Prom shopping is under way, and a new online service offered by CB's Limited of Lancaster has made it easier to find the perfect dress.
The store, which sells prom, bridesmaid and pageant gowns, offers a new "Dress Builder" search tool on its Web site, cbslimited.com. It allows customers to narrow their search and find exactly what they are looking for, manager Stefanie Stacks said.
Shoppers enter the type of dress they are interested in such as straight, ball gown, cocktail, A-line or flared. Then, they enter a choice of 14 color categories including prints and multi-colors.
Next, shoppers pick between halter, strapless, spaghetti straps or other types of top styles for the dress. Customers also are offered a choice of back styles including zippered, low, lace-up or strappy.
Once the choices are entered, the Web site displays pictures and prices of dresses matching the description entered.
More than 4,500 dresses are featured online and can be ordered directly from the Web site, said Stacks.
The store stocks about 1,000 dresses, most of which are online.
"A lot of girls do check out our Web site before they come in," Stacks said. "Which makes it easier to narrow it down."
Jackie Roesler, a senior at Nation Ford High School in Fort Mill, said she built dresses on the site before she visited the store to get an idea of what she liked.
"I like an open back and something with a sequined bodice," Jackie said.
The 18-year-old said this year's prom is special because it is the first time the school has had a senior prom since opening in 2007.
Popular colors this year include prints and big bold patterns, said Teresa Anderson, manager of Bridal and Formal Gallery in Rock Hill. Anderson said a variety of styles are selling this year, including straight and ball gowns.
Jackie's mom, Lucy Roesler, said the economy hasn't played a factor in their prom shopping and they expect to spend about the same as last year.
Stacks said the economy has not slowed store sales so far this year, and sales are up 15 percent from last January.
But that's not the case for all area stores.
Anderson said her store has noticed a slight decline in the volume of shoppers so far this year and said more people are looking for bargains.
Stacks said spending is about the same as last year. On average, customers spend between $125 to $350 on a prom dress.
Some stores, however, say people are not as willing to pay as much as they did last year for prom dresses.
"They are still coming in and looking, but it's more about people watching their pocketbooks," said Suzann Schrader, assistant manager of Bridal Place and Alterations in Rock Hill.
Schrader said the store is running sales on prom dresses to give people more of a selection of affordable dresses this year.
Check out the dress builder here. You can narrow your search by color, type, top style and back style.