By  on February 2, 2007

Façonnable, the upscale French brand owned by Nordstrom, could get sold.

In an statement Thursday, Nordstrom said it is “exploring strategic options that would benefit both Nordstrom and Façonnable, including a possible sale of the brand.” Other options would be selling off part of the business, such as the European operation, or spinning off Façonnable into a separate public company. But sources believe it’s most likely that Nordstrom wants to sell the entire business and maintain its exclusive distribution rights in the U.S., which could make a deal tricky.

In the U.S., Façonnable is sold only at full-line Nordstrom stores and the five Façonnable stores. Outside the U.S., the distribution is not exclusive; the brand is sold at 36 Façonnable boutiques in Europe operated by Nordstrom, and in multibrand specialty and department stores and franchised boutiques in 23 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Canada and Latin America. There is also a Façonnable Web site.

Nordstrom said there is no assurance the process of exploring strategic options will result in any specific transaction.

The sources estimated Façonnable does roughly $200 million in sales, representing a small percentage of Nordstrom’s overall $8 billion in revenues.

Façonnable, which comes from the word “façonner,” meaning “to create,” was founded by Albert Goldberg in 1961, after he took over his father’s tailor shop in the south of France. Nordstrom started selling the Nice, France-based Façonnable brand exclusively in the U.S. in 1989. In 2000, the Seattle-based department store company bought the brand for $170 million. At that time, Nordstrom was generating about $100 million in retail sales of Façonnable clothes at its stores.

Façonnable made a splash in 2003 when it opened a flagship in Rockefeller Center, but Nordstrom never developed a strategy for opening a significant number of freestanding stores. The four other Façonnable shops are in Dallas; Beverly Hills; Costa Mesa, Calif., and Coral Gables, Fla.

Façonnable has a rich, traditional look, targets a wide age range and is known for its quality fabrics and construction and updated classic styling. It’s been a top-selling brand for the chain, but performs better in men’s wear than women’s.Despite its relative success, some sources indicated that running Façonnable in Europe has been a distraction for Nordstrom and that resources could be better utilized to bolster objectives related to the retailer’s upscaling and continued U.S. expansion. About a year ago, it is believed LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton showed some interest in the brand.

“The European portion does not represent a significant enough portion of Nordstrom’s total to warrant the added effort and investment that could be allocated to more important initiatives,” said Arnold Aronson, managing director of retail strategies at Kurt Salmon Associates. “A decision to sell it might have to do with prioritizing efforts.”

“Façonnable is a great brand, particularly for men, where it really caters to the Baby Boomer, who is also buying Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Bahama. But there’s more potential worldwide and I don’t think it’s been maximized on the women’s side,” said Jennifer Black of Jennifer Black Associates. “It needs more innovation in women’s.”

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