Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Chico’s sexes it up a little

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phelpsWho says people have to dress frumpy or dowdy in a recession?

Apparently not Chico’s FAS.  The mature women’s chain, which operates Chico’s, White House/Black Market and Soma Intimates chains, has made major strides in making its merchandise more fashionable in the past year, and has been rewarded with stellar results in the third quarter and shares that are up eightfold in the last year.

The move towards trendier– dare we say, sexier – clothes helped sales this autumn  rise 13.3 percent and allowed the chain to win market share while rivals such as Talbots and Clearwater Coldwater Creek continued to struggle. (A year and a half ago, U.S. gold medalist Michael Phelps’ mother Debbie boasted that her Olympics’ wardrobe at the Beijing Games came from Chico’s.)

Chico’s took advantage of Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s glamorous “Fashion Night Out” this fall to open a store in Manhattan’s SoHo district. And last year, the chain won national attention in 2008 when First Lady Michelle Obama wore a dress from a White House/Black Market store during on an appearance on the talk show “The View.”

The firm is apparently not done with its makeover: it is planning to open about 40 new locations of its lingerie chain Soma Intimates in 2010 and offer more risqué items,  Chief Executive Officer David Dyer hinted on a call to analysts on Wednesday.

Spanking the recession blues

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thisone1Not even the winds of recession can keep women from spending money on Spanx, says Sara Blakely, the designer who dreamed up the slimming shapewear that counts Oprah among its loyal fans.  

“In a tough economy, Spanx sales go up,” Blakely told Reuters at the FEMMY Gala at Cipriani on Tuesday night, where she received the Innovation of the Year award from the Underfashion Club. 

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