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Merchants Having a Pajama Party in New Fashion Trend

What’s the going rate for a pair of jammies these days? At just-opened Pajama Party in Sherman Oaks Fashion Square, flannel PJs will set you back 70 bucks. That’s a pretty steep price, and store owner Jackie Harris won’t argue. But she likes to point out that when folks shell out that kind of money, they’re not just buying a pair of flannel pajamas. In a world where just going to school can get a kid killed, Harris says pajamas represent a safe haven. “It’s all about comfort and feeling warm,” said Harris. “The safest time in my life was when I wore pajamas. I remember when I got home from school. You took a bath, you put on your pajamas and then you ate dinner. What bad experiences did anyone ever have in their pajamas?” Today’s pajamas are definitely not the utilitarian sleepwear of the past. In fact, they’ve become a hot fashion item that sometimes gets more wear outside the house than inside the bedroom. “I’d say sales have tripled in my territory,” said Rande Blatt Cohen, a sales representative for P.J. Salvage. “It’s been unbelievable. I don’t know whether it’s the whimsical factor that makes it a spontaneous buy or the comfort level.” The most popular pajamas are decorated with a sense of humor. Each year, for example, New York manufacturer Nick & Nora puts out a new print from “I Love Lucy.” “Customers are buying a theme,” said Fran Fogel, manager of Street Wear Inc., a Century City retailer that in the past two years has expanded the number of pajama brands it carries from one to 10. “Each year, people have to get whatever new prints come out.” Fogel says PJs are not only used for lounging but also walking the dog or going to the market. Some customers even wear sushi-patterned pajama bottoms when going out to a sushi restaurant. Retailers and marketers said another impetus has been the increased exposure pajamas are getting on television. Hit shows like “Ally McBeal,” “Dharma & Greg” and “Will & Grace” have all featured characters clad in flannel jammies. “We get tons of (television) stylists who shop at the stores we sell to, and that’s what consumers see,” said Trevor Riewer, co-owner of International Lingerie, which does sales for sleepwear maker Canyon Group. “That seems to be driving the market as well.” At Pajama Party, several styles sold out in some sizes within a day of opening, and the owners expect the store will ring up $100,000 in sales in the month of December alone. The projection comes as no surprise to the owners of Nick & Nora. “When we started 15 years ago, people thought we were crazy,” said Steven Mark Abrams, principal and managing director for the manufacturer. “We’ve had so many new accounts this year, we’re crazy.” In recent years a number of other suppliers have moved into the category, and major department stores have also picked up on the trend, Abrams said. Nordstrom expanded its sleepwear department and Fred Segal began to carry PJs about a month ago. With big-box category killers dominating many product sales and discounters snaring the lion’s share of price-conscious purchases, staking out a niche makes sense for smaller retailers, said Richard Giss, partner with the retail services group of Deloitte & Touche. “So they found a niche. The question is, does it strike a responsive chord?” Harris is betting it will. Although her initial idea was to open the store through only the holiday season, she has since decided to launch Pajama Party as a year-round business. Plans include offering mix-and-match pajama styles so women can pair flannel bottoms with, say, sexy T-shirts. Flannel pajamas from Nick & Nora, among the best sellers in the store, retail for $68. A cotton broadcloth style with sushi print sells for $82. Egyptian cottons run to $108. Much as sweat pants and other workout wear moved from the gym to the street, Harris predicts that pajamas too will soon be accepted as sportswear. Besides, she says, with so many people working at home, pajamas have become everyday apparel. “No one’s covered how we really live our lives,” she said.

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