Byline: Jean E. Palmieri, with contributions by Jessica Pallay, Brenda Lloyd, Adam Tschorn, Julie Vargo, Deb Pahl
NEW YORK -- Fresh deliveries -- whether for summer or early fall -- helped give a lift to Father's Day business in the Northeast. Top sellers included sportswear such as Lacoste shirts, sport coats to wear with premium denim, and unusual accessories such as watches and cufflinks.
'We had a terrific Father's Day,' said David Fisher, Bloomingdale's executive vice-president and general merchandise manager of men's wear. 'Men's led the store the first three weeks of June.'
Fisher said the store 'had a terrific sportswear month,' led by Polo, which was up in the mid-double digits, Theory (both sportswear and tailored), premium denim, sport coats and tailored clothing from Abboud, Boss, Z Zegna, Ted Baker and Hugo Boss Red Label. Pants from the same vendors also performed well. Accessories and leather goods from Emporio Armani, Tumi, Prada Sport, Gucci and Dunhill were top performers, and the iPod business was 'insane,' he said. 'And I can't even tell you how many Lacoste units we sold.
'The only thing that was difficult were shirts and ties,' Fisher said, adding that the trend definitely appears to be shifting from the traditional gifts.
He noted that new fall receipts were 'checking,' especially Armani and Hugo Boss sportswear. As a result, he said he was 'very upbeat' about fall. 'We've shed the less differentiated businesses to focus on things like Theory, Ted Baker and Hugo Boss, and they're taking root. I'm tickled to death.'
Kevin Morrissey, executive vice-president and GMM of men's for Macy's East, was also pleased with sales over the holiday. 'In the past it was always shirts and ties, but this year it was a sportswear Father's Day,' he said. And business was helped by the 'really hot spell' of weather that struck the Northeast in the weeks preceding Father's Day, Morrissey added.
Among the top performers were private-label knits from Alfani and Club Room, along with sportswear from the 'traditional collections guys' such as Polo, Lacoste and Nautica. 'This is really the year of the polo knit,' he said. 'That was the key item for us and the gift that people bought this year.'
Promotions were less this year than in the past, he said, noting that he's optimistic about fall. 'But it's so much about weather. We'll just have to see.'
Cody Kondo, senior vice-president and GMM of men's for Saks Fifth Avenue, said sportswear collections from Varvatos, Zegna and Armani were among the top sellers for Father's Day. Pre-fall deliveries in particular connected with customers. Also popular were Lacoste shirts and dress shirts from Brioni, Ike Behar, Hugo Boss, Zegna and Armani.
Neckwear from Charvet was a 'clear winner,' he added, along with Armani and Brioni. A monogramming event in the New York store, where customers could have 'I love you, Dad' printed on the lining, also helped boost tie sales.
Blazers from Hugo Boss to Kiton are 'having an incredible season,' Kondo said, along with Ralph Lauren Purple Label sportswear.
Kondo also said he's upbeat about the prospects for fall. 'Pre-deliveries are selling with velocity, which is a good prelude to the season. That's a good thing.'
'Business was very, very good,' reported Margaret Spaniolo, senior vice-president and GMM of men's wear for Bergdorf Goodman. 'Traffic really intensified the week before Father's Day, and the weekend was really strong.'
Helping to spur sales, she acknowledged, was the start of Bergdorf's biannual sale. Among the top sellers were watches and cufflinks, including a $3,500 diamond skull set from Deacon & Francis, an English vendor that also did well with other unusual styles. Also performing were Hermes watches and neckties from the newly opened Hermes boutique. The store is also experiencing good early fall selling in dress shirts from Etro, and clothing from Zegna and Brioni.
Another standout was a blue-and-white summer delivery from Ralph Lauren. 'A lot of collections don't do summer deliveries, but it's great for buy-now, wear-now. The customer is shopping more often and wants to see something new.'
The strong Father's Day business gave Spaniolo optimism about fall. 'We've had four seasons of incredible growth and I don't see that changing,' she said. 'We were pretty aggressive about fall and we're getting a good early read. So we're very encouraged and positive.'
She did admit, however, that some indicators 'give us concern,' most notably the rising euro. 'There was a price increase for spring and another lofty one for fall. So that's the number-one thing that concerns me. But so far we haven't seen any resistance.'
Lou Amendola, vice-president of merchandising for Brooks Brothers, said this Father's Day was the strongest in at least three years. Traditionally, sales come one to two days before, but this year business was strong for at least two weeks prior to the holiday, he said. 'I was a little nervous because last year was strong, but we were up in the double digits,' Amendola reported.
Among the top sellers were dress shirts, which were up in the double digits, along with sportswear. Specifically, seersucker and madras shirts and fancy knits were strong, along with shorts. The only area that lagged behind was suits, he said.
