An interesting question was posed a few weeks ago on Facebook by a Southern transplant to Southwestern Pennsylvania about why Northerners can find swimwear in stores here during the dead of winter when that isn’t the case in her former Georgia, fair-weather ZIP code.
“I have asked the same question every January for the past five years, and can never seem to get an answer,” Rebecca Wilson Manning of Beaver County asked her followers during a January snowstorm.
“Last time I checked, we still have about a foot of snow on the ground, and we are about five months away from being able to wear that stuff on a regular basis. I don’t know very many people who start shopping for bathing suits and summer wear in January.”
Her question later was posed to downtown merchants in Washington and Monongahela, who offered up some theories about the timing of this fashion line.
Dorothea Pemberton, owner of Dorothea’s Boutique in Monongahela, said customers in this region do come out in the winter, to her surprise, looking for spring items.
“Obviously, stores want to remind people that summer’s coming, and manufacturers want to sell their swimwear,” said Pemberton, whose women’s fashion resale store is located at 219 W. Main St.
Mary Bianchin, who works at David’s Limited in Washington, said sales likely are more consistent in warmer weather climates and that snow-covered roads in the Northeast bring less traffic to stores, giving retailers time to redecorate their aisles.
Bianchin said “shoppers are tired of thinking about the doom and gloom of winter” and get to look forward to better weather by shopping for swimwear out of season.
However, men do not put much thought into beach fashion, said Thomas Zimmaro, co-owner of the clothing store at 50 N. Main St.
“Men tend to buy their bathing suits two days before they go on vacation,” Zimmaro said.
As it turns out, clothing manufacturers view Northerners as trendsetters in terms of which beach fashions likely will sell during the summer, a fashion expert at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh says.
They introduce what they consider to be their resort or cruise collection in the winter in such places as Pittsburgh to see what customers there prefer to sport on the beach or at the pool when they escape frigid temperatures to vacation in Cancun or other tropical climates, said Joan Marcocci, who teaches retail management at the school.
“Delivering swimwear in January is a common industry practice for the stores who have customers who travel at this time of year,” she said.
“Once the goods begin to sell, the buyer obtains direction on the best-selling swimsuits in terms of design, style, color and so on,” said Marcocci, who worked for many years as a buyer at Joseph Horne Co. in Pittsburgh.
“With this knowledge, there is often still time to work with the manufacturer on future reorders for the favored products. This is a win-win for everyone - future customers are offered preferred merchandise, retailers have focused inventory investments, and the manufacturers are producing goods that have a better chance of selling in the stores.”