LEE CLOSES BELGIAN PLANT: The board of directors of Brussels-based Lee Europe N.V. announced Tuesday that it closed its jeans manufacturing facility in Ieper, Belgium, that day and laid off 480 employees.
The company issued a statement that said Belgium was too expensive to continue to use for manufacturing, and jeans made there could "no longer compete on the international market."
The statement cited difficult international price pressures and heated competition in the jeans market. In addition to high manufacturing costs, a strong Belgian franc was said to be making Ieper-made Lee jeans too pricy at export.
The company is prepared to develop a compensation package for the workers, mainly blue collar, who will be affected by the closing. There are no immediate plans to open another jeans manufacturing facility in Belgium or in Europe, a company executive said. Lee has jeans manufacturing facilities throughout Europe, said a company spokeswoman in the U.S., in such areas as the UK and Poland.
The board said that Lee Europe "will further concentrate on its role as an international distribution and service center, and is convinced it will be able to expand its position on the international market in this respect."
The move came despite Lee's European business having been cited as part of the strong first quarter results reported in April by VF Corp., Lee's parent company. At that time, VF chairman Lawrence R. Pugh said: "Representing more than half of our business, jeanswear has clearly been the earnings driver of the past several quarters."
VF officials also told analysts that its European jeans business was "very strong," with sales up roughly 10 percent.
The closing of the plant does not affect Lee's executive lineup in Europe. Terry Lay, who was named to head VF Jeanswear Europe in 1994, will continue to lead that operation.

MIRACLE BOOST BLASTS OFF: Miracle Boost, the derriere-enhancing jeans made by Sun Apparel for its Code Bleu line, will be officially launched at Macy's East's flagship at Herald Square July 11.
The kick-off will include a classic car and motorcycle motorcade down Broadway with actors and actresses from the musical "Grease," said a spokesman for Sun Apparel, which is based in New York.
There will be a launch party in the store after the motorcade, during which a pair of Miracle Boost jeans will be brought into Macy's in a padlocked box and unlocked. Macy's will have the Miracle Boost jeans exclusively for two weeks, the spokesman said, and after that the jeans will be shipped nationally to other department store accounts.

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