By  on September 1, 2010

Juicy Couture, at one time one of the hottest names in the contemporary category, will be harder to come by this fall.

After experiencing lackluster results with the line, several major retailers have scaled back their Juicy Couture business. Some are carrying the higher-priced Bird by Juicy Couture. A spot check of stores revealed that Saks Fifth Avenue dropped the Juicy Couture line at the New York flagship for fall; Bloomingdale’s flagship cut way back on its Juicy department on the contemporary floor; Nordstrom passed on the apparel line for fall; Bergdorf Goodman no longer carries the line, and Neiman Marcus has dropped the line in several stores, such as White Plains, N.Y. and Beverly Hills.

For years a fixture in contemporary departments, Juicy Couture sportswear had suffered from overexposure, quality and fit problems. In April, Juicy tapped Erin Fetherston as guest designer and creative consultant, beginning with holiday 2010 and running through 2011. She succeeded Juicy Couture co-founders and co-designers Gela Nash-Taylor and Pamela Skaist-Levy, who gave up day-to-day responsibilities in January and took on nonoperating creative roles at the company. The duo plans to launch their own brand next year.

“It’s very clear from a whole point of view, that my strategy is to keep it profitable. We’re not opening a lot of wholesale doors,” said Edgar Huber, president of Juicy Couture, a division of Liz Claiborne Inc. Rather, the company continues to open 10 to 20 retail doors a year, and will take its e-commerce site in-house Sept. 15, which is expected to become its largest door. (E-commerce had previously been handled through Neiman Marcus.) Juicy has 100 of its own freestanding stores, 11 of which carry the Bird line.

According to a Saks spokeswoman, the line is no longer carried at the New York flagship, but will be carried in 25 other doors. The collection is also available on its Web site.Saks carries the higher-end Bird by Juicy Couture line.

Asked if he was upset about losing the Saks flagship business, Huber said, “We have a 17,000-square-foot [Juicy Couture] store at 52nd Street and Fifth Avenue. We’re committed to Saks, but at the moment, we’re doing everything we can to build up the business again.”

Nordstrom passed on the Juicy Couture apparel line for fall, but continues to carry the line in other categories such as handbags, small leather goods, sunglasses, jewelry, watches, swimwear and kids’ wear. It carries the Bird by Juicy Couture collection.

A visit to Neiman Marcus in White Plains, N.Y., over the weekend revealed that unit no longer carries Juicy Couture, but does have Bird by Juicy Couture. Neiman’s in Beverly Hills, as well, dropped Juicy Couture, but carries Bird. Last week it installed Bird in its windows. Meanwhile, Neiman’s in Bal Harbor, Fla., still carries Juicy Couture. “Juicy Couture is carried in select Neiman Marcus locations,” confirmed a Neiman’s spokesman.

Bergdorf’s stopped carrying Juicy Couture after the spring 2009 season, but also carries Bird. A visit to Bloomingdale’s outlet store last week at the Bergen Town Center in Paramus, N.J., revealed the off-price store to be well stocked in Juicy Couture.

Fetherston will design the Juicy Couture line until the end of 2011, which encompasses the fall and holiday collections. She began May 1, and designed a holiday 2010 capsule collection, ranging from bugle-beaded blazers, sateen-trimmed jackets and beribboned draped skirts to bustier dresses.

Juicy Couture, which launched in 1996 and experienced a phenomenal growth track, has since branched out beyond contemporary sportswear to children’s wear, fragrances, accessories, handbags, sleepwear, footwear and jewelry. Retailers had complained earlier this year about the fit and quality of the sportswear, and said the line needed to move beyond its tracksuit roots and be reinvigorated. The Juicy Couture business generated $540 million in sales last year.

In an interview this summer, Huber said the Juicy Couture line was evolving, and certain product categories were eliminated, such as men’s, yoga and maternity. “We’re also cleaning up distribution. We’ve closed at least around 70 doors.”

In fall 2009, Claiborne launched Bird by Juicy Couture. That collectionis a separate division designed by a team of designers. The company previously told WWD it views Bird “as a strategic growth opportunity for the wholesale channel.”

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