Early Spring in retail-land makes for good winter deals

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February 21, 2005 // UPDATED 1:52 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Joe Widmer
Joe Widmer

Think 'classic' for winter closeouts, but expect a bold, sassy spring (at least fashion-wise)

Many Downtown clothing stores are shedding remaining winter duds to clear the racks for a springtime spread of whites, bright colors and floral prints.

While many of the incredible post-holiday clearance sales are over, there are still winter deals to be had. And while you duck in from the lingering cold to search for clearance treasures, you can be first to peek at the new spring lines.

Goodbye, Old Man Winter

Stores are wrapping-up clearance sales - last season's inventory is priced to move.

Many stores' sales this time of year range from 50 to even 70 percent off original prices - some retailers are practically giving away leftover hats, scarves, sweaters and coats. (See sidebar on page 9 for example deals.)

These truly are the leftover goods - items that didn't move during the incredible postholiday markdowns. Shoppers who wait this long usually face a smaller selection but are rewarded with the biggest savings.

Brad Sherman, vice president of Hubert White, said the weather itself sometimes drives people into the 747 Nicollet Mall store, and straight into a good deal. "There's going to be a cold day, and somebody's going to pop-in and see these coats at 50 percent off," he said.

Sherman personally shops for winter-wear around this time of year. He said it's not uncommon for stores to continue to mark clothes down to the point where they're losing money on them, simply because they must clear the racks for the spring lineup.

However, he also admits that he has an edge over the average shopper. He recently returned from New York City, where he was buying his store's 2005 fall/holiday lineup - he knows what will remain in style.

Since not everyone has access to such information, Nieman Marcus Public Relations Manager Catherine Nelson suggests shoppers focus on structure and quality when it comes to last season's items, and avoid clothing that was "hot" or overdone.

Although sales are good, Nelson said shoppers should also "ask themselves why it's on the sale rack." She suggested searching for a great deal or two instead of squirreling away last year's duds: "I'd be leery of stocking-up on sale merchandise."

A spring peek

Store managers said they're hopeful that increased consumer confidence in the economy will make this year's spring season stronger than the slow start seen last year. They also have faith in the popularity of a bold spring lineup.

Although the "classics," such as black and navy blue suits, tend to carry men's clothing retailers through hard times like the last several years, Manager Alan Witebsky of Nate's Clothing Company said he and others in the business are "all hoping it's going to be the death of black."

Many Downtown clothiers are showing vibrant new spring clothes, or at least lightening up a bit. "We have a lot more tans, light browns and lighter shades of gray," Witebsky said. He added that the new spring suits also feature a more open, relaxed look -featuring side vents and two-button jackets.

Men can also expect a few trend repeats from last year's spring season - namely pinks and stripes, Witebsky said.

Women as well can expect to see some reincarnations of last year's trends. Retailers will again be filling clothing shelves with bright colors, fashionable whites, prints and warm tones.

Nelson said customers can expect Nieman Marcus to carry even bolder looks as well. Think exotic-print dresses, white on everything head-to-toe and an emphasis on "big" - from full skirts and dresses to oversized sunglasses and stackable plastic, metal and wood bangles.

Does the early bird get the deal?

Shoppers eager to purchase a new spring look don't need to wait to see what people are wearing before they buy. Many retailers take their cues from the same designers and industry representatives; meaning prices and styles may vary but common trends can be found in different stores.

If you want the best selection and/or to be the first in the office to sport the next "in" look, this is a good time to start shopping for spring garb.

However, such benefits come with a bigger price tag. Hubert White's Sherman said early July is when they get serious about selling their seasonal spring and summer merchandise. "We'll take that seasonal merchandise, and we'll mark it down, and we'll mark it down, and we'll mark it down until it's gone," he said.

Sherman said larger department stores usually begin this process a little bit earlier than the smaller stores because they're better equipped to handle storage issues.

Nate's Clothing Company follows a similar pattern for moving merchandise, but follows up one month after the immediate postseason clearance sale with what they call the "Rock Bottom Sale," which features additional savings on merchandise already discounted up to 70 percent.