Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Chico’s sexes it up a little


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.

Friends, family and a note from the President (of


With retailers worried over the prospects for the holiday season (The Commerce Department said on Friday that retail sales slumped 2.8 percent in October — the largest decline since the department’s current methodology was adopted in 1992), they are expanding their definition of friends and family.

While “Friend & Family” sales used to be special events actually reserved for the friends and family members of a retailer’s employees, today it takes little more than an e-mail address to be considered a retailer’s friend.