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Apparel Retailers In Holiday Struggle With Lack Of Fashion Trends

John Seward

Grappling with a continued lack of fashion trends, department stores desperate to spark holiday apparel sales are reduced to banking on tee-shirts and jeans, according to a report by TheStreet.com.

"Department stores are banking on a couple key fashion trends as well as improved in-store presentation," according to Brian Sozzi's report, based on interviews with managers at Macy's, Inc. (NYSE: M) and J C Penney Company Inc (NYSE: JCP).

Managers touted the "key trends" with their latest line-ups of denim jeans and tee-shirts emblazoned with various slogans, plus lumberjack shirts.

Related Link: Deloitte: Holiday Sales Will Rise As Much As 4.5%, Shopping Malls Still Relevant

But the larger problem was highlighted earlier this year in a Womens Wear Daily column by its founder John Fairchild.

Writing under the pseudonym Louise J. Esterhazy -- a fictional Austrian countess -- the 87-year-old Fairchild declared fashion all but dead.

"Let's be frank...the word "trend" has had it," Fairchild wrote. "There are no trends. The word 'elegant' is passé. So are all those other fashion words — chic, hot, smart, fashionable. Forget it. They are as passé as passé."

The problem was highlighted more recently by Steven Madden, Ltd. (NASDAQ: SHOO) Chief Executive Edward R. Rosenfeld, who blamed a third-quarter same-store sales decline of 7.4 percent on a "lack of significant fashion trends."

Jeans may seem an odd choice for department store merchandisers to tout at the outset of the holiday shopping season. VF Corp (NYSE: VFC) recently posted a third-quarter revenue decline for its Lee brand in the Americas region "in the low double digits." Its Wrangler brand gained "in the low single digits."

Macy's expects full-year same-store sales growth of 1.5 percent to 2 percent; J C Penny sees full-year same-store sales growth "in the mid single-digits."

Both may offer a fourth-quarter outlook on November 12 when they're expected to post third-quarter results.

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