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New Fashion? There's Not Much New To Buy

Thursday, 30 Aug 2007 | 9:06 AM ET

I have seen the future in next seasons' fashion at America's biggest retailers and to put it bluntly, there is no fashion. This is the new worry to add into the equation of whether (and how much) the consumer will slow his/her spending: there is nothing new to buy. The fashion cycle is stuck. The "style" is a return to classics which means that people already have the items in their closet.

The analysts and suppliers who I spoke to Thursday highlighted that retailers are perplexed about what the consumer wants right now. What that means is that there is no clear "trend" that will drive shoppers into stores to make incremental purchases. In other words, there is no "newness" which means that the consumer won't have as many reasons to spend beyond his/her means because they already own similar items. Denim, dresses, dress shirts are all still in. There are actually complaints that there are a lack of new up and coming product lines - there is no Crocs or True Religion success stories this season.

Another interesting nugget: suppliers (the Warnaco , Perry Ellises and PVHs of the world) are feeling the pressure of consumer worry MORE SO than the retailers. Why? Retailers are buying less product and they are forcing suppliers to buy back apparel that doesn't move.

One counterintuitive point: consumers are shopping less but they are buying expensive items when they do buy at all. Translation: the consumer will spend if he's given a gotta have item.

Questions? Comments? retaildetail@cnbc.com

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