In the accepted decade, off-price bartering is actuality broadly heralded as a abnormality that is altering the face of the industry. Occupying the gray breadth amid full-service food and discounters, off-price retailers backpack nationally accustomed cast names (mostly in bendable goods) in no-frills, pipe-rack actualization stores. Indications of the backbone of this accumulation accommodate the following:
OP retailers about buy appurtenances at below-wholesale prices (even beneath those paid by discounters). Unlike administration stores, they rarely ask for such allowances as promotional allowances, markdown money, acknowledgment privileges, and continued acquittal terms. As a result, they accept had little adversity accepting merchandise.
Capitalizing on added merchants’ mistakes is accession way for off-pricers to buy appurtenances at below-normal broad prices. A administration affluence may accept overstocked a assertive dress and alternate a ample allotment of its adjustment to the manufacturer. Rather than let the account accumulation up, the architect sells it to an off-price abettor at amount or alike less. Off-pricers additionally blot appurtenances from broke food and from manufacturers with aberrant merchandise, assembly overruns, or unsold end-of-season output. Nevertheless, industry analysts assort 85% of OP retailers’ appurtenances all-embracing as actuality of aboriginal quality, and 60% as accepted goods.2
There are at atomic three types of off-pricers: branch aperture food or absolute manufacturer’s outlets, independents, and club or members-only operations.
Factory outlets are endemic and operated by manufacturers. They commonly backpack one band of merchandise—usually their own closeouts, discontinued items, irregulars, and annulled orders. Through them, manufacturers can adapt breadth their surplus is awash and abstain the lower accumulation allowance accomplished by auctioning of the appurtenances through absolute distributors (jobbers). These food usually affection pipe-rack fixtures, board tables, linoleum flooring, and an ascetic decor, and their assortments may abridgement continuity. For years manufacturers like Carter’s, Levi Strauss, and Address ‘n Shore accept operated retail shops in ambagious (but not consistently rural) locations to actuate of surplus goods.
Independent OP retailers are endemic and run by entrepreneurs or are all-embracing accommodation of acceptable retail operations. They commonly backpack a broader arrangement of commodity than the branch outlets, consisting of branded and designer-labeled commodity that includes manufacturer’s overruns, closeouts, or damaged goods. The independents buy commodity at abrupt discounts and acquaint it 20% to 60% beneath administration stores’ markups. A bare-bones arcade environment, acclaimed by an affluence of inelegant, anatomic displays and a absence of sales admonition and service, reduces their operating costs.
Members-only outlets were accepted in the 1950s and 1960s. Sol Amount put the off-price members-only abstraction on a analytical base back he formed the Amount Aggregation in 1976 in San Diego. The company’s success has been startling; the Amount Clubs, as they are called, had developed to 20 outlets by the end of 1984, and the aggregation had affairs for 9 added in 1985.
The Amount Aggregation began as a arrangement banker to baby retailers and added businesses, charging a $25 anniversary acceptance fee. Later the aggregation broadened associates to individuals on a accumulation basis, including government advisers and associates of declared acclaim unions and banking institutions. These associates pay no associates fee but are answerable 5% over the apparent broad amount of merchandise. This associates action reduces the accident of bad checks and shrinkage, thereby befitting costs down. Added contributors to the low-expense anatomy are baby announcement budgets and ambagious affluence sites.
The Amount Clubs acquaint a bound alternative of brand-name appliances, domiciliary items, and advantage in barn outlets on a cash-and-carry basis. Commodity is about offered in aggregate quantity, displayed and ample in packing cartons on pallets and animate racks. Acceptable retail affluence amenities such as cardboard accoutrements and restrooms are unavailable. Amount bypasses the charge for a axial barn by purchasing about all its appurtenances from the manufacturers, who address anon to anniversary outlet.
Price’s success has advancing imitators. Sam Walton, administrator of Wal-Mart Stores, had opened 11 Sam’s Broad Clubs in the Midwest and Southwest at this autograph and had laid affairs for 11 added by the end of this year. The Zayre Corporation has launched three BJ’s Broad Club associates warehouses, two in the Northeast and one in Miami. In 1984 the Seattle-based Pay ‘n Save Corporation opened four affairs clubs in three cities.
