LOS ANGELES — Beach Patrol Inc., once among the top five U.S. swimsuit manufacturers, is closing amid intensifying competition in juniors swimwear.
At its height in the mid-Nineties, the Carson, Calif.-based company recorded an estimated $70 million in sales and had plans to go public. Beach Patrol accumulated coveted swimwear licenses, including Esprit, Perry Ellis, Split and Jag.
Beach Patrol's early good fortune began to sour in 1994 when Western Glove Works, a Winnipeg, Canada, jeans manufacturer and the swimwear company's principal investor, pulled the public offering.
The company also suffered from fashion missteps, choosing to go to dark colors in the late Nineties when consumers demanded the opposite.
But Beach Patrol had been aiming for a turnaround. Last year, the company leased space on Seventh Avenue in Manhattan to show merchandise. It also moved manufacturing offshore to bring down costs and diversify into lower price-point merchandise.
The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Howard Greller, who was one of the founders of Beach Patrol in 1987 and is now chief merchandising officer at Apparel Ventures Inc., said relocating the manufacturing to Asia resulted in the company lagging behind fashion trends because of long lead times.
"They went 100 percent over there," Greller said. "In a very fashion-driven business, that is a dangerous move."
Helmut Behensky, owner of Bea's Swimwear, which has three retail locations and is based in Woodland Hills, Calif., blamed Beach Patrol's demise on competition. The company could not withstand pressure from retail competitors such as Gap and Abercrombie & Fitch, he said.
"The kids will buy this product, which takes away from fashion manufacturers," Behensky said, adding that Beach Patrol lacked strength in surf brands, which could have helped insulate it from the mounting retail pressure.
The rise of Beach Patrol can be traced to a monokini popular in the late-Nineties made by Daffy of California. The monokini, which had the words "Beach Patrol" splashed across the chest, turned into a major hit. When Daffy ran into financial trouble, Greller said he decided to start a new company with partners and funding from Western Glove Works. Daffy of California became an in-house brand, although Beach Patrol itself was never a brand name. The company grew through licenses and by the acquisition of Deweese, which had the Jag license, in the mid-Nineties.
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