EDDIE BAUER PLANS 16 STORES FOR DRESS SPORTSWEAR LINE

Byline: Robert Spector

REDMOND, Wash.--Eddie Bauer Inc. will open 16 stores this year to house a new line of tailored "dress sportswear" under the AKA Eddie Bauer label.
Seven of the stores--including those in Seattle, San Francisco and Albany, N.Y.--will be new. Nine others will be converted from the company's All Week Long women's sportswear stores that are in such cities as Annapolis, Md., Kansas City, Portland, Ore., and Bloomington, Minn.
The company launched the All Week Long women's catalog in 1988 and introduced stores with that name in 1991. Eddie Bauer's combined retail and catalog sales exceeded $1 billion in 1994.
The AKA Eddie Bauer stores, which will be completely redesigned, average about 4,500 square feet.
"We felt that the whole concept of dress sportswear, which was where we were going to move All Week Long, didn't work as well under the All Week Long umbrella as it did under AKA," said Lisa Bayne, vice president and corporate creative director for Eddie Bauer, here. All Week Long had focused primarily on classics and basic career looks. AKA Eddie Bauer is dressier and has more updated styling.
Eddie Bauer's move into "dress sportswear" reflects an overall trend of outdoor companies diversifying into fashion apparel. Firms such as Timberland, Lands' End, Banana Republic and Woolrich Inc. have updated their fashions and expanded their styles and colors to compete in the sportswear arena. At the same time, many casual firms have jumped on the rugged trend by adding that element to their sportswear lines.
"Everybody is getting into rugged apparel, from designers down," said Rick Fersch, president of Eddie Bauer, on Tuesday. Fersch was in New York for the National Retail Federation convention. "While rugged apparel is the core of our business, we need to continue to diversify to increase our sales."
Eddie Bauer, a division of Spiegel Inc., tested a few AKA Eddie Bauer items in its September 1994 catalog. The new collection will comprise 50 percent women's wear and 50 percent men's wear and will include footwear and accessories. Prices will range from $18 for a cotton and spandex T-shirt to $195 for a lightweight wool double-breasted blazer.
The line will be available in an AKA Eddie Bauer catalog for spring that will be mailed next month. The same offerings will be available in the catalog and in retail stores.
According to Bayne, AKA has "some similarities" with the old All Week Long concept.
"We are trying to capitalize on many of the strengths of All Week Long, which included casual, comfortable, classic, finer sportswear," said Bayne. "AKA differs in the fact that it is perhaps more refined than much of All Week Long, which was known for its embellished, highly novel sweaters and shirts," she continued. "Those are not part of the AKA collection. But a lot of the more tailored pieces, jackets and fine-gauge sweaters and silk shirts that were part of the All Week Long collection have been translated into AKA."
Bayne added that the collection of updated and classic designs "meets the dressier needs for people who live in Eddie Bauer casual sportswear every day.
"It is geared, for the most part, toward the workplace," she said. "AKA can take you through your week, whether you require a tailored look or a less-suited look. For people for whom Eddie Bauer casual sportswear is more casual than they ever get, this is their dress sportswear."
Fabrics for the AKA line are a little more sophisticated than for the traditional Eddie Bauer sportswear line.
'We developed a collection for women in this linen/rayon-based fabrication," said Bayne. "This collection consists of a number of interchangeable pieces, mostly solids, that can be worn suited. There are also mix-and-match possibilities, with a couple of novelties, such as a plaid skirt. Lightweight wool is a fabric that AKA will be offering year-round.
Bayne said the interior of the stores has been specifically designed for the AKA concept.
"You won't find the same rustic look as an Eddie Bauer store," she said. "While having a lot of the warmth of an Eddie Bauer store in terms of wood, we are using finer woods and a bit more of an eclectic mix of materials. Just as the clothes are more refined, the interior is, too."

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