By  on January 3, 1994

NEW YORK -- Fashion stocks got socked in 1993, reflecting the general malaise in the fashion industry. And analysts don't expect much improvement in 1994 until demand for apparel improves.

The WWD stock index tumbled 6.9 percent in 1993, compared with a 13.7 percent climb in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and a 7.1 percent gain in the Standard & Poor's 500-Stock Index.

Decliners on the WWD index outpaced advancers, 46 to 24, almost a two-to-one margin.

Fashion stocks strongly outperformed the market in 1992 and 1991, when the WWD index shot up a combined 35 percent and many issues racked up even more spectacular gains.

Apparel manufacturers suffered the most in 1993, falling a combined 25 percent They were followed by the discounters, down 21.9 percent, and, apparel specialty stores, off 18.1 percent.

Many of Wall Street's former darlings got rocked in 1993. Liz Claiborne Inc. fell 45.7 percent to 22.63, Fruit of the Loom Inc. plunged 50.4 percent to 24.13, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. slumped 21.9 percent to 25; The Limited Inc. dropped 37 percent to 17, and Dillard Department Stores Inc. fell 23.6 percent to 38.

Wall Street analysts said the declines reflected anemic demand for apparel at retail and the high valuation of many stocks entering the year.

Although the economy showed some strengthening in the latter part of 1993, analysts said low interest rates will lead consumers toward big-ticket items such as cars, houses, large appliances and home-related products, leaving little cash for apparel. Also, apparel demand has been restrained by a lack of any exciting fashion trends to catch the consumer's eye.

But if there was any good news in 1993, it was a buoyant new issue market -- despite the postponement in November of the most publicized one, The Donna Karan Co.

Among the winners in apparel retailing were Chico's FAS Inc., rising 143 percent from its March offering price; The Gymboree Corp., soaring 123 percent from its March offering price; The Talbots Inc., rising 35.9 percent from its November offering price, and Urban Outfitters Inc., ahead 48.6 percent from its November offering price.

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