LOS ANGELES — Arden B. is set to unveil Luxe, a higher-end line, in the chain’s 100 stores this summer as an effort to broaden its reach to customers.

In July, the contemporary division of Foothill Ranch, Calif.-based Wet Seal Inc. will introduce the line, featuring domestically produced finer yarns, heavier gauge cashmere-wool blends and European fabrics. Prices are 25 to 40 percent higher than Arden B.’s traditional tags, which range from $45 to $68 for tops and $68 to $118 for bottoms.

Luxe will start as 10 percent of Arden B.’s total in-store assortment, but could increase to 25 percent if the customers respond, according to Susan Peterson, vice president of design and product development.

“In fashion right now, there’s a lot of overlap in looks,” she said. “By introducing better fabrics, it’s still fashion, but it’s more ‘classic with a twist.’ We want to offer more value — something that will stay in their closet to [match] with all the trendier items.”

Among the offerings are a wool bouclé jacket and coat with fur trim tagged at $158, boiled cashmere sweaters at $110 to $148, and wool-Lycra spandex blend suits with jackets, $158, pants, $128, and skirts, $88.

Going to the higher end was the only option for Arden B., said Peterson. “If we were to go to a lower price point, we’d start competing in Wet Seal’s junior market. We still have a price edge, but Luxe’s prices are still lower than contemporary in department stores.”

Parent company Wet Seal, with a total of 618 stores under Wet Seal, Arden B., Contempo Casuals and Zutopia banners, has been suffering months of same-store sales declines. The company has been working to clear inventory and get fresh merchandise into stores to counteract comp-sales decreases of 27.1 percent in March, 18 percent in the fourth quarter ended Feb. 1, and a decline of 5.6 percent in fiscal 2002.

Net sales for the fourth quarter totaled $161.2 million, compared with net sales of $181.5 million for the prior-year period. Net sales for fiscal 2002 totaled $608.5 million, up slightly from $601.9 million for fiscal 2001.

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