May's McNamara says chain is holding a winning hand

Clothing, Accessories, and ShoesServices and ShoppingRadio IndustrySatellite TechnologyMarshall FieldSears, Roebuck and Co.

When it comes to poker, Bill McNamara isn't one to fold 'em.

The vice chairman of May Department Stores Co. said last week that his St. Louis-based company has been cleaning up with poker-related products.

"The dynamic poker trend is an important new traffic generator," McNamara said. "Our men's gift centers are well positioned in poker games, tables and books."

They were among the hot trends and must-have goods mentioned in a conference call last week about second-quarter results at the retailer, whose chains include Lord & Taylor, Filene's and, as of July 31, Marshall Field's.

While sales at May stores open at least a year fell 2.2 percent, several departments saw good results.

Luggage is "very hot." And technology gift centers that May opened in 358 of its department stores last year have met with success, prompting the addition of flat-screen TVs and satellite radios.

In clothing and accessories, color will continue to drive sales, led by pink--for women and men. "Light pink, evolving into berry tones, lilacs and darker purples, as well as green, will give the customer new reason to buy," McNamara said.

May, which has 497 department stores, also will continue bagging higher purse sales.

"Better and status lines in handbags, including Dooney & Bourke, Coach, BCBG, Guess and Nine West, were explosive," he said. "They should continue in fall as croc-skin in fashion colors, and menswear textures in houndstooth and tweeds, inject new appeal."

The colors and materials are lifting sales of women's shoes.

"Ladies' footwear at higher prices performed well in the second quarter and should continue to be among our top performers," he said. Early sales of fur-trimmed and fur-lined boots are strong.

Earrings propelled jewelry sales. "Longer, linear styles with a vintage feel and colored pearls will be strong in the third quarter," he said. "We're also well positioned in brooches with a vintage feel."

May also has stocked up on argyle-styled clothing.

"Early fall selling has a good start," McNamara said. "The customer is responding to tailored looks in ladies' and men's apparel, as well as denim and premium denim."

"Difficult" areas included fine china and crystal.

Sears' apparel: In an August press kit showcasing fall clothing, Sears, Roebuck and Co. sounded some of the same themes as May.

For starters, the press kit cover has a houndstooth design with pink accents.

The Hoffman Estates retailer is overdue for a pickup in clothing sales, which have been down through much of 2004.

A rare bright spot has been its more fashionable Apostrophe line, with sales up 40 percent year to date. This fall's Apostrophe offerings include houndstooth and tweed jackets.

Debuting this season in the men's department is the trendier Structure brand that Sears bought from the Limited. Its fall goods include argyle sweaters and meadow-green stretch poplin shirts.

Lucy Pereda, the Sears line geared to Hispanics, has bead-drop linear earrings this fall retailing for $10.

Highlights of the preppy Lands' End brand include light-moss boots and denim jackets. Green even was represented in the classic Covington line, with fern cardigans.

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E-mail byerak@tribune.com.

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