coverage from Back in Time.)

Click to see the previous WWD Week in Review (6/26/09).

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