By  on June 15, 1994

NEW YORK -- "We have to look at this business through the eyes of a retailer, not a wholesaler," says Ron Frasch, president of Escada USA Inc., as he outlines his plans for reinvigorating this multifaceted fashion business.

Because of his extensive retail experience, Frasch could be just the executive to do that. He took over his current job in February, coming from Neiman Marcus, where he was senior vice president and general merchandise for women's apparel. He started his retail career in 1970 and had been with Neiman's since 1984.

"The whole focus for every division is to be a service machine," said Frasch. He underscored this point with a metaphor: "I want to make sure everyone in this company wears a maid's uniform when they come to work."

Escada USA is the U.S. arm of the Munich-based Escada Group. Frasch joined the international fashion giant at the tail end of the worst two years in its 15-year history.

After a track record of explosively successful growth that mirrored the excesses of the Eighties, the brakes went on in the fiscal year ended Oct. 31, 1992, when the Escada Group reported an operating loss of 59 million marks -- or $35.9 million, at current exchange rates -- on a volume of 1.3 billion marks, or $796.1 million. Special items deepened the net loss to 119 million marks, or $72.3 million.

In fiscal 1993, the firm also posted an operating loss -- 29 million marks, or $17.6 million -- on sales of 1.16 billion marks, or $705 million. Gains from the sale of St. John Knits, however, gave the group a net profit of 14 million marks, or $8.5 million.

According to Frasch, Escada USA was unprofitable in 1993, mostly due to write-downs the firm took as part of its recovery program.

In an interview in the firm's showroom at 1412 Broadway, Frasch talked over the comprehensive plans that he and Wolfgang Ley, chairman of Escada Group, are implementing as they try to insure the firm's future.

Frasch pointed out that Escada USA is "now back in the black" and emphasized that, for the most part, the Escada Margaretha Ley Collection has always performed well. The company ran into problems with many of its secondary subsidiaries that were not properly positioned or priced.

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