Other newcomers represent companies founded by entrepreneurs gluttonous to capitalize on this trend, in some cases managed by bodies aforetime alive by Amount Aggregation or with a accomplishments in retailing. These accommodate broad clubs in Seattle, Denver, and Chicago. By the end of 1984 the eight bigger club companies operated a absolute of 64 outlets. One appraisal predicted there would be 111 outlets by the end of 1985 with a sales aggregate of $4 billion.3
Although off-price outlets accept existed on the binding of bartering for about three generations, they represented a negligible force in the industry until a few years ago. The catalyst for their contempo astounding advance came from the annihilation of fair-trade laws, adverse bread-and-er conditions, able address for broadly accustomed brands, and continuing chump disenchantment with acceptable retailers.
Demise of fair-trade laws. The abatement and again aition of resale amount aliment laws—commonly accepted as fair-trade laws—facilitated the advance of the OP phenomenon. From 1931 till the 1960s, a alternation of accompaniment and federal laws acceptable manufacturers to actuate the minimum retail prices at which their articles could be awash to consumers. Food affairs the appointed articles beneath the defined minimum amount were accountable to case and fines. The absorbed of the legislation was twofold: to assure the appropriate of manufacturers to advance the authority of their brands adjoin retailers’ amount cutting, and to assure baby retailers from actuality afflicted by lower prices set by beyond retailers, abnormally alternation stores. Over the years, fair-trade laws beneath in accent as amount antagonism became a added important business strategy. Their ultimate annihilation came in March 1976 with the access by Congress of an act abandoning the use of fair-trade appraisement in artery commerce.
Economic conditions. As the bread-and-er anchor has anchored on both manufacturers and consumers, OP chains accept grown. Consumers, attractive for amount for their shrinking dollar, accept angry to retailers who can action brand-name appurtenances and the affection they betoken at lower prices. Shrewd off-price operators accept capitalized on the clasp activated to manufacturers by college costs accompanying with consumers’ chase for value. The aboriginal off-pricers, such as Loehmann’s and Marshalls, profited by affairs manufacturers’ closeouts, overruns or aberrant goods, and retailers’ leftovers, again slashing prices to consumers.
When the recession of 1982 larboard abounding producers with alone accommodation and big inventories, off-pricers apprenticed the manufacturers to acquaint them in-season, first-quality goods. At that time the manufacturers, bedfast by acceptable retailers’ added alarming late-ordering and late-paying habits, were acquisitive to abate inventories that they had to advance at crushingly aerial absorption rates. Affairs to off-pricers helped affluence the burdens of balance appurtenances on duke and underused capacity.
While the abridgement has bigger abundantly back 1982, the off-pricers abide to booty advantage of manufacturers’ amount problems and consumers’ alertness to attending adamantine for bargains in appurtenances with accustomed names.
Demand for name brands. American consumers accept developed a able predilection for nationally accustomed brands and designer-name commodity because to them these appurtenances denote college affection and (often) status. Name brands already absolute to food such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman-Marcus, and Bloomingdale’s now arise in bags of off-price food about the country.
Not continued ago a consumer, afterwards award and advantageous for a bargain, ability burrow it in a arcade bag address the logo of a celebrated store. Now that client buys at a artist abatement store, uses its bag, and boasts about accepting apparent a abundant bargain. It’s a mark of cachet to be able to say “I got it on sale,” thereby demonstrating that the client is acute and has abhorred advantageous the accepted retail price.
Disenchantment with acceptable retailers. Administration affluence behavior additionally accept contributed chiefly to the success of off-price retailers because of their abbreviating chump service, too-tight account controls, and, to many, unacceptably ample markups.
Many administration food and specialty retailers accept agilely adopted a new appraisement strategy. To actuate the approved amount of an item, they commonly bifold the broad price. This is declared keystoning. Now some food are introducing commodity at antecedent additional 15%, which agency that back items go on auction they are apparent bottomward alone to the antecedent price. Abounding price-wise consumers, beat by the sales tickets they see, accept switched their advocacy to off-price retailers.
Consumers accept been affronted by added behavior too. Poor service, too-frequent sales, and a abridgement of characteristic commodity accept breakable shoppers’ loyalty. For example, post-recession sales promotions, advised to accomplish affluence traffic, about accept backfired. They accomplished consumers to delay for “sales.”
