Armani, Prada, Gucci, Pucci…and AnnTaylor? The chain, home to
sensible business apparel for working women, is dressing itself
up to catch the eye of the high-end shoppers passing by on Madison Avenue.
As chains offering more expensive goods are
thriving, AnnTaylor and other mid-level women’s apparel retailers have
been struggling, according to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal.
To grab more affluent working women AnnTaylor is introducing a line called ‘Collection’ that’s 40% more expensive than its usual
merchandise. The 50 item collection will be built around the work-appropriate suits and dresses.
Suit jackets will sell for $295 to $365, and
pants for $175 to $195. Collection also includes silk tops for $120 to
$195, $165 cashmere sweaters and handbags priced from $295 to $350.
Most of the fabrics used in Collection, such as Loro Piana cashmere,
come from Italy, and some are used in high-end designer lines.
Next week, AnnTaylor will put the line in 24 of its
top stores in such locations as Chicago’s Michigan Avenue and New
York’s Madison Avenue. The line
will not be available in all of it’s 350 stores, but will be on its Web site in late September or early October.
Kim Roffey, a retail strategist with consulting firm
Kurt Salmon Associates, says specialty retail’s move higher is "an
effort to capture some of that dollar that’s going to luxury." But she
says it’s unclear whether moderately priced retailers will persuade
their regular customers to trade up amid a difficult economy. Ms.
Roffey says customers at mid-level stores will probably be willing to
spend $500 on a special item. But if prices soar above $1,000, she
says, "that’s where the middle-market consumer really does get nervous."
AnnTaylor is taking steps to set
Collection apart. The Collection products will have their own
department, with black-lacquer hangers and black signs with pale
writing. Sales associates have already been trained to point out
Collection’s more expensive fabrics and buttons, special linings and
stitching inside waistbands and the custom metal tag, an "AT" inside a
circle, that dangles from purses. Purchases will be tucked into a
garment bag rather than stuffed in a paper shopping bag.
Read the WSJ’s : AnnTaylor’s Loftier Goal