By  on January 17, 2008

NEW YORK — Charles Jebara is taking junior denim brand Z Co. into the world of online retailing.

Jebara, founder of Brand Resource Ltd., which owns the label, is looking to capitalize on the brand's stronger-than-anticipated performance last year with the introduction of an Internet store in May.

"As tough as the overall business was in '07, we had a great year," said Jebara. "Part of our overall plan going forward is to punch up our online presence."

Jebara isn't letting concerns about a weakening retail environment rattle his confidence. In July, he estimated Z Co. would generate $30 million in sales. However, after a strong finish to 2007, he predicted the brand will far exceed his initial estimate.

"We're going to blow that away this year," he said. "We're looking at $50 million for 2008."

While any additional sales generated through the Web site will be welcome, Jebara said the brand stands to gain the most by using it as a marketing tool and proving ground for new product. It's a strategy he thinks better addresses the target 16- to 18-year-old market and changing nature of advertising.

"We don't believe in traditional advertising," he said. "I think 10 years ago, if you were in the juniors business, you needed to advertise in the junior teen magazines."

However, the proliferation of celebrity weeklies such as Us Weekly and In Touch has eaten into the teen magazine demographic, said Jebara, weakening their impact on the Z Co. consumer. It's also more difficult than ever to stand out among the crowd by going with traditional marketing.

"I feel like we get lost out there and I don't think that's what drives a junior customer to buy a jean," he said.

Z Co. is sold in about 4,000 department and specialty stores across the U.S., and the brand is already working with several online retailers. Jebara hopes to avoid damaging those relationships and cannibalizing the company's sales by offering exclusive styles on the site. He plans to offer links that will allow customers to purchase products from the brand's other online retail partners.The site will also test new products. Jebara said that, if one of the exclusive styles begins to take off online, he would have no problem offering the style to the brand's retailers.

"The more interest we generate in our brand and our product, I think our customers will benefit greatly," he said. "It's going to be a limited business and it could prove to be a great testing ground for retailers, as well. We'll be happy to share that with our retailers."

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