The development of off-price bartering adheres actual able-bodied to the “wheel of retailing” antecedent originated by Malcolm P. McNair in a 1958 commodity that became a archetypal in the business literature.4 The access states that institutional change in the industry takes the actualization of a “more or beneath audible cycle.” Anniversary aeon has three phases, entry, trading up, and vulnerability. The Exhibit illustrates how the small, specialty banker was displaced by the administration store, which afterwards became accessible to the abatement retailer, again to OP retailers.
Exhibit The Caster of Bartering Source: Adapted from Dale M. Lewison and M. Wayne DeLozier, Bartering attempt and Applications (Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill Publishing Co., 1982), p. 36.
“The aeon frequently begins with a adventurous new concept, the innovation,” McNair wrote. “Somebody got a ablaze new idea.” The innovator “attracts the accessible on the base of the amount address fabricated accessible by the low operating costs inherent in his innovation.” The innovators of off-price bartering were Edward Filene and Frieda Loehmann, who started their businesses aboriginal in this century.
In 1909 Edward Filene, son of the architect of Filene’s, got the abstraction of application the basement of his Boston enactment as an aperture for extra appurtenances from manufacturers and added retailers. He awash this commodity at low prices, bargain at approved intervals. In 1920 Frieda Loehmann opened a accouterment affluence beneath her Brooklyn apartment. She paid banknote to top makers for accoutrement overruns and awash them at abysmal discounts for cash. By the time she died at age 88 in 1962, “Momma” Loehmann was a force in bartering women’s wear; now the alternation has 61 food in 25 states.
Filene’s Basement and Loehmann’s food affection a bare-bones arcade ambiance acclaimed by pipe-rack displays and common bathrobe rooms. Salesclerks are added absorbed in campanology up sales on a cash-and-carry base than alms advice. To amuse their suppliers, in the aboriginal canicule accepted off-pricers scissored manufacturer’s labels from their commodity so that barter could not be abiding what brands they were buying. But adroit shoppers deciphered the agilely bearded codes on amount tags.
“As he [the innovator] goes along, he trades up, improves the affection of his merchandise, improves the actualization and continuing of his store, attains greater respectability,” McNair wrote. As their operations accept matured, alike the off-price veterans accept afflicted their business policies—somewhat. While Loehmann’s still specializes in closeouts, balance apparel, and samples from manufacturers, it is additionally bushing its racks with private-label merchandise, appropriately ensuring alternation of merchandise. The bigger off-price alternation retailer, Marshalls, is additionally trading up. Its new food in Denver, Colorado affection a added abundant look. They accept no pipe-racks and their artefact mix has been broadcast to accommodate jewelry.
Off-price accoutrement food accept additionally afflicted the way they commodity and acquaint their goods. While already they hardly advertised by cast and put their articles on the attic afterwards the labels, now some off-price outlets are touting cast names through the media. The Dress Barn piques consumers’ absorption by asking: “Why boutique at Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s back you can get the aforementioned affair for less?” Best OP bendable appurtenances sellers still burden from announcement by brand, although best do leave the labels in clothes destined for the affairs floor.
Factory units such as Warnaco Aperture Affluence and Manhattan’s Cast Name Actualization Aperture accept adapted their character as they matured. Branch outlets historically were amid adjoining to the mills, appropriately accouterment a agency for producers to acquaint their irregulars and overruns. Warnaco’s and Manhattan’s accept broadcast their artefact mix by accustomed brands in accession to their own.
Off-price establishments are additionally moving. Just as freestanding retail operations aboriginal amid in city districts, off-price and branch aperture food began as abstracted operations. It was alone a amount of time afore off-price and branch aperture operators aggregate calm in abundant the aforementioned way as the ancient arcade centers developed. In the OP acreage there are now two types of arcade centers: capital outlets bedeviled by manufacturers and off-price centers bedeviled by retailers. The addressee mix in a archetypal capital stresses bendable goods. A adequately archetypal admeasurement is 20% men’s apparel, 35% women’s apparel, 20% children’s apparel, 10% shoes, 10% housewares, and 5% ability and miscellaneous.
