museums&MORE Fall 2008
Clothes Call

Vacations are all about comfort, fun and little indulgences. As a retailer, that’s something you can provide to every person who walks into your store, whether they buy a logo-embossed T-shirt, a simple engraved ring or a much-needed sun hat for the beach. Some customers are looking for something to replace what they forgot to pack; others are looking for something to commemorate the experience. Some want style and flair; others want eco-friendly and fair trade. While the products that sell best in any store will be based on the style of the shop itself, we asked several retailers and vendors to share their experiences.

Have you noticed any trends in resort wear and accessories?

Sherrie Santos
Caribbean Colors & Nostalgia

Clothing in general has gone much more casual. In the past, we specialized in fall dresses that could be casual or formal depending on the occasion. Now a longer length dress doesn’t sell at all and shorter dresses are often viewed as beach cover-ups. Styles and colors change every season. This year we have more sundresses and fewer capris.

We sell a large variety of quality T-shirts and the main criterion to be in our store is that they are funny! Our clothing is colorful, Caribbean-influenced and unique. As a resort store we don’t buy anything that suggests department store.” We buy a lot fewer bottoms and a lot more tops, T-shirts, sweaters and jackets. In the fall, the only clothing items we sell are fall sweaters and jackets.

Cassandra Woodhams
Vessel International

Location, current season and neighboring resorts will all have an effect on trends. Eco-friendly is huge right now, as is anything charity based. Items sold as a set need to be packaged together and show a value. Multi-packs, like small stud earrings sold in packs of four pairs in different colors, for example, sell well.

Many travelers want to make a memorable or “treat” purchase, so it is still a good idea to have some higher-end product offerings. Must-haves are silver jewelry, rings, charm-style and bangle bracelets and great earrings; scarves and wraps; and of course, sunglasses!

John Rudberg
T.R. McTaggart

T.R. McTaggart is doing well with ladies’ garments — tees, V-neck tees, ladies’ polar fleece and our new ladies’ full-zip French terry hoodie. It’s made in the USA and our buyers and customers like it a lot.

There are a variety of colors that are currently popular—anything red, cedar, paprika, cardinal blue, Carolina blue, stone blue, heather indigo, honey, pistachio, lime, tangerine, Texas orange, military green and prairie dust. The souvenir T-shirt is our No. 1 item. Even with gas as high as it is, people still want to go back home and show off where they’ve been.

Marc St. Pierre
Cool Jewels

Mood jewelry continues to be a top-performing category. We have expanded our line of color-changing pendants that react to body heat, to include icons that tie into specific attraction themes. Pandas, elephants and dragonflies are selling best at the zoos, while the sea turtle, dolphin and pirates are the best performers at the coastal resort areas. Shark Teeth and handmade fashion glass have been very strong in resorts this spring.

Renice Jones
Global Crafts

The trend that we’ve been focusing on with all of our products is “social consciousness.” Consumers are becoming very conscious of where their products come from, who makes them and what they’re made from.

In addition to being environmentally friendly, the products we sell are fair trade, which ensures that the craftspeople who make the products are paid fairly for their work. Purses from Mexico that are woven from candy wrappers are very popular, as are brightly colored striped bags made by a vocational school of young women with disabilities. They both make great beach bags.

What have you found to be the best way to display and merchandise theseproducts?

Focused theme merchandising has tremendous impact, and with the style of “nature friendly” being so well received, using the overall beauty of your resort is easy and inexpensive. Fresh clippings from your resort’s gardens are noticed and appreciated by your customers.

You could simply have “A night out on the town” or “A day at the beach,” with several outfits and coordinating accessories that could be worn on the outing. These should only be product fronts, not the entire product’s stock in the display area. Have staff available to show your customer where to find the items, or even offer a “personal shopper” if you are able to.

St. Pierre
We have found that floor displays usually offer the best return for our product. They take up a 14-inch footprint on the floor and usually provide the highest return per square foot. We also offer some compact counter displays themed with our best-selling categories. The matching jewelry header tags and display signs offer a nice look and generate great impulse sales.

Fair trade products and eco-friendly products can be difficult when integrated with products mass-produced in China. Depending on the marketing angle of the store, the products can be displayed with Producer Info Sheets that we provide, which tell the story of the person or group that makes the item.

All products have a tag that contains a condensed version of the Producer Info Sheet and information specific to the product. The marketing angle is strong with these products but the retailer, who knows his/her customers best, will have a much better idea of the level of social consciousness that should be stressed surrounding a particular product.

We do not sell packages or sets well. Often sets come boxed, which does not allow the customer to see individual pieces well and when you unbox them, it’s unclear that the items are a set. In clothing, I separately price items that are sets as well, since many people are not the same size top as bottom.

We’ve been encouraging our retailers to go broad and shallow — offer a wider range of designs, colors and styles but buy fewer of each. If a few designs start to check out, call and reorder and we’ll get the reorders out right away.

How can retailers decide what to carry?

Since most resorts are based on the location’s natural features or unique settings, retailers should just take some time to step back and look through the visitors’ “eyes.” Look for local events and festivals, interesting facts or local stories. Do they have themes that you can carry into a small display area?

If your resort has pre-planned activities for the guests, set up displays of product or items that are helpful or required for the event — anything from hiking/biking gear, clothing and accessories to formal evening events with shoes, jewelry and handbags. You could even give the display area a name that resembles the event for a fun and easy visitor reference.

People at resorts are on vacation and don’t necessarily want shopping to be an educational experience. We carry leather and bead sandals and one-size-fits-all African-style shirts that are great products for resort retailers and are very popular. Customers pick them out because they like the product. When they read the tag and find that the product is handmade in Kenya and the craftsperson was paid a fair price, it is a bonus.

Consumers are being overwhelmed with directives they should follow to help save the planet. Products that easily meet many of the socially conscious criteria are an easier sell — items like the flip-flop jewelry say eco-friendly, unique, handmade and fair trade. Our products carry tags that educate about the product and producer and make customers’ decisions easier.

The wearable mix is more geographic than anything; if the retailer is anywhere near the water and people are coming in from the city, daytime temps will drop 10 to 15 degrees (and even more at night), so you need to be prepared for those who didn’t pack well. And just because you’re in the south doesn’t mean you can’t sell fleece. If your customer base is vacationing from the north, you’ve got to remember that people up north will wear fleece nine months out of the year.

Rudberg also pointed out that the most important thing a retailer needs is a good apparel rep, as so many variables — colors, sizing, ink or thread colors— factor into buying decisions.

“The first buyer I met when I got into this business had been buying for her resort area family store for nearly 60 years at that point, so I asked her what her buying secret was,” Rudberg said. “She told me that she bought 65 percent of what she liked and 35 percent of what the sales rep told her to buy. Not a bad formula.””

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