Young fashion retailers have named printed tunics as the early winner for this season after reporting a buoyant start to spring, fuelled by half term.
Retailers told Drapers that more versatile, floaty tunics and mini dresses have provided relief from the formal trend.
Internaaionale chief executive Norrie Stewart said the retailer had reported mid to high single-digit growth in the past four weeks, with half-term week boosting business by 25% compared with last year.
"Older girls have been shopping with their mums and families while on holiday," he said. "Although trading has been good across the board, the smock and tunic trend is doing very well. While the trends last year were for a structured look, we have been doing better this year with a softer, draped silhouette."
New Look buying and design director for womens-wear Roger Wightman added that tunics had been a frontrunner. "The reaction to the trend is phenomenal, with both retro and boho tunics and mini dresses doing well.
"This time last year it was all about red, but now we are seeing cobalt blue and bright greens, and strong early indications on white. We get a good step forward in sales in the half term week."
Half term, which was this week in the south of England, but fell on February 12-16 in the north, has also benefited Arcadia's fascias, with like-for-like sales up across the group.
A source close to Arcadia told Drapers that good sales would carry on this week across the group. "There has also been a positive bounce back from the bad weather. There is money out there and tunics have universal appeal."
The buying chief of another women's young fashion value chain said like-for-like sales were up by double digits compared with the same time last year. She highlighted printed smock dresses as the top performer. "Customers seem to be hungry for the new silhouette," she said, adding that sales of more casual looks had started to slow. "Younger customers have been shopping with groups of their friends while they have been on holiday and were looking to spend all their pocket money on themselves."
In the branded market, a source close to fashion chain USC said that based on sales so far this season, it was expecting to make modest single-digit growth. "Dresses are doing really well again. The shoppers are coming out of a dull winter and the styles are brighter, lighter colours," said the source.
Zara UK and Ireland managing director Mike Shearwood added: "We've got a lot of silk in the store and it is doing very well, especially dresses, which look like they are set to be big this year.
"Tunic-style tops and smocks, which can be worn with jeans or leggings, are also coming through as a key look."