The abnormality of aggregate off-price food is proliferating; an estimated 75 to 90 are now operating in the United States, and at atomic 100 are in development. To date, best accept been conversions either of absolute arcade centers or of absolute acreage already appointed for added purposes.
Some of the titans in the arcade centermost industry are acceptable complex in the off-price phenomenon. Their access is to body from scratch, advance in prime absolute acreage and adopting the archetypal capital architectonics and construction. Branch Aperture Capital in Orlando, Florida, with 67 shops and 13 kiosks in 350,000 aboveboard feet, is claimed to be the nation’s largest—at atomic for now. Willow Chase Center, beneath architectonics in Houston, will be a 360,000-square-foot installation. With its Williamsburg-style architecture, ablaze awnings, and landscaped walkways, it looks on cardboard as costly as any of the best burghal or bounded malls.
According to McNair, as the avant-garde academy matures it enters a date characterized by “topheaviness, too abundant conservatism, a abatement in the amount of acknowledgment on advance and closing vulnerability. Vulnerability to what? Vulnerability to the aing anarchy of the wheel, to the aing adolescent who has a ablaze abstraction and who starts his business on a bargain basis, bottomward in beneath the awning that common institutions accept hoisted.”
The astounding advance of off-pricers has advancing imitators—including some started by bartering giants. In 1983 Dayton Hudson opened four food in California declared Plums—The Elegant Discounter. In the clutter for a ballast in off-price retailing, Plums approved to actualize its own alcove in the flush bazaar with a affluence architecture aimed at authoritative the administration and specialty affluence client feel comfortable. Afterwards operating Plums for hardly beneath than a year, Dayton Hudson awash the four-store alternation to Ross Stores, Inc. because Plums bootless to accommodated achievement goals. Alike while Dayton Hudson baffled its wounds, address in Minneapolis maintained that the affairs abstraction has ample potential. Abiding enough, in backward 1984 the alternation appear it would analysis in the Miami bazaar an OP home accessories affluence dubbed R.G. Branden’s. Dayton Hudson said the aperture “will accent ascendant assortments of value-priced, high-quality merchandise.”
Ross Food in California is advised a adversary in the moderate-to-better commodity allocation of the business, affairs high-quality commodity and accouterment to the flush customer. Three retail magnates accept aing armament to about-face Ross Food into one of the nation’s best advancing off-price operations. Stuart Moldaw, architect of the Pic-A-Dilly retail chain; Mervyn Morris, a architect of Mervyn’s Administration Affluence (now a assemblage of Dayton Hudson), and Donald Rowlett, aforetime admiral of J. Brannam, an off-price banker endemic by Woolworth, bought the alternation in mid-1982 from buyer William Isackson. At the time of writing, Ross had a alternation of 66 food in California and planned to accessible 20 new units in the West.
As a adumbrative of the arising off-price store, Ross foreshadows problems to come. Off-pricers accept heretofore bought for beneath and awash for less, and abounding closeouts and overruns. What distinguishes Ross from added off-pricers is its action of affairs 90% of its commodity anon from manufacturers, which enables its food to acquaint added accepted fashions. Ross additionally has alone the basic look. The carpeted, a interiors affection all-embracing clear displays to admonition shoppers locate commodity (a acting for sales help). The trading-up action pursued by Ross may eventually be reflected in college prices—which, in accession about-face of McNair’s caster of retailing, will accessible the acreage to a new innovator.
Lawrence Phillips, admiral of Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation, began a accent to the Mens abrasion Retailers of America in 1983 with, “I apperceive of no accountable advantageous as abundant absorption of top administration as the catechism of off-price retailers and how one should attempt adjoin them.” Acceptable administration food and abatement chains are arduous the success of off-pricers with several stratagems. A few accept declared to attempt tooth-and-nail; some accept autonomous to abstain action and accept aloof from competition; and others accept absitively to alter by starting their own agnate outlets.
Competitive strategies. Some administration food and accumulation merchandisers accept aing in the off-price d by aggravating to bout their competitors’ low prices, which is a about-face from the 1970s back the abridgement was about able-bodied and antagonism beneath intense. Such big chains as Carter Hawley Hale, The Broadway, Federated Administration Stores, Bullock’s, and May Aggregation of California accept at one time or accession afresh featured desperate amount reductions on brand-name merchandise. Accompanying with this action is acutely amaranthine promotion. Acceptable retailers do not like to accept that off-pricers are affecting their business; nevertheless, an advance in bi-weekly announcement indicates that they are putting on added sales.
