By  on April 20, 1994

NEW YORK -- Linda J. Wachner said Tuesday she expects new products, licenses, and distribution channels to drive strong growth for both companies she heads -- The Warnaco Group and Authentic Fitness Corp.

Speaking at an investor conference sponsored by Smith Barney Shearson, Wachner went through each company, product by product.

She said she expects Warnaco to get a strong boost from its recent acquisition of Calvin Klein's women's intimate apparel and men's underwear and accessories lines.

"Calvin is an enormous designer and a gentleman," she said, noting that the company hired 35 employees from Calvin Klein Inc. in the deal.

She also expects Warnaco to continue to ride the strength of its intimate apparel brands, which carry "over 25 percent" operating margins, she said. She noted that market share of the company's Warner's brand in department stores increased to 35 percent in 1993 from 32 percent in 1992. She said Warnaco's bra business got a boost from a sharp pickup in sales through Avon Products Inc. and Victoria's Secret.

She said sales of intimate apparel to Victoria's Secret reached $47 million last year, up from $400,000 in 1990. She expects sales to Victoria's Secret to reach $75 million to $90 million this year with the aid of new products.

Avon sales reached about $320,000 last year, according to Wachner, and she projected growth in the range of 15 to 20 percent this year.

She cited explosive growth of the licensed Fruit of the Loom bra line sold to the mass market segment.

Fruit of the Loom bra sales last year vaulted 115 percent, to $32.9 million from $15.3 million the year before, its first year in operation. Wachner said the FTL brand already has a 10 percent share in the mass merchandising market.

"We want to be the Coca-Cola of the bra business," she said. Overall, intimate apparel's revenues grew 10 percent to $423.2 million last year, reflecting as well the over 8 percent increases in sales of the established Warner's and Olga's brands.

She also sees a viable business for Warnaco in men's wear as the firm focuses on sportswear such as its Chaps by Ralph Lauren line.

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