By  on February 11, 2008

NEW YORK — Berle, the better slacks maker, is reconfiguring the women’s side of its Bricken business—the brand it purchased just one year ago—prompting its namesake, Barry Bricken, to leave the company. 

Citing difficulty merging the two companies, as well as changes in the women’s career-dress market, Berle executive vice-president Eric Krawcheck said the women’s Bricken label, at one time a $12 million business, will be licensed out to Fashion House Limited in Canada. “We are a men’s wear company. Women’s is a whole different game and we needed to find a company that knows that market inside and out,” he said. 

Berle retains the rights to the Bricken trademarks and will continue to manufacture and market the men’s line. 

Barry Bricken, onetime owner of the brand who sold the 60-year-old company to Charleston, S.C.–based Berle in December 2006, served until his departure as the label’s executive vice-president. Under terms of a deal signed Feb. 1, Berle agreed to award Barry Bricken a severance package of an undisclosed amount and dismantle his non-compete agreement. 

Only 12 months ago executives on both sides were optimistic about the acquisition. Berle was hoping to use Bricken and its position in the women’s market to expand into women’s private label collections and slacks. Bricken is primarily a women’s business, with 95 percent of sales coming from that market. Barry Bricken had planned to use Berle’s relationships to develop his namesake brand’s private label and men’s businesses. 

But integrating the two companies proved to be difficult, especially in light of the unfamiliar demands of the women’s market. Barry Bricken cited shipping delays as one such hurdle. “Women’s stores are very sensitive to shipping on time,” he said. “An entire collection has to be received at the same time, but there were problems there.” 

Changing tastes in the career-dress market negatively impacted the company too, as women increasingly opt for more sportswear-influenced styles offered from both designer brands, like Theory, and national retailers, like Banana Republic. “The market is very challenging right now,” Bricken said. 

Bricken women’s line will not be shipped this spring and Berle said it will shutter three existing Bricken stores in the U.S. as it revamps the offering. “The line needs to be reevaluated,” Krawcheck said, adding that new product will relaunch under license next fall. The Bricken men’s line will continue to be made and marketed in-house and will not be interrupted. 

Barry Bricken plans to return to the market—without use of his name—with a contemporary women’s line aimed at the career-dress market.

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