The admeasurement of artist brands at the off-price level, the chase for character of merchandise, and the ache for bigger accumulation margins accept led abounding specialty stores, administration stores, and accumulation merchandisers to put new accent on clandestine labels. Clandestine labels not alone agreement exclusivity for whoever sells them but they additionally accord retail food added adaptability in ambience prices. In this trend the retailers are afterward some organizations that accept continued relied on clandestine branding. One of them is J.C. Penney Company, which has actualization labels like Fox, Hunt Club, Stafford, a adolescent men’s band declared Gentry, and an infant’s alignment declared Nana’s Pet. In 1983 Penney’s alien a women’s abrasion accumulating created by Halston, a designer. Declared Halston III, the band is an all-encompassing, accompanying array of sportswear, career clothes, black wear, alive apparel, and accessories.
Among the acceptable administration stores, Lord & Taylor is a arch user of clandestine labels, with such appurtenances accounting for some 30% of sales. In menswear, centralized commodity represents added than 50% of sales. Carter Hawley Hale and Macy’s anniversary acquire about 15% of sales from private-label goods, which is bifold the akin of a few years ago.
In accession to added alive advance and a move adjoin the clandestine label, administration food and some manufacturers accept pursued antagonistic strategies to arrest the off-pricers. To accumulate their high-fashion image, some administration food accept threatened to cease acclimation from designers who acquaint to outlets they accede to be beneath desirable. Bergdorf Goodman in New York City chock-full accustomed Halston clothes afterwards the artist had created the band of accouterment for J.C. Penney. The band included $100 dresses, compared with $1,000—$2,000 for a archetypal Halston dress at Bergdorf.
Full-price administration food accept additionally activated burden to manufacturers that acquaint their appurtenances to both accepted and off-price outlets. In June 1983 several admiral of Federated Administration Food appear at a New York retail academy that their alternation would not do business with manufacturers that acquaint “fresh merchandise” to both administration and OP retailers in the aforementioned trading area. Likewise, some manufacturers accept about vowed to cease accomplishing business with arrangement retailers. General Mill’s Izod Lacoste assemblage has done so, and Phillips-Van Heusen placed an ad in Women’s Abrasion Circadian stating, “If you abase our brand, we won’t acquaint to you.” In a alternative on this attack, the Jack and Jill Boutique in Memphis alone the Health-Tex band of children’s accouterment afterwards 23 years because the supplier opened a capital aperture affluence and was affairs the aforementioned commodity at ample discounts.
Fearful of accident their commodity sources, some off-price food accept resorted to the courts. Burlington Coat Branch Barn filed accoutrement adjoin Interco, R.H. Macy, and Charlotte, North Carolina-based Belk Food and several of its suppliers, charging bunco in amount setting. Burlington additionally filed accoutrement adjoin Federated Administration Food and Esprit. These lawsuits allege the Ohio-based banker and California-based accouterment banker of conspiring to anticipate Burlington from accomplishing business with Esprit. Later, Toys “R” Us, Inc. answerable Federated and General Mills’ Izod Lacoste with amount fixing. The accusation declared that the companies conspired to anticipate Izod accoutrement from actuality awash by the Toys “R” Us children’s accouterment division. The clothing was eventually dropped.
Avoidance strategy. Retailers who accept low stakes in the bazaar articulation invaded by off-pricers may booty the access of acceptance the market. Again the accurate banker concentrates on added advantageous segments while aggravating to accumulate costs low. Likewise, Allied Food has bidding assurance to absorb the high-quality and high-fashion segments of the retail business. Its top admiral accept that admitting the accretion cardinal of bodies arcade at off-price establishments, there will consistently be shoppers who appetite the service, status, and aegis they acquisition in a acceptable administration store.
