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Clothing store becomes victim of recession

February 19, 2009
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After nearly 125 years in the area, Kaps Menswear will shut its doors. Owners Jon, Jim, and Joel Kapelson, in published reports, have blamed the economy for declining sales.

Elias Kapelson started the business in Lawrence in 1885. Since then, the family-owned men's clothing boutique had grown to four locations - in Andover, Burlington, Marblehead, and Wellesley. Catering to a high-end clientele, it has carried such brands as Canali and Tommy Bahama.

Kaps is not alone in its woes. All told, established specialty apparel stores saw an 8.2 percent decrease in sales in December over the previous December; sales then plummeted by 12.2 percent last month over January 2008, according to data compiled by the Swampscott-based market research company Retail Metrics Inc.

Consumers have "turned off the spending spigots," cutting out most luxuries and shopping at big-box retailers, said Ken Perkins, Retail Metrics president.

"To a large extent, it is the higher price points" that have led to some specialty apparel stores' demise, he said. Tommy Bahama shirts, for instance, go for at least $110.

Kaps's owners did not return calls seeking additional comment.

TARYN PLUMB

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