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Weather or Not

Will record cold and snow finally convince the retail commmunity to shift its calendar?
Walking past the Bloomingdale’s windows one weekend in February, a beautiful Diane …

Will record cold and snow finally convince the retail commmunity to shift its calendar?

Walking past the Bloomingdale’s windows one weekend in February, a beautiful Diane von Furstenberg dress caught my eye. Then I looked down at the sidewalk, still covered in slushy snow, and at my leather boots, coated in a filmy layer of sidewalk salt, and I laughed aloud. There would be no pastel sundresses in my immediate future.

All I wanted in the midst of our very brutal winter was another hat to replace the one I lost, and perhaps one of the sleek new puffer coats the kids were sporting on the runways at Pitti Immagine Bimbo this year. (For a full breakdown of the fashion trends across the pond, read our European Report on p. 46.) Oh, and an all-expenses-paid Caribbean getaway. Is that so much to ask for?

Yet Bloomingdale’s was selling a sleek new sundress. Meanwhile, snow boots were in scarce supply at local stores, as shoppers scrambled to cope with the second snowiest February on record for New York City. Even more inexplicably, many of the remaining boots were on sale! This winter it seemed somewhat absurd that the retail industry continues to unveil spring merchandise in the height of winter, with markdowns following shortly thereafter—especially since so many shoppers nowadays seek immediate gratification from their purchases.

It’s even a challenge in the children’s industry, where many retailers admit spring merchandise is lingering on shelves a bit longer than usual this year. “It’s moving, but it’s moving relatively slowly,” says Simone Oettinger, owner of Maya Papaya & Tony Macarony in Evanston, IL. “On the other hand, I didn’t mark down my winter stuff as much as I would have if people were buying lots of spring stuff,” she adds.

What’s a small shop to do? If Bloomingdale’s is tempting shoppers with sundresses in February, independent retailers certainly can’t wait for the weather to warm up before stocking up on shorts and tees. But wouldn’t it make more sense for the industry at large—even the big dogs—to give it a month or two before springing spring merchandise on winter-weary consumers? Less markdowns! More sales! Who’s with me?

Let’s start a campaign—with our headquarters in the Caribbean, please.

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