MODERATE: EARLY WINNERS

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NEW YORK — Blazers, tunics, colorful polo shirts, vests, twinsets and denim looks are among the early spring bestsellers at moderate sportswear departments around the country.
WWD informally surveyed retailers about the best-selling items or trends to emerge so far this spring. Here’s what they said.
At Macy’s East, early spring bestsellers include colorful cotton T-shirts and cotton polo shirts by Jennifer Moore, a Macy’s private label; natural linen and rayon pants at $44 with tunic, $48, by Sharon Anthony, and cotton and linen jumpers with side wrap at $44, by Christina James.
Tunics continue to do well generally, including a linen design by Jennifer Moore at $36, according to Carolyn Moss, fashion director at Macy’s East. Denim is still a popular category. Basic five-pocket jeans, carrying such labels as Lee, Bill Blass, Levi’s and Gloria Vanderbilt, continue to check well. The retailer is also doing well with denim shirts and skirts under these brands.
Denim rompers, including those by Gloria Vanderbilt at $44, are starting to check well, Moss said.
At Macy’s West/Bullock’s, sales of moderate merchandise are off to a good start for early spring, with volume boosted by demand for basic knits by vendors such as KWBL and India Inc.
“This is a continuation of fall, which was strong for knits,” said Carol Winter, merchandise administrator for moderate sportswear. “We’re selling basic bodies, no pocket styles. We’re selling V-necks and sweetheart necks. We’re also selling pools and henleys. It’s a very solid basic business.”
The novelty category has been popular for T-shirts selling with Valentine’s Day, golf and tennis, sunflower or rodeo themes, she said.
Denim for spring has had a good initial consumer response, and five-pocket jeans from Gloria Vanderbilt particularly are checking well. Demand for denim rompers is beginning earlier than in past years, but denim shorts are slow, Winter said.
In career, linen separates from Jennifer Moore have sold well in jackets, long vests and pants. Another popular silhouette is button-front skirts with matching tunics. Soft drawstring pants, just arriving in stores, are expected to be hot during the next few weeks. Other popular items in moderate career include jumpers, casual dresses and nautical-theme sportswear. Sag Harbor is a hot early spring moderate career label for the store. l At J.C. Penney Co., moderate-price bestsellers include items from the chain’s Worthington private label, specifically a micro fiber shell, at $24; a cotton and rayon short-sleeved T-shirt, at $15, and a rayon and polyester men’s wear-pattern belted trouser, at $29.
At Rich’s, Atlanta, early spring bestsellers in moderate career dressing include N.Y. Sake’s linen collection, which offers two dresses at $58 and $88; a sleeveless vest at $48; walk shorts, $34, and trousers, $34, according to Sheila Kamensky, fashion director. From separates-driven Melrose Options, bestsellers are a fuji silk V-neck tunic and pants, at $38 each. Bestsellers from Melrose, which is collection oriented, include black and white men’s wear check V-neck jackets at $48, drawstring pants at $38 and vests, $38. Other hot sellers are ACW’s acetate and rayon striped and checked drawstring pants at $38 and solid V-neck tunics at $38.
At Woodward & Lothrop, the Washington-based department store chain, the three-button or four-button jacket worn with palazzo pants is starting as a dominant look for spring, according to Elaine Hough Bauer, W&L’s senior vice president and general merchandise manager.
Vests remain important, particularly the long, sleeveless vest worn as a jacket over palazzo pants, shorts or a skirt, Bauer said.
“Probably what’s newest is a three-button jacket worn with a knit blouse underneath or none at all,” Bauer said.
W&L’s cornerstone labels in career moderate-price apparel are Sag Harbor and Norton McNaughton, she said.
In the separates category, knits are strong, primarily fine-gauge and ribbed silk or silk and cotton blends. Twinsets, such as a cardigan over a T-shirt, are popular. W&L’s knits are primarily sold under its two private labels, Whitney Brooks and Woodward Collection.
Dress-down Friday policies are boosting sales of polo shirts and denim dresses, Bauer said.
W&L reports strong sales in the denim category, in suspender looks, slipdresses and dresses with denim tops and floral skirts.
W&L is also doing well with a major private label program in polo shirts, running up to 10 colors, with pink the key color, Bauer said. She predicted polos and V-neck T-shirts would eventually “start moving into where the one-pocket T-shirt used to be… Everyone’s got eight million one-pocket crew necks in their drawer.”

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