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NEW YORK — Dress shirt sales have not escaped the current economic slowdown unscathed. For the 12 months ended August ’08, men’s dress shirt sales decreased nearly 7 percent to $2.67 billion, according to The NPD Group. And although shirt manufacturers remain optimistic about the upcoming holiday season, fall 2009’s clean palettes, traditional patterns and tailored fits seem to reflect the serious tone of the times, articulating a conservative elegance taking hold in much of the dress shirt category. 

“What is directing trend right now has nothing to do with apparel,” noted Michael Surella, president of Smart Apparel, which manufactures dress shirts under the Perry Ellis brand. “The fashion viewpoint is now going to be smaller as we see an increased focus on value, fit and simple essentials like the white shirt.” 

And as dress shirt makers and retailers try to find more-economical ways to do things, many are rethinking their assortments. “Our retail analysts are now looking at business on a door-by-door basis,” said Al Moretti, president of PVH’s Dress Shirt Group. “We need to eliminate waste at retail and get the right thing at the right doors.” The result? Different shirts at different doors and geographic locations.

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