NEW YORK -- Outlining the company's turnaround plans, Jerome A. Chazen, chairman and chief executive officer of Liz Claiborne Inc., told shareholders at the annual meeting here Thursday that they should see the "fruits of our labor" by 1995.

"We've had our share of difficulties, but we are in a rebuilding and re-engineering mode," Chazen said, addressing the audience of about 80 gathered at the midtown offices of Chase Manhattan Bank. "We are bringing new people in place and redefining our products."

The company, which has been in a profit slide over the past year, reported a 35.7 percent drop in earnings in this year's first quarter, following a 42 percent drop in 1993. Chazen said that the company continues to be hurt by markdowns of excess inventory but said he expects to resolve those problems by the end of the second quarter.

"We're seeing favorable response from retailers for fall for our sportswear division," noted Chazen. While he did not have market share figures to cite, he said a recent NPD study showed a gain in department store market share for Claiborne's $1.1 billion sportswear division, which accounts for half of the company's sales.

Joining Chazen on the platform were Harvey Falk, vice chairman and president, and the newly appointed vice chairman and chief operating officer Paul R. Charron, formerly executive vice president of VF Corp., who came on board Monday.

When asked by a shareholder what his duties would be, Charron responded that for now "I am concentrating on listening to customers, suppliers, and defining what isn't working and what is working."

Chazen, who is 67, reiterated to reporters and analysts after the meeting that he has no plans to retire and would not talk about Charron as a possible successor. During the meeting, Chazen focused on the company's plans to revitalize its sportswear division, which includes better delineation of its three lines -- Collection, LizSport and LizWear -- and improving its production cycle, with the help of consulting firm Kurt Salmon Associates. He disclosed that the sportswear division now will be responsible for overseeing its own production, which he said "would help simplify and reduce its production cycle." Before, this had been handled as a centralized corporate function.

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