Blog: Leonie BarrieNew Year, same old issues

Leonie Barrie | 9 January 2012

Welcome to a new year here at just-style...and one that has resumed with the same old questions over the state of the US apparel retail market. The all-important December sales results released last week shed some light on Christmas trading, with upscale and value-focused retailers the bright spots in a sector that saw weak-to-modest growth overall.

According to one index, same-store sales growth levelled out at 3.6% in December, up modestly from the 3.2% gain the year before, helped by good weather in most parts of the country, and a last-minute rush by bargain hunters. But the holiday results are seen as indicative of trends likely to continue into the New Year.

One of the year's first casualties of poor holiday sales is US department store retailer Sears, which intends to close up to 120 shops after booking a 5.2% decline in comparable quarter-to-date sales - including lower apparel sales at its Kmart stores. It also said it intends to focus on its better performing stores going forward.

And Liz Claiborne Inc has stepped into 2012 with a new name following the sale of its Liz Claiborne brands late last year. The company is rebranding as Fifth & Pacific Companies as it focuses on growing its three global lifestyle brands: Juicy Couture, Kate Spade and Lucky Brand. The change is due to come into effect in May, and reflects the company's reach from New York to global markets.

There has also been the traditional New Year business shuffle on the other side of the Atlantic, with the collapse of UK denim retailer D2 Jeans, and a move by troubled lingerie retailer La Senza to close more than half of its UK stores. And more than 1,600 people have lost their jobs after administrators failed to find a buyer for the Barratts Priceless footwear concessions business.

The UK's largest outdoor clothing and equipment retailer, Blacks Leisure Group, also said it will go into administration as part of plans to sell the business. The so-called pre-pack arrangement allows potential buyers to cherry-pick the company's best assets, but leave its costly distribution warehouse and head office, as well as shed unwanted shops from its 300-store estate.


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