Some of the biggest fashion trends at department stores this holiday season have more to do with MP3 players than cashmere ponchos or fur-trimmed sweaters.
With high-tech gadgets at the top of many holiday wish lists, department stores such as Marshall Field’s, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have stocked up on such items as $299 iPod music players, $700 pink cell phones, and $300 digital cameras.
It’s a step backward for the big stores. Ten years ago, fearing competition from such stores as Best Buy and Wal-Mart, they abandoned electronics to focus on fashion.
"It’s a recognition that these new electronics have become the must-haves as opposed to a new sweater," said Wendy Liebmann, president of WSL Strategic Retail.
May Department Stores has quadrupled its electronics offerings this season from a year ago at its Marshall Field’s, Hecht’s and Robinson-May stores.
Meanwhile, Bloomingdale’s has increased its electronics offerings by 30 percent from a year ago with digital cameras, camcorders and miniature iPods.
Stores also are focusing on special, limited distribution items. Bloomingdale’s, for example, has an exclusive deal with hip-hop fashion company Baby Phat by Kimora Lee Simmons to sell a collection of cell phones, including a $699 diamond-studded hot pink Motorola version.