By  on December 21, 2006

MUNICH — After months of below-the-radar activity, Escada chief executive officer Frank Rheinboldt is taking visible steps to awaken and rejuvenate what he describes as a "sleeping beauty" of a brand.

"We have to kiss the brand alive again," he told WWD as he outlined his vision for the new Escada at the German fashion house's headquarters here.

And who's the prince?

"I hope I'm the prince," he said, without skipping a beat. "Plus, the retailers and, of course, the women who love Escada."

The 39-year-old ceo of Escada subsidiary Primera took over the Escada Group helm from founder Wolfgang Ley on Feb. 1. With a stringent cost-cutting program behind it, Escada's been back in the black for two years and is projecting mid-single-digit sales growth and a 10 percent increase in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, or EBITDA, for fiscal 2005-06, which ended Oct. 31.

Although the Escada Group met or exceeded sales and operating profits for the fiscal year, preliminary figures released Wednesday showed profits after taxes and minority interests plunging 51.5 percent to 6.9 million euros, or $8.5 million. All dollar figures are converted from the euro at the average exchange rate.

The company stressed the decrease was "solely the result of one-time valuation adjustments in the balance sheet that were made primarily for inventories and deferred taxes in the second quarter."

EBITDA reached 74.1 million euros, or $92 million, a gain of 13.8 percent. This surpassed the projected 10 percent gain.

Group sales rose 7.2 percent to 695.2 million euros, or $859 million, against a forecast of growth in "the mid-single-digit range." The Escada business unit increased sales 6.1 percent to 489.2 million euros, or $604 million, and improved EBITDA 17.8 percent to 74.1 million euros, or $92 million. Sales for the Primera unit, which includes Laurèl, Biba, Apriori and Cavita, were up 7.5 percent, with EBITDA rising 11.2 percent.

While profit figures for the fourth quarter were not released, the company called the quarter's business performance satisfying, with sales rising 10.3 percent to 205.2 million euros, or $253 million.

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