ANDERSON, S.C. -- Hampshire Group Ltd. said Monday that its Hampshire Hosiery unit will consolidate all manufacturing at its Spruce Pine, N.C., plant, resulting in 170 layoffs, and at the same time terminate its licensed Christian Dior Hosiery business. Hampshire has had the Dior license since the beginning of 1991.

Reportedly, when the license was acquired by Hampshire, it was a $15 million wholesale firm but since then has hit hard times due to what a spokesman for Hampshire calls "an industry-wide downtrending in sheer hosiery, with the most severe drops in the last 18 months." The Dior line is currently a $7 million wholesale business.

Ludwig Kuttner, chairman of Hampshire Group, will assume the roles of president and chief executive officer of the company as well as ceo of Hampshire Hosiery. He succeeds Richard Owczarzak, who resigned. In addition to hosiery, Hampshire makes sweaters.

Fritz Schulte, previously ceo of Chic Hosiery Corp., has been named president and chief operating officer of Hampshire Hosiery. Owczarzak also had the title of president of Hampshire Hosiery.

As part of the consolidation, the firm will close a knitting mill and a distribution center in Belmont, N.C. -- facilities primarily for the Dior legwear line. The new hosiery unit will focus on the private label chain store, mass merchandise and department store markets.

The statement also said the "company is engaged in negotiations with several prospects to dispose of its Christian Dior hosiery business."

Executives at Christian Dior Inc. here, the U.S. arm of the Paris-based Dior business, could not be reached for comment.

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