By  on January 9, 2006

NEW YORK — Geoffrey Beene Inc. is making strategic moves to position itself for growth, including signing licensees, building a presence in the women's area and hiring an advertising agency.

Merle Sloss joined the company in October in the new position of executive vice president and president of licensing to head Beene's growing licensing business. She was previously president of licensing at Claire's Stores and was North American president and chief executive officer at Bally of Switzerland. She also had been president of licensing at Anne Klein and president of Ralph Lauren Footwear.

Sloss is working with senior vice president and chief operating officer Russell Nardozza and reports to ceo Tom Hutton.

Beene, which generates $600 million in retail sales, created the position "to spearhead new licensing, especially in women's wear, and to expand the brand," Nardozza said.

A key element of the plan includes launching a secondary women's apparel collection, which the company does not have, Nardozza said. Geoffrey Beene ventured into this arena with Beene Bag in the Seventies and Mr. Beene in the late Eighties and early Nineties.

In addition, the company is expanding its men's portfolio. "They [new licenses] would enhance our large men's program, which has been in existence since 1967 when we started licensing men's products," Nardozza said.

Last year, Geoffrey Beene added several licenses, including men's underwear and swimwear with Phillips-Van Heusen; men's gifts with Humphrey's, a division of Randa Corp.; tailored apparel and weekend wear with Salco for the Australian, South African and New Zealand markets, and belts and small leather goods with Randa Corp. for Canada and Mexico. A licensed collection of eyewear with Nouveau Eyewear will launch in ophthalmic stores next month.

Geoffrey Beene also hired full-service ad agency Hofstetter+Partners here to further develop a consistent brand image. The division of Agency 212, which represents brands such as Liz Claiborne and Ellen Tracy, will handle the fashion brand's marketing and advertising.

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