NEW YORK--Bernard Chaus Inc. said Tuesday it hoped to reverse its fortunes by zeroing in on the upper-moderate price zone with a new merchandising strategy that emphasizes fashion-forward looks. The new merchandise is expected to be in department stores by June 1995. "In this upper-moderate area, there is a huge void of fashion," said Andrew Grossman, Chaus's new chief executive officer, addressing about 50 stockholders at the company's annual meeting, at the Grand Hyatt Hotel here. "We want to be current with fashion, just like the better and designer lines. We don't want to chase it, as we had in the past, but be a leader," he said. Chaus, which started in the upper-moderate, updated sportswear zone when it was founded in 1975, had drifted to the mid-moderate zone over the past few years because of price pressures, industry observers said. Grossman, who joined the firm on Sept. 28 from Jones Apparel Group, where he was president, said he aimed to position the Chaus lines between the better-priced area, which includes Liz Claiborne, Jones Apparel Group's Rena Rowan for Saville and Rafaella, and the moderate-priced area, including Alfred Dunner and Norton McNaughton. Grossman declined to talk about price points or merchandising strategy. The average wholesale price for the Chaus lines is $22 to $23, said Dick Baker, director and president of the firm. Grossman said the lines would continue to be marketed under the labels Chaus, Chaus Sport, Chaus Dress and Chaus Woman. The new merchandising strategy comes after the company has reduced inventory and overhead in the past year. Josephine Chaus, the firm's chairwoman who joined Grossman on the platform, said the firm had pared the number of employees by 30 percent worldwide, but she expected no further layoffs. At least one Wall Street observer applauded Chaus's move into the upper-moderate zone. "They have been fighting and clawing in the niche that they are in, so I think they'll have a better crack in this new zone," said analyst Edward Johnson, director, Johnson Redbook Service. Bernard Chaus Inc., which has been on a profit slide for the past several years, lost $8.9 million in its first quarter ended Sept. 30, against a loss of $1.7 million a year earlier, as reported. Sales declined 6 percent to $65.4 million from $69.6 million. Grossman got a $6.2 million signing bonus on top of a $1 million base salary for joining Chaus. Josephine Chaus has put in her own money to bolster the firm, pledging $14.4 million in September alone. The company had a $10.9 million loss in 1993 on revenues of $235.8 million.
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