by Steve Pruitt

Q: What do the holiday sales numbers say about demand as we start the New Year?

Steve Pruitt: It’s a bit early to know the whole story. National figures show that sales were up 5 percent over last year, but conversations with our menswear clients hint that the season (particularly December) wasn’t so merry. This is because the overall figures are primarily reflective of big-box chains, discount retailers, and e-commerce distribution.

As we head into January, we are facing a few challenges, the first of which is that January had five weeks last year, and only four this year due to the 4-5-4 calendar adjustment that were made last year. This will of course impact year-over-year comparisons.

Also, keep in mind that we are going against a strong early spring/summer 2018 performance. We also need to be on the lookout for early or late spring weather, which may move seasonal shopping patterns.

There are a lot of question marks, but overall our advice is to hold steady. By this time, you have a well thought out plan for the spring/summer selling season. Be prepared to adjust if the trends move either up or down. Keep in contact with your major vendors, and leave the door open for opportunities to buy back good sellers, and swap out slower performers.

As far as next fall is concerned, you need product newness while being conservative with the total buy. This will require a close review of your vendor performance.

At Blacks, we believe that the opportunities in the next year will come from tight collections of unique merchandise, with an emphasis on fantastic product storytelling. Said another way, the next season is a selling opportunity, so ask your team how you can sell smarter.

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