EARLY SPRING SALES START CHUGGING
Byline: Kristi Ellis
LOS ANGELES — Torrential rain storms that battered the state most of last week, from San Diego to San Francisco, didn’t stop the diehards from venturing out and snatching up new items for spring. The strong activity bodes well for California specialty retailers getting their first read on spring.
Boutique owners say business is healthy, citing increases from 5 to 20 percent for the first eight weeks of 2000, compared with the same time last year.
Across the board, color is the buzzword, along with real and synthetic suedes and touches of the Seventies. Hot items include miniskirts, denim, cutout looks, capri and wide-leg pants, and cashmere sweaters.
At the Lisa Kline boutique on Robertson Boulevard, the miniskirt is back on top of spring sales, according to Summer Seay, a sales associate.
Spooner, a line out of Prague, is fueling the store’s miniskirt business with fake suedes in baby blue and red. Theory and Alicia Lawhon’s printed minis have also made a statement in this category.
Spooner’s UltraSuede bell-sleeve jacket with a princess cut and tie under the bust in red with pink lining is also a popular item.
Rebecca Danenberg acrylic and polyester blouses with matching necktie scarves are also among the bestsellers along with wide-leg lounge pants by Danenberg and Theory.
“It’s a continuation of the late Seventies theme,” said Seay.
The denim category is also driving sales with tight-fitting flare jeans by Theory and Pauline.
On the color side, blue, lavender, purple and red are topping the list.
“This season is definitely about color, not black,” Seay said.
Owner Lisa Kline said sales are up anywhere from 10 to 20 percent for the first two months of this year over 1999.
Color is also the name of the game at Jill Roberts. Nicole Dinielli, store manager for two Roberts stores, said that sales are up at both locations by 20 percent.
Bright yellow, blue and pink cashmere tops by Tse are boosting sales, as are tanks and white capris by New York Industry, according to Heather Small, a sales associate at the Roberts store on Montana Avenue in Santa Monica.
In the skirt category, the dominant colors are red, pink and apple green and the top performer is Shoshanna with its silk shantung version.
Cutouts are also a key trend, she said. Pants and skirts with eyelets and lining are fueling business.
In particular, Maxou’s apron skirt with an eyelet overlay and gingham print lining in pink, yellow or blue is a bestseller.
“It looks like the dress that Dorothy wears in the ‘Wizard of Oz,”‘said Small.
Outerwear is still a key category in lighter-weight fabrics. The top seller is a Michael Kors duck cloth overcoat in bubble-gum pink.
If back orders for cutout wool gabardine pants by Chloe are any indication, spring could be a record season for ultra-hip Tracey Ross in Sunset Plaza on Sunset Boulevard.
The boutique is also doing well with Chloe camisole tops and cut-off-sleeve skull-print T-shirts, according to Janey Lopaty, a sales associate.
“We’re selling a lot of Vivienne Tam liquid leather skirts and orange and brown glittery tanks,” said Lopaty.
She noted that Katayone Adeli is a top resource for the boutique, adding that, for spring, wide or slit-leg suede pants with leather detail on the side are a bestseller.
In that same vein, Eren Kabrinsky’s suede pants with turquoise crisscross weave are also selling strongly.
On the outerwear front, Ungaro’s yellow leather jackets with polkadot lining top the list.
Accessories are still a strong category, driven by hand-beaded precious-stone purses by Melinda Gomez and vintage rosaries by Kimme Winter.
In San Francisco, the emphasis is on local designers at Behind the Post Office, an eclectic design boutique that features emerging designers.
Kim Baskind, a partner in the shop, said early spring will be a continuation of the same trends, though toned down. She said January was up 5 percent and estimated that February would be ahead by 15 percent.
“We are still seeing a lot of the same colors — pink, gray and turquoise — and styles like Native American, cowboy and rock ‘n’ roll,” said Baskind. “Customers are responding to the best of what they saw in the past.”
Suede is the exception to the rule. Illia’s color suede skirts and pants are driving sales. One of the bestsellers is Illia’s long suede skirt with patchwork suede fake pockets.
Denim has performed well, especially Yoniyum’s label, Knot. Denim skirts with reversed denim trim on the hem with a frayed edge are selling well, as are wide-leg stretch denim hipster pants and cropped jean jackets. Floods by Billy Blues in a boy trouser cut and Michael Stars’ shiny shirts in a deep v and cowlneck continue to generate a strong business, she said.
In Vallejo, Calif., Helen Lyall, a better-price store, has had a strong pre-spring season. Business is up by 5 percent, according to owner Helen Lyall.
Yvonne Armas, store manager, added: “We have had a great season. We are very positive about this year.” Noting that most fashion incorporates Seventies influences, Armas said ankle pants and hipsters from Laundry by Shelli Segal and capris and long skirts by She are among the top performers.
The boutique caters to a wide range of customers, ranging in age from the late 20s to mid-60s.
“Not everyone is 19 and weighs 100 pounds,” she said.
The Ellen Tracy collection has also driven sales at the store with its suitings as well as its casual division, Company by Ellen Tracy. And Sara Sturgeon, particularly linen long skirts and pants, is also on top.
Armas reiterated the importance of color, citing pink, pale blue, green and orange, but noted black is still popular.