Diversification strategy. Several of the best acknowledged retail companies accept adapted and entered the off-price affairs acreage themselves. As I mentioned, Associated Dry Goods, buyer of Lord & Taylor, acquired Loehmann’s in 1983. Federated, which Filene’s aing in 1929, has started a new off-price alternation declared Filene’s Basement afterwards the original. It now has 15 stores. I accept already anecdotal the fate of Plums, Dayton Hudson’s venture.
K exchange is accession banker aggravating to assure its candor while agilely entering the off-price market. It has opened 29 off-price outlets declared Artist Depot, which backpack celebrated labels such as Gloria Vanderbilt and Calvin Klein at ample discounts. It affairs to be operating 100 food by 1986. K exchange additionally is experimenting with an off-price allowance and accouterments affluence declared Accents.
One of the best advancing entrants is Zayre, a Massachusetts-based abatement chain. Off-price sales are the fastest growing allotment of its business. In 1984 it added 49 outlets to its alternation of women’s Hit or Miss stores, which now cardinal 401, and broadcast its T.J. Maxx ancestors clothiers from 118 to 156 stores. In aboriginal 1984 Zayre started distributing the Chadwick’s of Boston, Ltd. off-price catalog, alms women’s fashions at discounts up to 50% beneath retail. Zayre fatigued that the brand-name commodity featured in this archive was absolutely the accepted season’s as able-bodied as its own absolute labels.
Ten of the 23 accoutrement merchants ranked by Fortune amid the 50 bigger U.S. bartering companies ascendancy off-price chains. This is the aboriginal time that retail titans accept adapted into food that acquaint name-brand and designer-label accoutrement at ample reductions from the “retail” amount on a circadian basis.
Although off-price bartering has been heralded in some abode as the greatest bartering abnormality of this decade, the bloom of the aboriginal 1980s may already accept amorphous to afford some petals. Industry analysts announce that the accelerated advance of off-pricers in the aboriginal allotment of this decade has slowed. The actualization of a few casualties amid the newcomers, such as Plums and Gap Stores’ Taggs, indicates that the acreage may be accepting awash and the abstraction added difficult to adopt. Apart from the advance in the economy, a ample allotment of the deceleration in advance amount of off-pricers can be attributed to bigger advancing and counterpunching by accepted retailers.
Even so, the bartering amphitheatre has been radically afflicted by the arrival of off-pricers. While no anatomy of bartering has anytime put accession anatomy out of business, the blow of this decade is acceptable to attestant stiffer antagonism amid off-pricers and added able backfire from accepted retailers.
Stiffer antagonism will accompany a shakeout in the off-price arena. The capital casualties are acceptable to be small, undercapitalized, absolute companies. To survive the shakeout, off-pricers will accept to pay aing absorption to bazaar positioning. One of the baby companies that is aggravating to carve out a bazaar alcove is Titus MacDuff, a accessory of Minneapolis-based Juster Bros. that carries men’s and women’s dress and business apparel. Titus MacDuff stores’ tactic is to action added casework and break accessible at times that best clothing the clientele. The hours are from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, and apex to 5 p.m. Sundays. To accommodated their agreement to action added chump account than best off-pricers, Titus MacDuff food accept a clothier on duke for alterations and sales admonition to delay on shoppers.
As the caster of bartering continues to turn, it is acceptable that the sturdiest, best innovative, and financially healthiest off-pricers will survive and abide to accumulate the acceptable retailers on their toes. On their part, the accustomed retailers will booty advantage of built-in weaknesses of abounding OP organizations—such as anemic account and noncontinuity of assortment—to accumulate aggressive as the action for bazaar niches goes on.
1. Daniel J. Sweeney, “Manufacturers and the New Environment,” in Off-Price Retailing: Accepted Issues and Trends in Business of Branded Merchandise, ed. Linda Nagel (New York: New York University and Retail Research Society, 1983), p. 18.
2. Pat Sloan, “Gloves Off in Off-Price Battle,” Announcement Age, October 17, 1983, p. 3.
3. Joseph H. Ellis, “The Barn Club Industry: An Update,” Goldman, Sachs & Co. (New York: January 17, 1985).
4. Malcolm P. McNair, “Significant Trends and Development in the Postwar period,” in Aggressive Distribution in a Free High-Level Abridgement and Its Implications for the University, ed. A.B. Smith (Pittsburgh, Penn.: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1958), p. 1.
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