Q: Mr. Pruitt, I read your posts and the monthly report that Blacks publishes. At this point in the retail recession, what are you focused on?
Steve Pruitt: First, thanks for reading our chatter. At Blacks we are now focused on two things:
1. The rebound we expect in the latter half of the spring/summer selling season.
2. How the changing sales patterns will affect the fall period.
In our world, we study a lot of data. We think of it as modeling data. We look for patterns in the data that point us into the future. Due to the pandemic this past year, the sales models must be realigned. What we thought would sell in early fall looks totally different from historical patterns.
These changes are affecting total sales and the balance of sales between departments and classes. One example is early selling, particularly among better-priced merchandise. It was not uncommon to have significant sell-throughs on fall coded merchandise in July and August. Our merchants were constantly requesting early deliveries. Now, the consumer has moved away from early fall coded merchandise. The customer is now looking for “buy now, wear now” in July and August. This trend increases turnover and requires a rethink about the amount of pure fall coded merchandise that needs to be purchased.
Another example is the shift from formal dressing to casual dressing. For many of our merchants, this is a challenge due to pricepoint changes. We are having to move open-to-buy (OTB) out of clothing departments and into sportswear looks. We are realigning class structures and reimagining what the marketing messages should be.
These changes are also affecting trunk show events. Many stores have done significant clothing (suit, sport coats) business in trunk shows. You do not get the same sales punch with sportswear events, particularly when you’re experiencing less traffic in general.
So, we are remodeling sales patterns, testing new ideas, and rethinking what it means to be a menswear merchant.
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