Byline: Rich Wilner

NEW YORK--Stung by a dropoff in consumer spending, financially troubled Bidermann Industries USA Inc. indicated it intends to increase profitability in its Ralph Lauren Womenswear operation by cutting price points and reducing expenses.
If it gets the chance.
As reported, Ralph Lauren, anxious to regain control of his women's wear marks, is said to be negotiating with Bidermann Industries to buy back the license.
According to court papers, Bidermann's Ralph Lauren business registered sales of $120 million in 1994. This is the first time privately held Bidermann has disclosed its Lauren volume. The figure confirmed an estimate published in these columns Friday.
Bidermann's Ralph Lauren license has another 2 1/2 years to run. Sources said talks for Lauren to buy back his license were proceeding well and could be completed in several months.
Bidermann Industries, which filed for Chapter 11 protection Monday, did not address the negotiations with Lauren in court papers but left open the possibility of a sale of all or part of the Bidermann businesses.
If it held on to the designer label, though, Bidermann said, it "will seek to increase [Lauren's] profitability by making the product more competitive at various price points and reducing expenses." The overall aim, the petition said, is to make its businesses "stronger and more viable entities allowing them either to emerge successfully from Chapter 11 or to effectuate a sale of their businesses to a third party for maximum value."
Executives at Polo Ralph Lauren Corp., the designer's company, were not available for comment Tuesday.
The filing in Manhattan Bankruptcy Court also shows that Bidermann's shirt business, which includes the Arrow, Yves Saint Laurent and Burberrys labels in the U.S., as well as all shirt sales in Canada, Mexico and Central America, had 1994 sales of about $314 million.
Bidermann's hosiery business, including the Gold Toe, Silver Toe, Arrow and licensed Jockey and Perry Ellis marks, had 1994 sales of about $138 million, court papers show.
The company's Apparel Group, which manufactures men's tailored clothing under the Arrow and Yves Saint Laurent labels, had sales last year of about $14 million.
Bidermann Industries listed liabilities of $372 million, including $268.6 million in secured claims and $58.6 million due the trade. Assets were listed at $323.2 million, including $140 million in inventory.--Fairchild News Service

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