Nevertheless, Amendola believes fall will be strong. 'Spring was good and the Father's Day boost was even better than the trend, so all signs look favorable. Our inventories are low and lean, so all the customer will be able to buy will be fall.'
Dads opening Father's Day gifts from Barneys New York likely received accessories, said Tom Kalenderian, executive vice-president and GMM of men's wear. Leather goods, both small and large, had strong sales, as did Barneys' vintage collection of cufflinks.
Neckwear also flew off the floor, he continued, thanks to a necktie-only mailer that replaced the traditional multi-classification Father's Day catalog this year. The mailer used an interactive presentation, Kalenderian explained, with tear-out pages to enable shoppers to mix and match ties to shirts. 'For the week leading into Father's Day, tie sales grew dramatically, and prior to that, they were not on a growth spurt,' he said, adding that the catalog items sold out. 'We've never done a tie mailer before, but it was a very successful venue and we will repeat it in the future.'
Kalenderian was surprised by a lesser interest in dress shirts. Also making a poor showing were belts, which had been strong all season.
By contrast, Barneys' sportswear business performed particularly well, due to a variety of new deliveries arriving just before the holiday. He singled out knitwear and sport shirts from Malo and Zegna as drivers, and also noted 'a nice spike' in his cashmere business. 'It's not where you would have assumed Father's Day business would go -- off the main floor,' he said, 'but the delivery was the key. We're buying more lines that offer a Father's Day delivery, and that's working for us.'
-- JEAN E. PALMIERI, with contributions by JESSICA PALLAY
ATLANTA -- With color and refined, dressier apparel driving sales, Southeastern men's wear retailers deemed Father's Day a success.
As Toni Browning, president and chief executive officer of the Proffitt's/McRae's division of Saks Incorporated, Alcoa, Tenn., said, 'Traditional and basics did not drive Father's Day this year. Color drove everything, and dress-up in finished, refined looks, continues to be good.'
Best sellers included polo knit shirts in a myriad of colors, colorful dress shirts and neckwear, short-sleeved woven shirts, and casual and dress pants. Retailers also said inventories are in good shape, which kept markdowns in line and helped margins and profitability.
Jeff Useforge, senior vice-president and GMM for men's, Proffitt's/ McRae's, said his best sellers were polo knits; moderate collections, especially Chaps, Columbia Sportswear and the private brand Consensus; casual pants by Dockers and Savane, and dress trousers by Claiborne Menswear. Sport coats, patterned bottoms, dress shirts and ties also sold. Green was the leading color in shirts and ties, followed by pink and orange.
Browning said Bernhard Altmann Attitude, made for the Saks Department Store Group by Neema, has sold exceptionally well. The big loser was shorts. Browning said special purchases, including a pocket tool that hooks on a keychain, helped bring in customers. 'We did not have to drive Father's Day through POS markdowns,' she said. She added that that business started 10 days out.
Steve Scott, president of Great Scott, Jackson, Miss., also found that Father's Day sales started 10 days out, rather than just on the weekend. His best sellers included Art of Shaving, long pants and shorts from Bills Khakis, Colonel Littleton leather-front pocket wallets and cell phone cases, and short-sleeved woven shirts by Scott Barber, Nat Nast, Zegna and Robert Talbott. 'Color was definitely big this spring from neckwear to wovens and knits,' he said.
Scott said sales for the Father's Day week were up 18 percent, and he took no markdowns.
Robert Goodfriend, chairman and CEO of Goody's Family Clothing, Knoxville, Tenn., said his men's sales were flat to slightly up, and Friday and Saturday were the biggest days. Polo shirts were the top sellers, followed by shorts in pleated, flat and cargo styles, T-shirts, swimsuits and dress-shirt-and-tie boxed sets. In young men's, top sellers were cargo shorts, polo knits and T-shirts.
Goodfriend said margins were slightly up in men's year-over-year, and that inventories are in good shape.
Larry Davidson, president of Davidsons, Roanoke, Va., said his two existing stores had flat sales versus last year, but that a new 1,400-square-foot store that opened at Smith Mountain Lake in May has exceeded expectations. And color is the spark. 'We've had to reorder linen in trousers and shorts -- the colors are bringing people right to it,' he said. Other best sellers are Tommy Bahama, Paul & Shark woven shirts, colorful silk belts, and seersucker suits, shorts and slacks.
David Rubenstein, president of Rubenstein's, New Orleans, was pleased with Father's Day. 'Business was phenomenal but it was Friday and Saturday -- last minute,' he said. Sales rose 8 percent for the week, bumping June sales up 3 to 5 percent for the month to date. He also had fewer markdowns than a year ago because inventories are a little lower, he said.
His best sellers included linen pants and shirts, and Oxxford and Zegna suits and sport coats.
