SPRING: WHAT’S CHECKING

NEW YORK — Spring got off to a somewhat slow start, but now that it’s finally in high gear, colors and casual silhouettes are leading the charge.
Brightly colored twinsets, capris and shirts with three-quarter-length sleeves have been spring’s standouts, according to a spot check of stores across the country.
At Casual Corner, twinsets in yellows, pinks and periwinkle, and pants, skirts and dresses in acetate and polyester blends have been the big sellers, according to Cindy Nester, director of fashion.
Other winners are capris and sheath dresses in gingham checks, merchandised with cardigans.
“Color is back. The customer is not afraid to wear pink,” she said. “The trends are very wearable.”
At Lerner New York, a division of Limited Inc., spring sales should be up by single digits, said Jacquie Corso, executive vice president of merchandising.
Cropped pants, stretch T-shirts and Pucci-inspired printed skirts have been strong. Other hot looks are silk skirts in animal prints and python print pants.
What’s slowing down is the career business, Corso said.
At Dawahare’s, a 27-store chain based in Lexington, Ken., moderate sportswear is up 9 percent this spring, with slightly improved markdowns and stock levels around the same as last year, said Jimmy Dawahare, general merchandise manager.
Updated casual areas are driving sales, and knit tops, capri pants and gingham are key trends. For this season to date, Dawahare’s has sold 20,000 knit tops out of an inventory of 35,000. Private label has been strong, especially with such key items as $29.99 silk blouses.
Dawahare singled out Regent International as a top resource.
Roger’s, a three-store Florence, Ala., moderate specialty division of the Dunlap Co., in Fort Worth, Tex., reported a single-digit sales increase over last spring, although the season got off to a delayed start because of the late Easter — April 23 this year, compared with April 4 last year — said Kathy Townsend, misses’ and petite sportswear buyer.
Townsend said career and casual sportswear categories had done well, and more traditional looks outpaced updated styles. In career, Alfred Dunner, Koret and Copy Cats have been strong resources, while Lemon Grass and Miss Ericka have been good casual lines.
Capri pants, tunic tops, knits and linen and cotton blends have performed well, along with shirts with three-quarter sleeves, boat-neck tops and denim embroidered shirts. Jumpers and pantsuits by TY Sport, Lemon Grass and Jeetish have sold well.
Ward’s, the venerable moderate department store chain that’s modernizing its image with new and remodeled stores and trendier merchandise, is charting double-digit gains across the board in its misses’ business, said Barry Carter, divisional merchandise manager for misses’ and petite sportswear, swimwear and outerwear.
Best-selling career labels include Requirements, Urban Works, Ship-n-Shore and Radcliffe, and the emphasis is on updated as well as traditional classics.
Hot casual brands include Gloria Vanderbilt, Lee, Miss Ericka, Northwest Blue and NWB Casual, and niche categories range from denim to business casual.
Specific items that are checking quickly for spring for career are jackets, pants and two-piece softly structured outfits such as a sweater over a soft bottom.
Best-selling denim items are basic stretch five-pocket jeans, capris and pull-on pants, and ribbed and sleeveless knit tops in vibrant colors.