MODERATE: PUSHING AHEAD

Byline: Anne D'Innocenzio

NEW YORK--Bruised by department stores' push into value-priced private label as well as the general lackluster retail environment, moderate-price sportswear firms are scrambling to develop strategies to keep sales ticking.
Tactics range from diversifying lines to keeping prices in check.
Royal Silk, a 17-year-old firm that previously sold its fashions through catalogs, is repositioning itself as a wholesaler. It plans to upgrade its signature collection, aiming it at upper moderate/better price points, while launching a more price-sensitive line called Nine to Five. Both will premiere for spring 1996.
"We need to branch out and reposition ourselves," said Howard Mensch, vice president of sales.
Given price hikes in silks and cottons and the reluctance of consumers to pay more, the company is being forced to absorb the higher costs of doing business.
Nine to Five, which offers career sportswear, targets a 25-to-40-year-old woman. Jackets, for example, wholesale for $50 to $70.
The line is expected to generate between $3 million and $4 million in its first year, about the same as the Royal Silk line.
Royal Silk appeals to a slightly older customer with a higher price point. Its jackets wholesale from $70 to $100.
Mensch added that the company's forte is fabrics, with a heavy emphasis on silk cotton and silk rayon blends. It is also expanding into crepes, rayons and Tencel.
Rainbow West Apparel is reorienting itself in the domestic market. Twenty-five percent of the company's business was generated in Mexico, and it has been burned by that country's economic crisis.
Rainbow West, which posted sales of $8 million last year, saw double-digit declines in 1994, and hopes to reverse its fortune with a two-pronged approach.
"We are lowering our prices, and cutting overhead by 10 to 15 percent," said Julio Maya, owner. "You just have to tighten your belt and work on a closer scale."
For spring, wholesale prices for Rainbow's outerwear and sportswear are $15 to $20.
Prince Island Apparel, a division of Marathon Apparel, based in Childer
burg, Ala.,is branching out to the women's market.
"We have been concentrating on a screen-print nature-oriented business, but now we see a need to develop different niches," said Andy Oschack, vice president of sales. All the lines are marketed under either the Marathon or Prince Island labels.
For spring, the company is expanding into women's wear with T-shirts and fleece sweatshirts licensed by the National Audubon Society. The line had been limited to the men's market.
The line is sold in better department stores and wholesales from $7 to $12 for T-shirts and $18 to $22.50 for fleece sweatshirts.
The company is also developing its year-old mass market line, which is licensed by the Nature Conservancy. This collection is being sold at Caldor, Sam's Club and Kmart.
T-shirts wholesale from $5.95 to $9, while fleece sweatshirts are $12 to $22.
Prince Island is teeing off with a golf line for spring. It is licensed by Hook A Kid on Golf, a youth sport alliance based in Florida. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to that organization. This line will be marketed to women and men and will be sold in better department stores.

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