HILLARY HAT SHOPS: It hasn’t been all politics and parties during the First Family’s vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. Hillary Rodham Clinton was able to devote some time last week to shopping. While picking up some sportswear in Chappy’s, a local Edgartown shop, Mrs. Clinton also picked up a new hat: a navy blue skimmer, by designer Eric Javits, a style trademarked as Paysa. Besides sun protection, the apparent attraction for the First Lady was the Paysa’s simple styling and its synthetic material, which makes it water repellent and highly packable.
Maybe the fact that the President was busy playing golf with footwear and accessories designer Kenneth Cole sparked the accessories interest.
VIVA SCHOOL’S IN: Eyewear manufacturer Viva International Group wants to teach optical industry professionals how to make more money.
The firm, which is based in Fairfield, N.J., makes the optical lines and sunglasses for such labels as Guess, Adrienne Vittadini and Harley-Davidson and also does optical collections for the Viva, Savvy and Catherine Deneuve lines.
With a program called VMS (Visual Merchandising Services), Viva promises to enlighten doctors and practitioners in the optical industry about how consumers shop and how to enliven the retail environment with product placement, window displays and brand identification.
Viva is holding its first classes at the Anaheim, Calif., Vision Expo, which runs Saturday through next Monday, at its VMS booth adjacent to the Viva International Group booth. The firm also will offer a special class Sunday as part of Vision Expo’s Technology Symposia.
The classes will focus on the department store philosophy of retailing — aimed at giving shoppers more choices in a nonthreatening retail environment.
“We’re taking how department stores merchandise their accessories area and teaching the optical industry how to set up their store as a mini retail environment,” said a Viva spokeswoman.
This strategy, noted a Viva spokeswoman, includes having open, clear aisles, setting up pathways to key brands to give stores identity and using point-of-purchase materials to create an image around brands.
SUNGLASS HUT’S DIM QUARTER: Strong July sales of Ray-Bans, featured in the hit movie “Men in Black,” weren’t enough to save the second quarter at Sunglass Hut International.
In the quarter ended Aug. 2, earnings fell 28.8 percent to $14.2 million, or 26 cents a share, from $20 million, or 36 cents, a year earlier, the chain recently reported. The quarter included a $1.7 million charge for “separation costs” related to the resignation of Jack Chadsey as president and chief executive officer.
Earnings were hit by a combination of weak same-store sales in May and June, the high cost of clearing out slow sellers, the timing of the store-closing program and costs related to Chadsey’s departure. The company would not elaborate on the nature of the costs.
Sales were up 12.5 percent to $187.2 million from $166.5 million, but gross margins eroded to 43.5 percent of sales from 47.2 percent.
Sales were solid in late June and July, aided by the “Men in Black” promotion and the sell-through of new products from several vendors.
However, Sunglass Hut said same-store sales were off to a slow start during the first two weeks of August.
“Both slower-than-planned receipts from vendors of certain key products and disruptions to the replenishment flow of merchandise to stores as a result of the UPS strike have depressed early August comparable-store sales,” James N. Hauslein, chairman and acting ceo, said in a statement.
Inventory has been worked down to $115 million from $145 million at the beginning of the year, Hauslein said.
In the half, profits declined 46.5 percent to $14.5 million, or 26 cents, from $27.2 million, or 49 cents, a year ago. Sales were up 12.5 percent to $325.5 million from $289.3 million. Gross margins declined to 40.9 percent of sales from 45.4 percent.
Sunglass Hut closed 47 underperforming locations in the six months and said it plans to close more stores in the third and fourth quarters. In the second quarter, Sunglass Hut opened 63 sunglass specialty locations and seven new Watch Stations. At quarter’s end, the chain, based in Coral Gables, Fla., operated 2,106 sunglass specialty locations and 69 Watch Station stores.