The back-to-school blitz is around the corner — and the stakes are higher than ever. The season comes as there are growing fears among executives and analysts of “a double dip” recession. On top of that, weak consumer demand in May and June has created rising inventories and the potential of steeper markdowns in a reminder of the nightmare days of late 2008. Stores ranging from Macy’s to J.C. Penney to Wal-Mart by mid-July will begin to bombard families with b-t-s campaigns, and the agenda is robust, built around digital initiatives, celebrity tie-ins, price promotions and new merchandise they can call exclusive, as retailers scramble for market share amid consumer lethargy. For these retailers, b-t-s represents the second-biggest volume period of the year, behind only Christmas. “There seems to be a frantic quality out there,” said a chief executive officer of a major specialty chain, who requested anonymity. “Everyone is concerned about second-half comparisons. Everyone must battle for someone else’s business.” Store executives are seeking low-single-digit gains for the season and are prepared to face the worst, having kept inventories and expenses down. According to Mike Berry, director of industry research for MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, current spending trends suggest flat to moderate growth. “Until consumer confidence recovers, consumers will be cautious with discretionary spending,” Berry said, explaining that kids are waiting until school is in session to shop for apparel, and that retailers probably won’t see a bump in sales until September or October. But he added: “I don’t want to paint a bleak picture….Kids grow, even in a recession.” read more
Lindsay Lohan’s trip to the big house just might benefit her fledgling fashion house. The troubled actress, who burst into tears on Tuesday as she was sentenced to 90 days in jail because she violated terms of her probation for driving under the influence of drugs in 2007, is reaping a whirlwind of publicity as she tries to grow her 6126 apparel line — with handbags launching for holiday. The collection, which is to hit stores this month, has estimated annual sales of $3 million. “Lindsay has mind share right now, so people will be interested to see what the merchandise looks like,” said Jeff Vansinderen, a senior retail analyst at B. Riley & Co. “Times are tough right now in the retail environment and if I’m a retailer, I’m going to put the merchandise out there and try to sell it. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing,” he said. “At the end of the day it may not hurt, and it could even help sales in an ironic and twisted way. It would help if she is successful in her recovery and fans get behind her. Then she could use that to her benefit to promote the line.”read more
Cathy Horyn of the New York Times gives her take on Haute Couture, where it may be headed and why it's STILL kicking...
"Like perpetually dieting designers, haute couture is definitely shrinking before our eyes. Oh, don’t be fooled by the giant lion at Chanel, which, depending on how you look at these things, is either an example of Karl Lagerfeld’s brilliant stagecraft or an advertisement for a new Disney restaurant chain. Most of the remaining half-dozen or so houses that show haute couture scaled down their presentations this week: a nip here, a tuck there and a P.R. man explaining in a hushed tone that the designer wanted to “return to couture’s roots.” Which are what, exactly? The sets for the fall collections were less extravagant than in the past. Dior’s show in a tent behind the Musée Rodin was lovely, with an orange flower as the background, but 10 years ago the house took over a wing at Versailles. Givenchy skipped a show, and instead Riccardo Tisci put 10 outfits on forms, their beading and tiny skulls meant to invoke, in part, death. Why not just hang a sign on the door that says “Shut”? Unless you have been catching up on“Gossip Girl” reruns, national deficits and unemployment do not correlate with a couture dress that costs as much as a Harvard education. Couture is slipping off people’s radars faster than a U.F.O. And virtually all of the luxury companies, while their businesses have recovered, are focused on China and the hungry Chinese consumer." keep reading