-- BRENDA LLOYD
LOS ANGELES -- Retailers on the West Coast were pleased with Father's Day business, noting strength in a variety of categories.
'Father's Day business was good -- ahead of last year and ahead of plan,' said Paul Fitzpatrick, executive vice-president and GMM of men's and children's wear at San Francisco-based Macy's West.
He cited collection sportswear as a top-performing category, with some strength in clothing as well. Popular brands leading into Dad's Day included I.N.C., Calvin Klein, Tommy Bahama, Polo, Claiborne, Lacoste and Tasso Elba. He said the weaker businesses were young men's and dress shirts. 'Overall [our] business is slightly better than the season-to-date trend, and we think that business can continue into fall.'
Scott Manson, GMM of men's for the Fresno, Calif.-based Gottschalks, was similarly upbeat about 2005's business. 'We're running slightly ahead of 2004 -- Father's Day week wasn't as strong as we'd anticipated, but we we're up 5 percent the previous week over last year. I'm pretty optimistic for the rest of the year, brands are strategized well and I think we've got a good fashion cycle going with this whole denim statement.' Manson singled out denim, outdoor and weekend wear as projected strong performers for the remainder of the year, mirroring the performance running up to Father's Day.
'We did a very strong Columbia and Woolrich business in the outdoor arena. Izod was outstanding, Perry Ellis was popular and our distressed denim category is performing well. The Caribbean Joe line had a strong Father's Day,' he said. Manson also noted that Hawaiian shirts -- 'not necessarily aloha shirts but ones with a more gentlemanly feel' -- were movers, as were silk shirts. Manson also saw strength in the dressier side of men's -- shirts, ties and suit separates, with one unexpected soft spot. 'The whole colored stripes thing wasn't as good as we'd anticipated,' he noted.
'As far as we're concerned, the striped shirt is pretty much ancient history,' said Butch Blum, co-owner of the two Seattle-based stores that bear his name. 'We've noticed that for a few months now.' Instead, Father's Day found Blum moving some of his early fall dress shirts, especially Zegna. 'But in terms of classifications, woven sport shirts were the best category for Father's Day.' He also noted an earlier-than-usual interest in leather, especially lightweight pieces. In addition, outerwear remains strong, and Blum said he's noticed a 'pretty significant drop-off' in casual trousers and bottoms in general (even in the popular five-pocket arena), as focus has stayed on tops.
Blum reported sales for Father's Day week up 26 percent over the same period last year. 'I hope it bodes well [for the rest of the year].'
Scott Norris, GMM of The Men's Wearhouse, said the company was 'happy with the way things are going and we're hopeful for fall.' He said flat-front, side-vent suits had been successful leading up to Father's Day, along with suit separates and sport coats. 'We have some washed-silk coats that have been particularly strong,' he said. 'Our woven sportswear business is good,' adding that the downturn in the stripes felt by other retailers had not reached MW. 'Our total woven business has been good and the knit business has also made a slight comeback.' Norris said sportswear's popular colors included 'brick and variations of blue.'
The color palette was considerably wider at Sy Devore Menswear in Studio City, Calif. 'It's been pink, mint [green], a little yellow, lots of blue, red and purple,' said vice-president Danny Marsh. 'For dress shirts it's been any strong, saturated color -- Thomas Pink-colored pinks and peaches have been phenomenal.'
Sy Devore's sales in the run up to Father's Day also ran counter to the trend toward dressier fare. 'It was jeans and T-shirts,' said Marsh, though T-shirts in the $80 to $100 range from Ed Hardy Tattoo Wear, Kowboys, Trunk Ltd. and James Perse also did well. 'In jeans it was True Religion, 7 For All Mankind and a little bit of Agave. I couldn't get True and 7 in fast enough.' He's also sold 'a ton of sport coats' in the $500 to $1,000 range, 'especially denim-inspired sport coats, the kind that can be paired with the T-shirt and jeans,' he said. Dress shirts and neckwear having been selling well, while woven sport shirts have slowed.
For the year to date, he's pleased. 'We haven't had our usual spring sale yet and we're up 32 percent for the year.' Though he thinks it is unlikely that level will continue for the remainder of 2005, 'I think we'll see sales at 15, 18 or even 20 percent over last year.'
-- ADAM TSCHORN
DALLAS -- The saying 'everything old is new again'definitely applies to Father's Day in the Southwest as the necktie -- that proverbial FD standby -- charged back onto the forefront as the must-give gift.
'Ties are back,' observed Clark McNaught, divisional vice-president and DMM of men's accessories and furnishings for J.C. Penney. 'They are now trend-right, and as such, make great gifts for dads that are trying to update their wardrobe. Our tie sales for Father's Day were very strong -- in fact, stronger than last year.'
