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Dress business: a scorcher in the South. web site easrer dresses

WWD June 6, 1995 | Lee, Georgia; Wiliamson, Rusty NEW YORK — The South has come through for the dress market, which has been feeling the pinch of sagging sales in many other parts of the country.

Spring dress sales from Atlanta to Dallas were on fire, registering gains of more than 10 percent for most retailers. Some stores even claimed hikes as high as 50 percent for the season.

Here, a spot check of hot looks and labels at Southern retailers.

Sheila Kamensky, vice president of fashion merchandising, Rich’s, Atlanta: Casual looks like denim and gingham, and A-line or Empire styles were top sellers; career customers responded strongly to pastels. Better-priced goods outpaced moderate.

Key resources: Constance Saunders, Chetta B and Tahari in bridge; Donna Ricco, Maggy London and Carole Little in better; Laundry in contemporary.

Herman Heinle, vice president and divisional merchandise manager, Jacobson Stores, Winter Park, Fla.: Dress sales increased 8 percent on the strength of “newness, more consumer interest and a resurgence in color. Our buyers say dresses were the best they’ve been in years.” Special-occasion dress business doubled that of a year ago. Soft chiffons and pastels sold well in mother-of-the-bride.

Longer lengths, column dresses, fit-and-flare, thermal fabrics, mixed- fabric jumpers and gingham dresses were other strong performers.

Key resources: Barbara Lesser, DW3 and mixed prints and retro looks from Carole Little and Carol Anderson.

Arlene Goldstein, fashion director, Parisian, Birmingham, Ala.: Weekend and casual workplace dresses were “phenomenal.” Relaxed knits and column dresses were bestsellers, along with dresses from sportswear collections. Denim and long silhouettes were also hot.

Key resources: Liz Now, Susan Bristol, Max Studio, Laundry, DW3 and Cynthia Rowley.

Gemma Taylor, vice president, Isaacson’s, Atlanta: Color and femininity have been the keys driving spring dress sales ahead 50 percent.

Bestsellers include soft slip-dresses over chiffon T-shirts by Philosophy di Alberta Feretti, A-line linens with cut-out detail hems and a soft floral chiffon dress with cap sleeves.

Mark McMahon, merchandise manager, J.C. Penney Co., Plano, Tex.: The Southeast is the chain’s strongest dress region. While spring business was slightly below plan, it was ahead of last year by about 4 or 5 percent.

“In general, the dress business is soft. We had a higher rate of cancellations than last year and were understocked through Mother’s Day week,” he said.

Bestsellers were columns, rompers, skorts, pantsuits and dresses in denim. Lengths were slightly longer — at or below the knee. website easrer dresses

Key resources: Karin Stevens, Dani Max, Danny and Nicole and Plaza South.

Mark Shulman, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, Specialty Retailers Inc., Houston: Sales of misses’ dresses surged 35 percent against last year, and junior rose 19 percent. The gains came at the expense of sportswear sales. Jewel-tone brights in various lengths were the stars, and $70 was a magic price.

Key resources: Kasper, Positive Attitude and Jeffrey and Dara.

Liz Tippens, vice president and divisional merchandise manager, Neiman Marcus, Dallas: Dress sales were especially strong in the South, and in Southern California, Texas and Washington, and checked faster than last year.

Cotton pique and contemporary business were stronger this year. Bare and short sold early and kept momentum. This year, larger florals were hot, while last year it was tiny prints. Denim and sheer looks were strong.

Bestsellers included ABS’s black stretch ottoman short-sleeved top and skirt, with more than 1,000 pieces sold at $180 to $225; a long red, black or ivory rayon crepe column from Rex Lester, a Neiman’s exclusive, sold nearly 1,000 units in short and long versions.

Other key resources: Laundry, Andrea Jovine, Isabel Ardee and Cynthia Rowley.

Bill Dodson, president of Lilly Dodson, Dallas: The two-piece dress and dresses with shine were the spring stars. The category was up 20 percent.

Bestsellers included Rena Lange’s navy wool crepe dress, five of which sold at $1,380; Escada’s pink wool gabardine sleeveless dress with short jacket, 10 of which sold at $2,085, and Kathryn Dianos’s black and white cotton ottoman dress with fitted bodice, A-line skirt and matching bolero, selling seven at $980.

Lee, Georgia; Wiliamson, Rusty


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