Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

So long, suits

November 21, 2008

The financial crisis has hit sales of everything from cars to homes to lattes. Now women scared about the market, and maybe even their own jobs, are wearing the old standbys in their closets rather than splurging on new clothes for work. At least, that’s what’s happening over at AnnTaylor, which expects a bleak fourth quarter.
    
Ann Taylor, the company’s stores stocked with business and business casual clothing, is feeling the “significant impact the financial crisis is having on the professional working woman,” Chief Executive Kay Krill said during a conference call on Friday.
    
“Corporate headcount reductions and rising fears of future unemployment have made our client cut down or even cut out her spending all together,” Krill said.
 
Ann Taylor stores are seeing a “dramatic pull back” in items like suits and workplace separates, which represent about a third of the items in its stores.  Instead of buying a new suit, a shopper might just spruce up her wardrobe with a couple of tops. 
 
“I think it’s a different day and definitely she’s not interested in suits. I think that women want their wardrobe to work harder for them. They want it to be able to go to work and on the weekend and that’s what we’re seeing happening.”

Over at the more casual Ann Taylor LOFT stores (seen here) sweaters, dresses, denim and other casual items were the top sellers last quarter, while shoppers shyed away from “refined separates,” such as shoes, bags and jewelry.
 
One bright spot?  Cashmere, Krill said.  Apparently, when the going gets tough, women wrap themselves in a little bit of softness to cushion the blow.

(Reuters photo)

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