OCEAN CITY — April Scannell looks forward to trips to New York each winter to pick out the following year’s brands for her women’s clothing boutique Pappagallo.
Scannell’s friends always considered this part of the job to be especially glamorous, but after 11 years she knows it’s hard work.
“It used to be really fun and exciting,” she said. “It is fun. But it’s also exhausting. My friends still think it’s cool.”
Scannell, of Egg Harbor Township, and her mother, Carol Jones, of Mount Laurel, bought the former shoe store Pappagallo in 2001. They kept the name, which in Italian means parrot.
And they updated the clothing lines with a younger, more modern look more in keeping with their tastes.
“It’s casual chic, easy pieces to add to your wardrobe,” she said. “It’s more about comfort these days instead of structure. It’s definitely the way society is going.”
You won’t find any business suits at Pappagallo. But that doesn’t mean people aren’t buying clothing for the office, she said.
“We have a certain look, nothing too dressy. We’ve tried pants and jackets — the whole careerism thing. But it just doesn’t work for us. In Ocean City, people want to be more casual and relaxed. Look at Kabat’s Men’s Shop,” she said of the Ocean City landmark that closed in 2008.
At Pappagallo, customers will find Three Dots, Ella Moss, Vera Bradley and Brighton clothing and accessories, among others.
“We use lines with great reputations. You’ll find them in the best department stores, but we offer more selection,” she said. “When we fall in love with a brand, we want to fully represent it. So we carry a lot of pieces.”
The store participated in this year’s Ocean City Yacht Club fashion show. Models wore the store’s latest lines, which helped to introduce lots of new customers to the store’s brands, she said.
“We were really happy with the turnout,” she said. “Our customers come in all ages from 17 to 75. A lot of mothers shop here with their grown daughters. We have something for everyone here.”
Scannell said she is looking forward to making the annual pilgrimage to New York. But with one young child and another on the way, traveling is a little trickier, she said.
The designers help retailers avoid cross-competition. So you typically won’t find identical dresses at other clothing stores on the island, she said.
“The lines are very protective of that. Nobody wants the same line in the same town on the same street,” she said. “It’s a highlight of our store. You won’t find these things anywhere else.”
Buying the store’s fashions is a big responsibility, she said. Both she and her mother contribute to the decisions. They have similar tastes but bring a different perspective to the choices, she said.
“I think you have to have a pretty good eye. You can’t be too biased,” she said. “Price point is the No. 1 thing. There are some things we wouldn’t consider because they’re too high.”
Price is not far from the minds of consumers, according to the American Apparel and Footwear Association.
Americans bought 5 percent fewer pieces of clothing in 2011 but paid 5 percent more for them, according to the trade group’s 2012 annual report. Consumers paid $284 billion for more than 19 billion garments in 2011. The average American consumer paid $910 on about 62 items of clothing in 2011.
More than 97 percent of clothing worn by Americans is made outside the United States. But domestic manufacturing was up 11 percent in 2011, according to the American Apparel and Footwear Association’s 2012 annual report.
China remains the No. 1 supplier of clothing in the United States, dominating 32 percent of the market share.
Scannell said she keeps close tabs on her customers’ buying habits as well. For example, the store did not renew its purchase of Lacoste, one of its longer-running brands, this year after the designer started offering more unusual styles.
“It’s hard to give up something you’ve been so loyal to,” she said. “But it seemed they were going in a different direction.”
But this opened the door to other brands, such as Splendid, which have proved popular, she said.
“We see everything we buy in person. We feel it and see the colors. If we’re skeptical, we won’t buy it,” she said. “Friends of mine who shop here say they wear their clothes for years. They wash really well because the designers use quality materials.”
The store on the 700 block of Asbury Avenue offers gift-wrapping.
“People celebrate a lot of birthdays when they come to the shore. Our customers buy a lot of gifts,” she said.
They recently started offering some men’s shirts, typically purchased by wives or girlfriends. And they have a good selection of golfing attire.
“We get a lot of women golfers here. Women’s golfing apparel is harder to find. But we offer a lot of the Bermuda shorts and polo shirts and sweaters,” she said.
The seasonal store closes each November. The store does not offer a winter wardrobe. Ocean City’s customer base is simply too small to make the transition in inventory worthwhile, she said.
“To bring in winter merchandise, you put it on sale and then you’re basically giving it away,” she said. “It’s not profitable.”
Scannell is a walking billboard for her own product lines. She wears the store’s designers every day. And she stays on top of the latest fashion trends. One of her newest favorites is Tory Burch, who has her own global fashion empire.
“I love her. She’s an inspiration,” Scannell said.
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