JOVINE'S EXPANDING PLAN

Byline: Janet Ozzard

NEW YORK--It's all adding up for Andrea Jovine.
Jovine, the bridge sportswear designer best known for the wool jersey separates she began designing under her name 12 years ago, is adding categories, licenses, stores and even a fragrance deal to her $74 million wholesale business.
The new plans are part of a strategy that started a year ago when Elissa Bromer, a vice president of sales at DKNY, joined Jovine in the same position. Last month, Bromer was named president, a post that had been empty since Dennis Gay left over 18 months ago.
"Elissa is the missing link," said Jovine in a recent interview here. "She's instrumental in the packaging and the marketing, but she's also instrumental in developing product. I think I got stuck in what I thought my customer wanted, and she's helped get me to be true to myself. We see eye to eye about product."
Victor Coopersmith, chairman and chief executive officer--as well as Jovine's husband --said he'll be taking a less active role in the day-to-day operations of the company, ceding many of those responsibilities to Bromer.
"My hope is to continue to act as chairman and chief executive officer," said Coopersmith. "I'll be involved in financing, banking, commercial licensing contracts, but I do not see myself here on a day-to-day basis."
Coopersmith credits Bromer with bringing a new approach to the company. She has increased marketing to consumers through mailers and catalogs, broken out and increased the size of categories such as casual apparel, suits and special occasion and built business where none existed. Jovine's oversize wool wraps, for example, are now sold both as an item and as part of a sportswear group.
"We're trying to maximize business on a store-by-store basis," said Bromer. "We had to redefine, rebuild and reestablish the label in certain market areas. For example, one focus has been warmer regions like Atlanta and California, where we don't have a wool-based business. By changing fabrics, we've been able to go into new cities."
In addition to jersey fabrics, Jovine now offers woven separates made from Tencel, cotton and viscose blends.
The moves were necessary to keep Jovine's business thriving at a time when stores are consolidating and expecting fewer vendors to supply more categories, said Coopersmith.
"Stores are relying on [a core group of companies] more and more for a broader selection of product, and we are going after that business," he said. "I have been a staunch believer in the bottom line and driving a profitable business, but sometimes at the cost of image. I think Elissa neutralized some of my tenacity regarding this. Elissa's view is much more modern than mine ever was."
Coopersmith feels the knitwear business--the company's foundation--has "peaked in terms of saturation," but the new categories are prime for growth.
"We have always been a price-driven company, but we find our customers' needs vary," said Coopersmith. "We've found that in addition to a more casual, relaxed mode, we have a professional side that's unlimited in terms of the opportunity to capture business. Our growth will come from the professional side, including the suit collection."
"We're not walking away from the knitwear, because I believe it's one of the most modern ways to dress," said Jovine."But it's important to expand on that."
At the same time, said Coopersmith, there are plans to break out the casual apparel, which Jovine has been designing for three seasons, and give it its own label, Andrea Jovine Sport.
"We've been experimenting with that for a few seasons, but for fall 1996 it will become its own label," said Coopersmith. "Elissa made us aware that you don't have to be a skier to wear skiwear, and she's also expanding the evening line so that it becomes nonseasonal."
Other new businesses in the works include a fragrance with Dominion, slated to debut next fall, and eyewear with Colors in Optics. Coopersmith is also negotiating for a home furnishings deal.
On the marketing side, Bromer said she's putting her focus on projects with stores, such as a recent mailer with Saks Fifth Avenue.
"We mailed 100,000 copies and we're projecting $800,000 in retail sales from it," she said. "We did a catalog with [Canadian retailer] Holt Renfrew in French and English. We mailed 50,000, and so far we've registered $250,000 in sales--and that's not even the end result.
"We have invested more with stores, and we've gotten the payback. Mailers, catalogs, in-store videos aren't image-driven, but they go directly to the consumer, and our goal is to ring the register. Andrea has done 15 personal appearances this fall, and she'll do as many for spring."
"Elissa was responsible for getting our own salespeople in stores and merchandise coordinators on the road," said Coopersmith. "They go from store to store to make sure the goods look right."
Also in the works are Jovine's own stores. The first units are planned for early 1996 in Las Vegas, Nev., and Troy, Mich., with cities such as Aspen, Colo., Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco under consideration.
"I can't wait," said Coopersmith, who is not shy about criticizing U.S. retailers. "If I can't beat the retailers at their own game, I'll retire. It doesn't mean we plan to open 100 stores in the first year--more like five or six."
"In the Eighties, people were more spontaneous with their purchases," said Bromer. "Now, women ask themselves before they buy: 'Why am I buying this? What am I going to do with it?' People are more serious about their clothes."

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