Seasonal Clothing Question

I know you can buy almost anything online these days, but is there any large US brick and mortar stores that sell seasonal clothing during the actual season it is?

Here’s an example of what I mean. Yesterday my wife and I went to J C Penney’s and Herbergers, two local department stores, to find women’s summer t-shirts (for her).

We live in Montana, and our summers are relatively short, but often quite warm. It was a blistering 90 degrees outside and when we went into the stores we found parkas, umbrellas and raincoats. Really? It’s mid-August and all that the stores are carrying is for Fall or Winter? We won’t see snow until November, almost 4 months away.

I get it. Stores need to stay ahead of the buying market (for some reason), but I am never going to buy clothing 5 months in advance of needing it.

Are there any large stores that stock seasonal clothing items during the actual season it is?

God I hate that too. Want a good bathing suit selection at someplace like Nordstroms? Try February: “cruising season”. WTF?

For cruising season, it’s better to wear a trenchcoat and hat and dark glasses and easy-open pants.

I know it’s not exactly high fashion, but Walmart or Target? I don’t go store shopping much, but do places with balanced seasons have this problem much? I seem to remember “closeout” items after the season is over.

I feel the same way. But stores are terrified of the thought of extra items being left over past the end of the season. They’d prefer to sell out on a small number of items, compared to selling more but having some leftovers.

Here’s why:

Let’s say there’s an item that they buy for $18 and sell for $20, and the sell every last one of the 100 they got. So they spent $1800, sold them for $2000, and made $200 profit.

Unfortunately, they have a lot of unhappy customers – such as you and me – who arrived after the last ones were gone. They could have stocked 120 and kept us happy, but look at these numbers:

Buying 120 of them would cost $2160. Suppose they sold 115 of them, leaving 5 unsold. The 115, at $20 each, brings in $2300, giving them $140.

See that? They sold 15 more, and earned $60 less! And that’s with only five leftovers!

Granted, there are a lot of variables at work here: If the profit margin was wider they could afford to have more unsolds. And there’s the possibility that they might have sold out of the entire 120. But it’s just not worth it: When buying for $18 and selling for $20, they’d have to sell 118 of them in order to get the same profit as selling out on just 100. And selling the hundred is MUCH easier.

The above calculations are counter-intuitive to many people, because we simply look at the $2 profit per item, and don’t realize what happens when there are unsold items at the end of the season. This is why this problem is particularly powerful for seasonal items, such as clothing, air conditioners, and snow shovels. The typical customer will react, “Why don’t they just hold on to it and sell it next year?” There are many answers to that, but the simplest are: (1) Holding it until next year means taking up valuable storage space, not to mention watching to make sure it doesn’t “walk” out of the warehouse. Perhaps even more importantly: (2) This year’s clothes will be out of style next year, and this year’s appliances will be replaced by newer models. No, the merchant says, we must sell it now or it won’t ever get sold. So they are very conservative with how many they purchase to start with.

Even with a higher markup, the problem is still there, though to a smaller extent.

Suppose they cost only $15, and sell for $20. One hundred of them means they spent $1500, sold them for $2000, and they get $500 profit.

We’ll use the same numbers as above: If they bought 120 and sold 115 of them, then they spent $1800, and brought in $2300, and they get the same $500. It’s true that they could have profited even more by selling more than 115, but they also might have sold fewer than 115. Who needs that sort of headache? It’s a lot easier and safer to go for a smaller number – such as 100 in this example – which they’re pretty sure would sell out.

I’m sure JC Penny’s had a plentiful selection of women’s t-shirts, so I don’t see what there is to complain about. Basics such as short and long-sleeve knit shirts are to be found in clothing stores year round. Things like shorts, bathing suits and winter jackets are more scarce, and yes, I’ve gotten pissy before over the difficulty in finding them at the appropriate times…

As for why they were bringing in Fall items already, what Keeve said. I for one don’t purchase seasonal clothes ahead of season; I buy them when they go on clearance at the end of the season.

I see what you did there. :smiley:

This is a major problem with clothing. Even “classic” styles and colors will change from one year to the next, with last year’s navy being a shade darker or lighter than this year’s shade from the same manufacturer. So this year’s jacket won’t match last year’s pants. And if the styles have changed a lot, the store frequently can’t even sell last year’s clothes at cost, they have to sell below cost to get rid of it.