In addition, dad unwrapped a slew of sportswear, bolstering the bottom line of both department and specialty stores in the Southwest.
Overall, sales were strong at Plano, Texas-based Penney's. 'Father's Day sales were strong, led by sportswear for the first time in a couple of years,' said McNaught. 'Father's Day is a very important gift-giving period for J.C. Penney. It helps us to continue to connect emotionally with our customers, both male and female, through the gifting process, and Father's Day gives us a way to test new ideas for other gift-giving holidays.'
Customers also scooped up snappy neckwear at specialty retailers. 'The tie came on strong this season, as did our socks and woven shirts,' said Kory Helfman of Ken's Man's Shop, a men's specialty store in tony north Dallas. 'We had a great clothing season as well, and we are going into our sale with the lowest inventory ever.'
Although ties, shirts and socks -- particularly those from Ovadafut -- held their own, Father's Day for Helfman's customers was more outfit-driven than item-oriented. 'We had ladies coming into the store buying the whole look -- shorts, sandals, a great belt and a polo shirt, or jeans, belt and great woven shirt -- something their husbands might not normally buy themselves.'
Bucking the tie-as-top-gift trend, was Paul Rainwater, owner of Rainwater's Clothing in Fort Smith, Ark. 'We sold a lot of Tommy Bahama and those type of tropical silk looks,' the retailer said. 'We also did great business in T-shirts, resortwear and summer styles,' said Rainwater, whose business is up 8 to 9 percent year-to-date. 'We have found that if a family is buying one item for a Father's Day gift this year, it was usually a sport shirt. We even had one gentleman buy five $110 shirts to go on vacation.'
Rainwater has also seen strong sales in Jack of Spades stretch jeans for men. 'These jeans retail at $120 and we fly through them,' he said. 'This is our 31st year in business. We've been a traditional dress clothing store, but we are realizing we have to keep up with the times, and our customer is really responding to items like these.'
-- JULIE VARGO
CHICAGO -- It used to be a man could expect to get at least one tie for Father's Day. Not anymore. In fact, apparel in general seems to be on the downswing as sporting good retailers and home stores make strong inroads when it comes to the ideal gift for dad.
'Frankly, Father's Day isn't what it used to be,' said Rick Stern, owner of Straus Clothing Co., Fargo, N.D. 'Sporting goods and hardware stores are the places to go.'
To counteract this, retailers across the Midwest looked to promotional events to help draw customers. Stern even turned to a rather unexpected market -- kids 12 and under. 'We actually brought back a promotion, our `Draw Your Dad' contest. Kids brought in pictures they drew of their dad and we had an artist judge them. First place was a $100 gift certificate,' he said. 'Plus we sent everyone who entered an honorable-mention $10 gift certificate. We'll see if it translates into future sales.'
Another store choosing to go the promotional route was Harleys in Milwaukee. The store joined forces with the Italian Trade Commission for a three-day event that highlighted Italian manufacturers and drew customers into the store with an appetizing mix of Italian food, wine and pastries.
'Our `Italian Dressing' event really helped stimulate traffic -- we had a very active Father's Day week,' said Tim Ryan, owner of Harleys. 'Plus, weather has been a benefit. We had a very cool spring, but June's been warmer than average, so it compressed the season. We saw a lot of pent-up shoppers who were out there ready to spend.'
Sportswear led the way, with knits and patterned shirts popular among gift-givers. The first taste of true summer temperatures also brought out the demand for shorts.
'Tops from Gran Sasso were strong and Jhane Barnes did well across the board,' said Ryan. 'And color was important. We have a bright, citrusy color palette that's been popular with our customers. And most men look good in bright colors, so why shouldn't they embrace it?'
Straus also saw its Father's Day sales dominated by sportswear, at least for those on the giving end. Men shopping for themselves gravitated toward jackets.
'Cutter & Buck knit shirts and patterned cotton shirts did well. And Tommy Bahama is always good for us,' said Stern. 'On the non-gift side, we did really well with silk sport coats by Neema. And an unconstructed cotton blazer from Tulliano has been great for us. We've already had several reorders on it.'
John Lindley, owner of Lindley Clothing Stores in Omaha, Neb, also saw strong sportswear sales, even while steering clear of promotions. 'We don't usually get promotional until the beginning of July. We'd rather advertise the things we offer -- like free gift wrap and tailoring,' he said. 'People seem to appreciate the extras.'
-- DEB PAHL
Caption(s): Barneys' neckwear mailer increased tie sales for the specialty store. / Neckwear photo from BARNEYS NEW YORK, other photos courtesy of BLOOMINGDALE'S / Theory sport coats to wear with premium jeans found fans at Bloomingdale's. / The popularity of the iPod did not seem to negatively affect apparel sales. / Lacoste knits were popular around the country.