As the Northern Hemisphere is now enjoying the height of summer, it seemed appropriate to have Item, a small men’s boutique in the beach-resort town of Provincetown on Cape Cod, as this week’s Retailer of the Week. As he relies almost completely on tourist traffic, owner Mark Ferrari keeps Item open only from mid May to the first weekend in October each year. Here he discusses the joys and challenges of his summer-only business and what items are currently super-hot (pun intended) there.

Item is taking the beach-town lifestyle
Item is taking the beach-town lifestyle
What is the history of Item?
We are in our ninth year and we are located in Provincetown on Cape Cod, which is at the very tip of the Cape. It’s a great little destination beach town and it is well known for its artists and it's a very kind of bohemian community. It’s all about the beach and all that goes along with that in the summer. Item is really taking that quintessential beach-town lifestyle and mixing it with the typical New England/Cape/Kennedy. So you get a little bit of this beach, modern, prep kind of vibe that we do.

What brands do you carry?
It’s a little bit eclectic, actually. We carry Scotch & Soda, Gant Rugger, Save Khaki, Wings + Horns, Fred Perry, Saturdays (the New York City surf brand), Ruin, Saltbox swimwear and Sundek, just to name a few.

What is the breakdown of product categories at Item?
Accessories is 5%, bathing suits is probably 20%, shorts is probably 40% to 50% and tops–polos and T-shirts and everything–accounts for the rest with footwear maybe about 5%.

What footwear do you carry?
It’s mostly just Fred Perry slip-on beach footwear and then Tretorn and Havaianas. I keep it very simple. It’s very kind of beach/summer footwear.

Taking a vacation in your wardrobe at Item
Taking a vacation in your wardrobe at Item

Is there a difference having a store in a “summer town” versus a year-round one?
There is actually because it’s a completely different mindset when you are in a resort beach town. People come and they are in a vacation mind so their whole approach to the clothing is for the moment. You are excited to be at the beach and you are excited that it is summer and so you just want to have that great, fresh summer kind of feeling and look. You are sun tanned and you’ve had a few mojitos so your whole attitude is different. It’s a vacation and it’s like you are taking a vacation in your wardrobe as well.

How do you attract customers?
We are located on the main strip. We are not a very big store. We are probably just shy of 600 sq. feet [56 sq. meters]. But it’s richly built out and every corner is used. It’s like a little boat. It’s merchandised very cute and very much has a beach aesthetic to it. It’s very eclectic but it has very inviting windows and buoys in the windows and antique pieces of furniture that look very salt-kissed. There are ropes in the store. So you walk in and you are immediately kind of sucked in to the whole vibe of the store and the whole vibe of Provincetown.

What is the state of retail in Provincetown today?
I think the environment is still very difficult and still very challenging. But I do think that people on vacation will treat themselves to something. But it is still difficult. It’s not as fast and furious as it has been in years past. That’s why you are even more challenged as you order store product to really think about your store’s plans and what you are going to buy and how it all merchandizes and how it is going to make sense to the customers.

You visited the New York menswear shows last week. What was your impression?
I thought some were better than others. Trend-wise and product-wise I think it is kind of an extension of what we saw this year: color, prints and patterns going forward, which is exciting because it’s nice to have but I still think there is a little bit of something still lacking. It’s hard to say what it is but I think no matter what you always have to be grounded in a modern classic.

bestsellers are colored shorts
bestsellers are colored shorts

You used to have a store in Miami as well, correct?
We did have the store in Miami but we closed it because they sold the building that we were in and were going to do some redevelopment. I couldn’t afford to be here and get a notice saying that we had to vacate the premises so I just decided to close it. There’s so many things happening down on the Lincoln Road area that makes Miami just an overall challenging environment from a retail standpoint. I think it's not an easy environment at all. But it’s so funny because it’s also a vacation destination place but it is a very different experience than here.

What has been your bestselling item this season?
Hands down what has been the number one are shorts–colored shorts.  Anything in a color whether it be red, orange, bright blues… you name it, that’s what they are buying.

Any particular cut or style?
A very simple flat front above the knee with a slimmer cut. Definitely the more modern fits are where people are tending to gravitate towards–across the board. Wives are bringing in their husbands and saying, “All my husband’s shorts are too baggy. Do you have a pair that is more trim?” It’s funny because as the population is getting older and we are all putting on a little extra weight each year now men are realizing: Yeah, I have put on a couple of pounds so I don’t need my shorts to make me look even bigger. So rather than buying the bigger, more relaxed fitting shorts the men are needing things that are a little trimmer. And they are wise to the fact that they want them to hit just above the knee and not below the knee. So the shopper has definitely become a little savvier.