There’s also the shoppers themselves. The people who will spend the most will want the most up-to-date styles. The woman who will spend $50 or more on a T-shirt will go clothes shopping every week or two, just to see what’s out there, and when she finds something that she likes, she’ll buy it without waiting for a sale. She’ll buy her bathing suit in February or March, and she’ll buy her winter coat in August. The woman who might like that same T-shirt but isn’t willing to pay more than $20 for it won’t go shopping that often, and when she does go shopping, she’ll try to avoid paying full price. She’ll buy her swim suit in April or May, or even June, and she won’t buy her coat (if she thinks she needs a new one this year) until nearly Christmas. And she probably won’t turn up her nose at last year’s fashions, either. So, guess which woman the buyers want to buy for? Sure, the buyers and stores are happy to sell the leftovers to the second woman, even at a discount, but they will court the first woman, because she’s the one who shops most often, and who will buy the most profitable items at full price.

Oh, and if you want to buy seasonal stuff in the correct season, you might try outlet and overrun stores…though there’s no guarantee that they’ll have anything, or have it in the right size.

I live in Australia and we have exactly the same sitution except that our clothing stores blame the northern hemisphere for our off-season clothes buying woes. Apparently, our shops simply can’t stock flanelette pyjames in June because they have to be in synch with the northern hemiphere seasons.

I reckon they’re all spinning tales.

I have not been to a store in years. I buy ALL my clothes on line. I find exactly what I want, in the size and color I want ANY time of the year.

You want a sun hat with an extra long bill? Got it. You want a pair of running shoes in an extra wide size? Got it. You want a long sleeve shirt with with SFP treatment with a pocket in orange? Got it. Try finding any of these at a local store. And prices are just as good as local sale prices

Years ago I would go to the store to find size 32 underwear and they would be out of them. WTF? Has everyone gotten so fat that size 32 has gone by the wayside? On line? Not a problem.

Also often if you buy a years worth, $75.00 (T-shirts, underwear, socks, etc.), they’ll ship it to you free AND there is no tax because its coming from another state. Return policies are generous, too. You don’t like it, send it back for a refund.

I’m sorry I’m not supporting my local stores, but I know what I want and most of the time they don’t have it.

But shopping online doesn’t necessarily solve the *seasonal *problem, which is what’s being described in this thread. Sure, if you are a strange underwear size, need running shoes RIGHT NOW, or have less common shirt color preference – all things that are not “seasonal” in the retail sense of the word – you can find it online, but if you’re trying to buy seasonal clothes at the right season you often run into the same problem, because most online retailers shift their online merchandising at the same time they do their brick-and-mortar. It’s not like the Gap is selling swimsuits in the store and winter coats online at the same time.

I’ve tried to buy a pair of gloves in late February – and I live in Chicago, where you can wear winter gloves into early April if the weather is bad – and it was very difficult to find a pair that would fit. Nearly all online retailers stop carrying winter clothes after Christmas (there are nearly three more months of winter for us!) and any pairs of gloves left were either gardening gloves or like XXS and XXL.

Never ran into any kind of seasonal problem online.

Please show me an example of a clothing item that can’t be bought online right now.

Its August. You want a heavy winter coat or beach sandals? How about an Easter Bonnet or a Christmas sweater? Down booties or a sundress? All no problem available right now.

Mangosteen - do you mind saying what stores you like in particular? I love landsend.com and several others but am always looking for more. often going through amazon works well.

I get cranky when I find something I want but can’t get free shipping.

Most of the time I just type in what I want and what ever store has it with free shipping and a outside of California location, I go with them.

Amazon is often the best, but I do shop around.

I’m a guy so I don’t really that much how things look, just as long as they are inexpensive and good quality.

What does cruising time mean, for real?

But the winter pyjamas *are *in northern shops in the northern summer (June)! Or do they mean that they can only have the flannellette once the northerners have finished buying them?

I’ve never got a satisfactory answer. They usually reply along the lines of, “mumble mumble … fashion … mumble mumble … six months behind.”

I worked at a midwestern Kohl’s department store from October to March a few years ago. By February, we were pretty much out of winter coats, and the ones we had left were in odd sizes and were marked down to clearance prices. A few times we had people complain about the lack of winter clothing. I was told that they had statistical models saying that most people buy seasonal clothing at least a few weeks to a month before they actually need it. It didn’t sound like a good answer to me, especially because the area we were in had a lot of people from other countries visiting.