October 20, 2005

US retailers put new color in sluggish sales

By Dawn Kissi

NEW YORK (Reuters) - With the vital holiday shopping season
right around the corner, U.S. retailers are finding they'll
need a lot of blues and browns if they want to make a lot of

After a mostly disappointing back-to-school season,
retailers are betting that typically muted autumn tones will be
key to jump-starting their sales during the last quarter of

For the last few seasons, pink has held strong as the
must-have color, but this fall it appears to have been
relegated mainly to cosmetics counters.

"It seems now that women, in particular, have already
incorporated enough pink in their wardrobes," said Linda
DeFranco, women's wear trend forecaster with Cotton Inc. "Pink
was a must for many seasons, but now it's more of an accessory

So far this year, retailers are returning to the more
traditional shades of autumn.

According to Leatrice Eiseman, color psychologist and
director of the PANTONE color institute, darker hues -- blues
and browns in particular -- will be what's hot this season.

"After querying designers and compiling our statistical
analysis, we know what direction people are leaning in this
season," Eiseman said. "And with retailers more and more in
tune to what their customers need, there is a deliberate
attempt to get certain colors into stores."

Her best bets for fall and winter, backed up by PANTONE
research, include "Moroccan Blue" -- a deep teal -- and "Glazed
Ginger" -- a warm brown with orange undertones.

Eiseman does not see combining these winning colors as too
much of a good thing.

"Putting these two together is really a spectacular
combination," Eiseman said. "We saw a lot of it on the runways
last season and designers seem to love it."

The right color scheme and merchandising is imperative to
sales, says DeFranco.

"As a whole, retailers should focus on color first,"
DeFranco said. "It's important certain colors are placed
together. You want them to be showed off to their best

DeFranco also notes that this season's colors have a more
polished, sophisticated look.

"The mood isn't necessarily darker, just the colors. Deeper
shades, like a cranberry rather than pink, are what's in right


Fall merchandise began arriving in some stores as early as
July. But a warm fall and high gasoline prices have slowed
sales and left some retailers overstocked as they head into the

Fall colors such as glazed ginger, olive and cranberry
coupled with the season's velvet and denim styles are selling
well for some retailers.

J.C. Penney Co. is one retailer that has hit the mark so
far this season. Deutsche Bank retail analyst Bill Dreher said
that despite the unseasonably warm fall and other negatives,
the company posted above-average sales with stylish but
affordable clothing lines.

"(J.C. Penney) seems to really understand where the fashion
trend is," Dreher said. "Their fashion offering is very strong,
especially with the expansion of the Bisou Bisou line. They are
on trend and at a great price."

Makeup is keeping up with the color trend.

MAC Cosmetics, owned by the Estee Lauder Cos., this month
is launching a new color palette for eyes, lips, cheeks and
nails with rich shades of deep plum and pearled pink. Dubbed
"Ornamentalism" the glittery, exotic collection is expected to
do well during holiday festivities.

"Our top seller so far this fall has been a four-color
palette with the deep colors," said Luc Bouchard, senior
make-up artist for MAC. "We noticed the demand during Fashion
Week and it's what's selling out now."

Retailers are keen to mimic what comes down fashion
runways, says Eiseman.

"It's to their benefit that they keep with trends in
colors," she said. "These days, many don't rely on the old
favorites. New shades on certain fabrics like suede and velvet
can do very well."

A busy Sunday afternoon in the gypsy-chic Nanette Lepore
couture shop at Bloomingdale's New York City flagship store
affirms this. "The big colors have been the deep cranberry,
chocolate browns and greens," sales associate Keith Franklin