The bolder the better

by Harry Sheff

Retailers build off the momentum of colored denim for 2013.

Retailers are scouring the market to find newness in denim, and while changes like trimmer fits, dark washes and raw denim were essential parts of cleaning up, denim business has lacked trend direction ever since. So if you’re looking to brighten up an otherwise stagnant category, add some color! While colored denim is still only a small percent to total volume, it’s growing, and a viable trend. Color is king for 2013.

Chord Bezerra of Universal Gear, who has stores in New York and Washington, D.C., says, “We currently don’t have any colored denim in, but we are adding it for fall based on the success we’ve had with colored pants. The addition of ‘pop’ colors (red, orange, sky blue, teal) almost doubled our monthly sales in the category for the last two months! We see colored denim adding interest in the now-mature premium denim market.”

Farshad Arshid, owner of Standard in Atlanta, admits he was a little hesitant to bring in colored denim. “It didn’t have much staying power when it popped up a few years ago, but we’ve seen great product. We have noticed that customers are now open to trying new styles and fits, so we’re bringing it in for spring.” Arshid believes it can become a significant part of their denim business (which is now 20 percent to total volume), especially for spring/summer. He’s buying colors like rose and greenish blue but will also stock basics like grays and tans from brands like G-Star.

Colored denim was only in select Macy’s doors this spring, but will be a big idea for back to school. For 2013 they’ll show a broader scope of color, offering something new for the early adopters as well as guys who are just starting the experiment with it.

Some retailers admit that price is an issue. “Something trend-driven like colored denim needs to be reasonably priced, so the retail ticket must be a little bit lower than our average denim pricepoint ($100 to $130 retail),” says Arshid. Guys are willing to try something different if it’s not too expensive.” Jon Cotay of Akira in Chicago agrees. “Customers have reacted to colored denim, but we’re finding the premium pricepoint is too high for something that’s clearly a trend. To entice guys, we had offered a lower pricepoint. We’re selling various versions as low as $39.90.”

Also important is to offer a range of subtle and pop colors. Even if he’s not buying bold and bright, he may still want to try something less flashy. David Shelist, owner of The Denim Lounge in Chicago, confesses that while true colored denim hasn’t picked up for them, they have seen traction in shades of gray and olive. Whereas, at Atrium in New York and Miami, the bolder the better. Men’s buyer Alan Fernandez says, “Colored denim has been good as long as the color is right. We’re selling brights like red, as opposed to dull colors like burgundy. We’re finding success with brands like Scotch & Soda.”

How to build off this momentum for 2013? “The key is to offer fresh colors every couple of months,” says Bezerra. “These goods won’t have the same shelf-life as regular denim, but the upside is that customers should be more interested in keeping their colored denim in step with our seasonal color stories.”