GARMENT DISTRICT OPENS IN FLORIDA
Byline: Neal Turnage
SARASOTA, Fla. — Jeff Zwick, Bob Nanberg and Heidi Thorner have become partners in The Garment District, a discount warehouse-style store in Bonita Springs, Fla.
Unlike many stores that are adding hours to service customers’ needs, The Garment District will be open only four days a week, from Wednesday through Saturday, and no evenings.
Zwick resigned as chief executive officer of Chico’s, a sportswear retailer in late 1994 following a disagreement with its founder, Marvin J. Gralnick, over the direction of the company. Nanberg was a founder of The Icing, an accessories and apparel chain that filed Chapter 11 and is now in the midst of liquidation sales. Thorner is former vice president of design at Chico’s.
The Garment District, which is just south of Fort Myers, on the state’s west coast, features women’s sportswear from vendors such as Oleg Cassini, L.A. Zodiac, LeauVive, Mill Valley Cotton, Garb, British Khaki, Redford, Jean Vie, Kasper and Kenar.
The 7,000-square-foot space opened Dec. 14 with $280,000 worth of inventory and sold over $100,000 of it in the first seven days of operation, according to Zwick. Shoes accounted for approximately 20 percent of that.
The hottest item, Zwick said, was a silk knit turtleneck by Kevo for $27.99.
“We sold over 100 of them in the first week,” he said.
Other popular items included a linen top and bottom combination from Kenar for $59.99. A three-piece sweat outfit in cotton/knit/fleece by Redford for $69.99 also performed well, he said.
Zwick attributes the initial results to a heavy promotional print and radio ad campaign.
“We also ran a bunch of 30-second TV spots during prime-time shows such as ‘Oprah,’ the ‘Today’ show and the ‘Tonight’ show,” he added.
The store expects to spend at least $45,000 in advertising for the year, and spent about $15,000 for the first three days, said Nanberg.
“We found that a lot of the customers that came in were from Naples, which is more affluent, and that they found out about us through our ads,” he said.
For the year, Nanberg and Zwick are projecting $250 per square foot or about $1.8 million in sales. The focus will be on contemporary misses’ apparel for temperate climates, Zwick said. Silks, cottons, linen, rayon and light wool in moderate to better sportswear, dresses and suits will make up the bulk of the mix. There will also be a 2,000-square-foot leased shoe department, which will include such vendors as Petra and Stewart Weitzman. In addition, a 200-square-foot leased accessory space is planned.
Zwick and Nanberg bought their inventory by going to vendors they knew well and getting overruns, said Zwick.
Andrew Weinberg, a specialty retail analyst at Raymond James & Associates in Tampa, said much of the success will probably hinge upon the mix.
“I think the potential exists in this area, especially in the upper moderate category,” he said. “Finding good sportswear is difficult here. The department stores all carry the same thing and the prices are high. Also, the specialty retailers have failed to really define themselves. If the mix is geared to sportswear, it’ll probably work.”