A year after buying Bill Blass, NexCen Brands Inc. is exercising patience.
"There's a way to do things quick, and there's a way to do things right, like they did with Burberry, which takes more time — and Bill Blass is not the kind of brand you can go forward on without cleaning up current distributions," said Robert D'Loren, NexCen president and chief executive officer. "Our strategy with Bill Blass was to reposition back at the upper tier. That's always a challenge when you have product in lots of distribution channels."
Although sources claim the branding firm overpaid for Blass, which it bought for $50 million last January, and is now seeing too slow and too weak a stream of revenues, D'Loren said the company is pleased with the lone fashion business in the nine-brand portfolio it has built since forming in 2006.
"Sometimes you have to bring it back to bring it forward," D'Loren said. "I am comfortable where I think we will be in 2008. Two thousand and eight is the year to sign all the new licenses, and the volume will be in 2009."
Last year was a busy one for the Bill Blass team. On the design front, the company enlisted Peter Som to design the women's line and Michael Bastian to design men's.
For licensing, the company has made deals for shoes, handbags and fur in women's, and for almost every category in men's. In addition, NexCen is using its Waverly division — which it acquired last May — to create Bill Blass home. Other licenses, like bridal, are in the works.
The company is also cleaning up the brand's distribution, trying to reclaim its high-end cachet. For example, Bill Blass repositioned its denim from moderate, selling at about $29 a pair, to better, at $59. Another big push is to open the brand to foreign markets such as the Middle East. And in the U.S., NexCen hopes to grow company revenues through direct home sales, where the bridge-priced Bill Blass line is expected to do $30 million this year.
Across all categories, Bill Blass does about $200 million in sales today, and D'Loren said he ultimately wants to see the brand grow to about $500 million.Speculation about the financial health of the Blass brand began to stir Friday after NexCen posted a fourth-quarter loss of $3.8 million, or 7 cents a share, hurt by one-time expenses and delayed store openings. Excluding one-time items — including depreciation and amortization, stock-based compensation and a provision for deferred taxes — the company broke even per share with earnings of $330,000. Sales for the quarter climbed to $10.3 million from $1.9 million last year.
For its first full year in business, the company's net loss grew to $4.6 million, or 9 cents a share, on revenues of $34.4 million. In the two months NexCen was in operation in 2006, it had a net loss of $2.1 million, or 4 cents a share, on sales of $1.9 million.
NexCen reaffirmed 2008 earnings guidance of 27 cents to 30 cents per share.
D'Loren said management was not happy with the price of the stock, which closed Tuesday at $3.02, from a 52-week high of about $13. "We think it's a good buy now," he said.
Formed in 2006, NexCen owns, licenses, franchises and markets a diverse basket of brands: Bill Blass and Waverly on the consumer products end, The Athlete's Foot and Shoebox New York for retail franchising, and treats quick-service restaurant franchises Marble Slab, Great American Cookies, MaggieMoo's, Pretzelmaker and Pretzel Time.
On the treats side, the company is combining businesses and product offerings. The synergies are less obvious on the consumer products side, but they are there, D'Loren said. For example, the company's Shoebox stores are now carrying Bill Blass shoes.
D'Loren said he would like to make more fashion acquisitions, from $50 million to $150 million. He said NexCen wouldn't want a brand in its early stages, but rather would be interested in a more mature one that either is already in a stable distribution channel or "that needs more work."
My character, Dinah Madani, is just the coolest, [most] badass woman imaginable," says @amberroserevah. The actress stars in @marvel's newest series on @netflix, @thepunisher. To prepare for her role, Revah sat down with Homeland agents to get a real sense of with Dinah's day-to-day life is really like. Read our full interview on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
A scene from the 91st annual @macys Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade, which boasts 50 million TV viewers and 3.5 million on-site spectators, is considered one of the largest and most watched parades in the world. (📷: Jason Szenes/EPA-REX)
The circus came to @bloomingdales 59th Street on Tuesday night and lit up Lexington Avenue with acrobatic dancers, death-defying knife throwing, sword swallowing and aerial acts with no net. The 45 minutes of theatrics built up to unveiling the holiday windows depicting @swarovski crystal-encrusted circus pieces and scenes from “The Greatest Showman” – songs from the soundtrack included. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Joshua Scott)
The psychedelic fashion that pervaded the ’60s is back with an exhibit at the @museumofcityny. “Mode New York: Fashion Takes a Trip” chronicles the changing styles from 1960 through 1973 and features designers such as @ysl, @oscardelarenta and more. The exhibition, which is on display through April 1, is organized into four periods: First Lady Fasion, Youthquake, New Bohemia and New Nonchalance. Pictured here is model Pat Bardonella during the Garvey Day Parade in 1968. (📷: @kwamebphoto) #wwdeye #wwdfashion
“People should be a lot more honest in expressing both the dark and light of themselves. We need to give each other the space to do that because it’s the only way we can grow and evolve,” says @noelwells of her new film “Mr. Roosevelt,” which is largely based on her own struggles. Unexpectedly leaving @nbcsnl in 2014 after just one season, Wells felt set back in her self-esteem and career trajectory. She quickly refocused her energy to more personal projects, which led to the completion of “Mr. Roosevelt.” Read the rest of WWD’s interview with the “Master of None” actress on WWD.com #wwdeye (📷: @jilliansollazzo)
@barbrastreisand is giving fans a chance to see her perform up close in a new concert series, which makes its debut on @Netflix today. From behind-the-scenes takes to her concert performance in Miami last December, the two-hour streaming special captures Streisand in her element. Pictured here is the singer/actress photographed for WWD in 1963. (📷: Palmieri Tony) #wwdeye #wwdarchive
@chanel and @pharrell dropped what’s being dubbed as the world’s most exclusive sneakers yesterday. The Adidas Originals NMD Hu, which Williams designed in collaboration with Chanel and @adidasoriginals, has a waiting list of over 120K people who pre-registered online at chanelatcolette.fr –– and only 500 pairs are on sale. The singer predicted the resale value of the shoes could reach $40K. Read the full interview on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdfashion (📷: Dominique Maître)
@imanshumpert is diving deeper into his creative endeavors and relaunching his clothing line, Post 90s, and is helping to raise money for the hurricane victims in St. Maarten with a jersey he’s designed with his brother. The Cleveland Cavaliers player talked to WWD about kneeling during the national anthem, working with fashion brands and how he wants to be more than an @nba player. Read the interview on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: George Chinese)