By  on August 23, 2007

Sigrid Olsen is exiting the wholesome apparel business.

While Liz Claiborne Inc. tries to sell Sigrid Olsen as one of the 16 brands it placed under review last month, the $4.99 billion Claiborne is streamlining the better-priced line to focus on its retail side.

After holiday shipments, the brand will no longer wholesale its apparel, which sold for an average of $95 to $110 at retail. Sigrid Olsen apparel was carried in 183 department store doors, including Bloomingdale's, Macy's East, Belk and Dillard's. Sources estimated it did less than $15 million in wholesale volume.

In total, the company is estimated to generate between $80 million and $120 million, which includes volume from its more than 50 stores.

Sigrid Olsen accessories will continue to wholesale at more than 450 doors. The average retail price for jewelry is $37, and the average price for handbags and small leather goods is $168.

"Sigrid Olsen has a strong, passionate consumer following, and our goal is to return to our artist-inspired heritage — a goal we believe is better suited to the retail channel," Roberta S. Karp, senior vice president of business development, legal and corporate affairs at Claiborne, said in a statement. "This is a decision we would have made regardless of the strategic review process, as it is the right move for this brand."

Brad Stephens, an analyst for Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc., said, "There's not many people who can operate in both a wholesale and retail environment out there. Not many companies are doing what the Lizes of the world are doing. But if they are closing Sigrid's wholesale apparel, that business is probably not profitable, so this move would make Sigrid more strategically attractive to a buyer."

One source questioned Sigrid Olsen's move away from wholesale, arguing that the winning business model going forward is the retail-wholesale hybrid in which brands such as Guess and Coach have flourished.

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