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Economic woes hit LA stores particularly hard

Los Angeles stores, especially specialty stores, are foundering as the recession continues to impact sales. While retail across the country has perked up with economic troubles lessening, the scene is LA is changing as multiline boutiques and stores from small labels vanish into that black hole known as the recession.

Examples of those falling prey to local retail anxieties include Santa Barbara’s Blue Bee, which went from six stores flanking State Street to completely closing, and Los Angeles retailer Lisa Kline, which hurtled from four stores to a solitary men’s outfit.

The list of casualties is growing as stores are hit by incredible competition and consumer fears: Tryst, Aero & Co., Magenta, Publik Park, Yellow, Presse, Diabless, Fred Segal Fun, Fred Segal Flair, Tracey Ross, Foley & Corinna, Petro Zillia, Costume National and Salsa Jeans, to name a few. Companies of all sizes, whether featuring one label or many, have closed – some for good – and declared bankruptcy.

“So many stores have closed in the past year,” Nony Tochterman, designer of Los Angeles-based Petro Zillia, said to WWD. “I don’t think we are out of the red. We need to reinvent ourselves and find a different way to do business.”

Causing all the trouble is not just economic woes, but stress from retailers such as Forever 21 and Zappos.com, and an increasing trend toward casual lifestyle clothing with lofty pricing dating before the recession, as well as a nervous entertainment industry in LA.

The survivors of the economic troubles are the ones who have made changes to keep pace. The recession has been particularly vicious in California, with an early housing collapse and persistently higher unemployment than national figures show.

“LA was hit earlier than a lot of places with the writers’ strike,” said Lesley Grosvenor, manager of the Planet Blue store in Malibu, to WWD. “It caused a [dip] in business and it followed with the economic meltdown, so we have been down for longer than most cities.”

More than ever, customers are being drawn toward the cheaper end of merchandise. This means categories such as denim and T-shirts, once commanding steep prices, now cannot pull in nearly the same price they did pre-recession – and may never entirely rebound. And lowering prices has not always been an equation that works to bring in extra sales volume.

“For the past year or two, denim has been soft compared to where it has been,” Fred Levine, co-owner of M. Fredric, told WWD. “Denim is always important. It is just a question of how much new denim does the customer need to have.”

Despite all the closings, some new faces are entering the market – and doing it in a different way.

Mark Goldstein, owner of Madison Et Cie Inc., believes there are signs of comeback.

“I feel like LA is underperforming heavily,” he said to WWD. “There will be growth. It is creeping back.”

Tagged in: shop, retail, los angeles, la, stores, closing, disappear, economy, bankruptcy, recession,

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Purple Neon/LadyLUX via WWD

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