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As Summer Blues Lift, Some Toast Fashion's Night Out

A shopper carries Saks Fifth Avenue bags up Fifth Avenue in New York City.
Getty Images
A shopper carries Saks Fifth Avenue bags up Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Dark clouds may have rolled in over Labor Day, but fret not ladies: Fashion's Night Out is here to cheer you up.

Thursday night marks the fourth anniversary of Fashion's Night Out (learn more), the brainchild event created by Vogue's Anna Wintour. The after-hours shopping extravaganza was originally created to give the 2009 recession a kick in the booty. Once again, it promises to deliver an evening of fashion, fun and free cocktails. So put on your stilettos and don't forget your plastic.

Speaking of booty...

Did you ever dream of meeting Kim (oh you know Kim), Scott (baby daddy to Kourtney Kardashian), Alessandra (Ambrosio, ask your boyfriend), Oscar (as in "de la Renta," the fashion legend — hurts to lump him in with this group), Michael (Kors, celebrating his recent IPO — life is good) , Cyndi ("Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" Lauper), and many other familiar faces?

If you are in search of champagne and free hors d'oeouvres, then your mission will be accomplished. If you are looking for discounts, however, you may not want to get too excited. I hit the stores this weekend, and the majority of retailers confirmed this event will not yield any bargains, primarily because of two factors. First, it is too early to wish for that must-have fall bargain: best wait for pre-Thanksgiving sales. Second, inventories at most retailers are at multi-year lows after last year's "blood bath" sales.

After last winter forgot to show up, most retailers are approaching fall with caution. But this also means the previous year's blow-out sales will most likely not be repeated, given that there won't be as much in the stores. The good news for retailers is that discipline will not result in the margin degradation we saw last year. Still, the bad news for consumers is they may have to pay full price. Having said that, enjoy the free champagne while it lasts.

So if there are no bargains, where is the free fun?

The party is not limited to the high-end. Check out Zara for music and appetizers. Kim will be at Lord & Taylor. Kourtney's baby daddy will be at Macy's teaching shoppers how to roll a cigar.

And if you want to go luxury, you won't be able to hit them all. I am told Tiffany will have a party at the new SoHo location (learn more). Saks will have Oscar, BCBG designers and, I hear, Susan Sarandon. You will also get double points on your Saks' card.

If you have a reluctant male significant other in tow, coax him into joining you at Victoria's Secret in Manhattan's trendy SoHo section.

Unfortunately, the midtown location tells me they won't have champagne or a party, but they are actually worried you will leave them for the temptation of cocktails elsewhere.

If your mate prefers champagne and he is a karaoke fan, head to Michael Kors on the Upper East Side of New York City. The man himself will make an appearance, and karaoke never dissapoints.

While most high-end retailers tell me they are banking on champagne rather than discounts to draw in consumers, Bloomingdale's is working hard for your money. To be honest, however, you need an A in calculus to decipher the sales scheme. Discount tiers are confusing, but at least they are discounts. Even the sales force seemed confused. Still, give it a shot as you won't see sales at competitors. (And if you are as confused as I was — ask for more champagne.)

If you can't make Fashion's Night Out because you don't want to be tempted? No worries, as there is something for everyone in the retail world. Banana Republic, part of Gap, has teamed up with Careerbuilder.com. One lucky person will get one year's salary for free. Now, that is recession proof.

Stacey Widlitz is the President of SW Retail Advisors Inc. She has worked at UBS, SG Cowen, Fulcrum Partners and in 2005 was one of three analysts to launch the Research Department at Pali Capital, where she covered Retail and Home Video for 5 years. Follow Stacey on Twitter @StaceyRetail.

Retail