A NEW FEATURE: WWD FILES DISPATCHES — NEW STORES, NEW IDEAS, SECRETS TO SUCCESS — FROM THE RETAIL FRONT LINES ACROSS THE SOUTHEAST.
Byline: Georgia Lee
With the heart of a specialty store and the soul of a department store, the fifth unit of Mansour’s will open in Augusta, Ga., this fall. Its largest yet, the new store will allow the launch of special sizes and the expansion of the contemporary category, which has been red hot.
Augusta fits the location demographic that has worked well for the specialty department store retailer. The family-owned operation began in 1917, with a flagship store encompassing a downtown city block in LaGrange, Ga. In 1985, Mansour’s began expanding into medium-sized markets, with populations between 200,000 and 400,000, adding locations in Columbus, Albany and Macon, Ga. The chain should reach 10 stores over the next six years.
Mansour’s has carved a niche for itself between the categories of specialty and department store. It has zeroed in on an upper-moderate to mid-better zone, and women’s accounts for 35 percent of sales.
Here’s how it works. With edited core department lines such as Liz Claiborne and Dana Buchman, Mansour’s is priced similarly to a department store and is equally as promotional, staging frequent sales. At the same time, its large offering of unique, smaller lines, such as City Girl and Howard Wolf, and attentive service gives its stores a specialty.
With amenities such as free gift wrap, free alterations on some purchases, a 90-day interest-free credit card, Mansour’s level of service and hospitality hearkens back to its small-town roots.
The new 65,000-square-foot store represents a step forward, however. It is expected to develop hot growth areas, with well-developed offerings in traditional, classic country, children’s, accessories and shoes. Management said the most exciting addition is the allocation of more space to the contemporary category.
“Contemporary dressing has really caught on in smaller towns, especially over the past year,” said Luke Mansour, general merchandise manager. Embellishment and capri pants have been well received, he said. In addition to Sigrid Olsen, Cynthia Max, Karen Kane and Flax, Mansour’s will add Laundry to its contemporary arsenal.
The Augusta store will also introduce special sizes to Mansour’s mix in a big way, with an 1,800-square-foot large-size section and a 1500-square-foot petite department.
Mansour’s recently hired a new buyer just for special sizes. The goal is to grow the business to a combined 20 percent of total sportswear. Petite sizes, although much in demand, present the biggest challenge in finding enough reliable resources that will actually ship product, management said.
“Our biggest challenge is finding a balance in our assortments,” said Mansour. “We have to be careful not to force any one look on a customer, and not go too far in any direction.”
Partially due to a late Easter and late deliveries, sales were flat for the first quarter of 2000. Mansour said the delivery and flow channel in the apparel industry is in a state of “disarray,” presenting constant delivery problems. Another challenge, he said, is predicting when the consumer is ready to buy.
With the addition of the fifth store, Mansour’s projects sales of $40 million for the year 2000.
A NOSE FOR CLOTHES SNIFFS OUT NEW YORK
Freda Greenbaum is a one-woman promotion machine.
Co-owner of A Nose for Clothes, she almost single-handedly plans two major in-store events a year, publishes a twice-yearly newsletter and holds numerous trunk shows, promotions and giveaways, including online events. With six Florida and two Atlanta locations, the better-to-bridge Miami-based chain follows trends, in wearable interpretations.
Her latest idea: to take 40 VIP customers, for a fee, to New York this fall. The trip is designed for fun and includes museums, restaurants and such, as well as visits to customers’ favorite designers, where they can place special orders.
“I’ll be like a camp counselor,” said Greenbaum of the trip. “Sometimes I think I’ve created a monster. We have to keep thinking up things that will top the last event.”
The recent April event, “Girls Night Out,” held in all eight stores, was a cross-marketer’s dream. Two Origins cosmetics representatives offered customers free makeovers every 20 minutes. Representatives from “Go Goddess,” a popular new board game designed to tap into women’s feelings, were on hand to play with customers; Greenbaum said she has sold more than 25 games in the store this spring. Customers could also register to win a vacation to the Greek Islands, offered by American Airlines; munch on gourmet goodies from local caterers and enjoy informal modeling.
Greenbaum donated 5 percent, around $3,000 of the event’s proceeds, to Mothers’ Voices, an AIDS education charity. In exchange for vacation packages, Greenbaum gives partners, such as American Airlines, Canyon Ranch or the Ritz Carlton resort in Cancun, Mexico, a mailing list of registered contestants.
“The key today is to make shopping fun,” she said. “Customers want to have a good time.”
Wendy Boyce, former special events director for Parisian, was named Saks Fifth Avenue Atlanta’s fashion and public relations director in March. She succeeds Susan Forehand, who retired after 20 years to start her own public relations and special-events consulting firm.
Boyce, a graduate of Auburn University fashion merchandizing school, was responsible for 14 Parisian stores. At Saks, she will work closely with the corporate office in marketing and events to cultivate Atlanta’s designer clientele. A new Carolina Herrera in-store boutique is opening this fall. Saks Inc., based in Birmingham, Ala., owns both Saks and Parisian.
Boyce said, in addition to designer areas, Saks will strengthen its focus to key bridge resources, such as Ellen Tracy and Dana Buchman.
Boyce orchestrated a May 1 fashion show and personal appearance by Dana Buchman and is planning a September Heart Association benefit luncheon featuring Linda Allard for Ellen Tracy.
Forehand, a prominent fixture on Atlanta’s fashion scene who brought the industry’s most famous designers to Atlanta and created some of the city’s best fashion events, is a hard act to follow. She was rewarded by Saks with the Outstanding Special Events award for two consecutive years.
Having worked closely for 20 years with designers, Forehand described her favorites — Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera and Hubert de Givenchy, as icons of professionalism and class. And you couldn’t beat Isaac Mizrahi for sheer entertainment value, she said.
NEW TREE VENUE FOR RICH’S
An Atlanta tradition, the Christmas lighting of the Great Tree by Rich’s, will move from Underground Atlanta to Lenox Square in Buckhead this year.
Rich’s decided on the move due to declining attendance at the 52-year-old event, which had been held at Underground Atlanta since 1991, the year Rich’s closed its downtown store.
Rich’s recently remodeled and enlarged the Lenox Square Men’s store, allowing structural improvements to support the tree. The tree lighting will kick off the Christmas shopping season on Thanksgiving night and include big-name entertainment, local choral groups, dancing elves and life-sized balloon figurines hanging off Rich’s rooftops. And of course, Santa Claus will arrive to coincide with the tree lighting.
Arnie Orlick, chairman of Rich’s/Lazarus/Goldsmith, said he expects the event will draw around 200,000 spectators, compared with 10,000 at previous lightings.