DRESSES BLOOM IN ARID CLIMATE
Byline: Julee Greenberg
NEW YORK — The summer dress scene is hot despite the cool times overall at retail.
From major department stores to smaller specialty chains, retailers are reporting robust dress sales this season, led by a variety of prints and an array of colors.
“This is the strongest time of the year for dresses,” said Stefani Greenfield, co-owner of the four-store Scoop chain. “We did phenomenal with them. There is very little merchandise left in dresses.”
While the store did well selling dresses from Michael Kors, William B. and Marc Jacobs, Greenfield said Diane Von Furstenberg is Scoop’s number-one dress brand.
“I can sell an infinite number of DVF,” she said, noting the reasonable prices and colorful prints that attract customers to the collection. “Any dress in the $500 and below price point will consistently sell.”
Greenfield said she believes that as long as the inventory available to sell matches the state of the economy, business can thrive through the hard times. She said since the Scoop customer is a social butterfly who “just wants to look good,” they find dresses easy to wear, especially when the weather is warm. Therefore, if there is a great dress on the rack, Greenfield said it will sell, no matter what.
“The customer never loses her desire to shop,” she said. “She might not shop as often, but she does shop.”
Sarah Hailes, co-owner of the hip SoHo shop Kirna Zabete, said that despite the state of the economy, business is good and the Manhattan store is right on plan.
“We are not about basics, so we are probably not your typical American retailer,” she said. “So, we are probably not indicative of the market. In that sense we are fortunate.”
Hailes noted that printed dresses from Eley Kishimoto are consistently selling, along with sexy, form-fitting, solid color dresses from Elisa Jiminez.
“The same girl who buys the bright-color, printed dress for day will also buy the sexy one for night,” she said.
Julie Gilhart, vice president of fashion merchandising at Barneys New York, said the dress season has done so well at the store that it is hard to think of one or two designers that stand out above the rest.
“We have done so well in dresses from everyone,” she said. “Sexy jerseys are still strong, as well as chiffons and prints.”
Gilhart also cited Diane Von Furstenberg as a top seller, along with Versace and Narciso Rodriguez. She said color was well received along with “different” styles.
“People are just going after all dresses and across all classifications,” she said.
Gilhart said a sleeveless V-neck black and white leaf print dress of the Barneys Collection label has been a top item.
“A dress is ease with style and everyone is looking for that,” she added.
It’s been much of the same at Macy’s West, according to Nancy Netherly, divisional merchandise manager of dresses.
Netherly said that while dresses as a category are selling well, the business is excelling in the better dress area. For daytime, prints are popular and for special occasion dressing, matte jersey cocktail dresses are key.
While day dresses are selling consistently at Jacobson Stores, Michelle McCallister, divisional merchandise manager for ready-to-wear, said business has been tough.
“It has been a challenging season at retail,” she admitted, but still does feel confident about the dress category. “We are doing well in daytime dresses, which seems to be mostly print-driven.”
McCallister cited dresses from Laundry by Shelli Segal, BCBG, Maggy London, Chetta B and David Meister as having a “younger edge” to them, and as strong sellers. Anything in a light, feminine print sold well, as well as some solid-color structured dresses.
McCallister did agree that the state of the economy has a lot to do with the slowdown at retail, but said the cool spring weather had something to do with it, as well.
“The weather patterns affect dress buying, for sure,” she said.