The sales associate who greeted us couldn't have been more exemplary with a cheerful smile and outfitted in his store's latest items, perfectly rolled jeans, a checked shirt and puffy, new down vest.
In the middle of June.
No matter how cute charming he looked, there was no escaping the idiocy of parading around in Winter outerwear before the first day of Summer, let alone Fall (and indoors, no less). But then, Burberry Brit just opened its doors a couple of weeks ago on Columbus Avenue, and with no leftover goods from previous seasons, it could only be stocked with current deliveries. What's current in June? Pre-Fall. So the store was stocked with flannel shirts, down jackets, woolly peacoats and plenty of cashmere sweaters. While there were certainly some seasonless items like jeans and polo shirts with logos (as Burberry's brands get sportier and more casual, they also get a lot more boring, it must be said), there was no sign of the linen shirts or other lightweight items that one would have more tempting on an 85° day.
It's the absurd conceit of the retail business. Every designer and retailer complains that they would rather sell wear-now clothes in season and that everyone is showing and shipping collections too early, but everyone continues on doing things the same way. Right now designers have just finished several weeks of showing press and buyers their resort and pre-spring lines which will arrive in stores at around the end of October, just when Fall weather starts kicking in. In Milan it's the middle of Men's Fashion Week for Spring 2011, just as Spring 2010 is being marked down in department stores.
Oddly enough, this is a problem that really seems to face only high end designers and retailers who are supposed to be leading the industry. Last week we were kindly invited to a Holiday/Resort press preview at Ann Taylor, a chain store we don't really pay that much attention to. We were, however, impressed by their lineup. Was there a hint of Lanvin or Chanel on the mannequins? Sure, but skillfully translated for Ann Taylor's customers, and the offerings often looked much more expensive than they actually would be when they hit the selling floor. What impressed us most was that the merchandise was exactly what one should see in stores in November and December: coats, sweaters cashmere scarves, sparkly crystal and ribbon jewelry and, yes, about 25% of the preview was devoted to lighter dressing for vacations or warm weather locations. The type of merchandise that Burberry is filling its stores with right now is pretty much what Ann Taylor plans to offer in about four months, when people will actually want to wear it.
Perhaps the celebrated luxury brands and stores might want to take a lesson from the mass market which appears to have a much better sense of what to offer customers at any particular time of year. As we left Ann Taylor, we were handed a gift bag that included one of the big sparkly necklaces that will be offered for the Holidays. For us, it was perfect timing to wear right now...maybe for Gay Pride?
Brit 160 Columbus Avenue between 67th & 68th Streets, Upper West Side