Byline: Thomas J. Ryan

NEW YORK--While mulling over potential licensees for a women's collection, Tommy Hilfiger Corp. continues to evade the apparel slump with its men's wear.
Ignited by a 43 percent hike in sales, Hilfiger reported profits jumped 41.8 percent in the first quarter ended June 30. Earnings rose to $7.8 million, or 21 cents a share, from $5.5 million, or 15 cents, a year earlier. Earnings topped Wall Street estimates of 19 cents a share.
The latest quarter included a one-time charge of $2.4 million for the cost of a consulting agreement for Jay Margolis, who resigned as president and vice chairman on June 1. Margolis was expected to oversee development of Hilfiger's women's apparel business but left when Hilfiger decided to license out the women's lines. Excluding this charge, earnings would have been 25 cents a share.
Sales rose to $89.5 million from $62.6 million.
Regarding women's apparel, management said it has held discussions with firms regarding licensing out the brand, but nothing has been decided yet. Joel J. Horowitz, chief executive officer, predicted there would be some women's apparel product by 1997, if not by the end of 1996.
Concerning an already established licensing deal, Horowitz said the Tommy fragrance, launched this Father's Day, "met with excellent results." He told analysts on a conference call that it is ranked as either the number one, two or three men's fragrance in department stores. The fragrance, being produced through a license agreement with the Aramis division of EstAe Lauder, is currently in 800 doors and should be in 1,200 by the Christmas season, the company said.
In the most recent quarter, men's wear revenues represented 74 percent of sales, boy's wear, 10 percent, its retail and outlet stores, 14 percent, and the remainder, licensing royalties and buying office commissions. Backlog was up 31 percent for fall and holiday at the quarter's end.
Josie Esquivel, an analyst at Morgan Stanley, called the quarter "fantastic," adding that, with the backlog, "retailers' tremendous enthusiasm" for the brand, and the strong looks of the spring 1996 line, "I see no reason for this to slow down." Analysts are looking for the firm to earn about $1.40 to $1.42 in its March 1996 fiscal year, against $1.12 the prior year. -- Fairchild News Service

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