By  on January 7, 2008

NEW YORK — In 2005 when topcoat resource Jacob Siegel was acquired by Fishman & Tobin, Donald Levy, president of the Levy Group, phoned Jacob Siegel president Stephen Saft to complain. “Why didn’t you consider us instead? We would have been a great fit for you.”

Two years later, Levy is getting his wish. His company, which makes casual outerwear for Perry Ellis, Joseph Abboud and Claiborne under license, has purchased Jacob Siegel for an undisclosed amount.

Jacob Siegel, which makes topcoats and outerwear for Rainforest, Nautica and Jones New York under license as well as better goods under the Jacob Siegel brand, will operate as a separate division of the Levy Group and will be headed by Saft.

Donald Levy could not be reached for comment, but Saft said that company has been looking to get into the dress outerwear business for some time.

Jacob Siegel, a brand founded in the 1910s and run by the Saft family since the 1950s, is a venerable name in the topcoat market. While the industry has shrunk to a few major players, the company still rings up near $20 million, according to a market source.

While no money has yet changed hands and lawyers are still drafting the final documents, Jacob Siegel’s staff has been operating out of Levy’s offices for the last month, an active period for the outerwear market. All of Siegel’s staff members, a team of seven sales and merchandise personnel, have joined the Levy team, save one. Josh Weiss, vice-president of sales, has opted not to make the jump. Saft said that responsibilities and job titles of the Jacob Siegel staff may shift as the company continues to integrate with Levy.

The sale marks the end of an experiment for Fishman & Tobin, a giant in the children’s apparel arena, which purchased Siegel in the hopes of pushing into new markets. But the seasonal apparel business is a wily one, and proved difficult to integrate. Jacob Siegel, like most outerwear vendors, does the lion’s share of its business between August and December, and the company’s need for everything from warehousing to staff fluctuates throughout the year—a model foreign to Fishman’s year-round business. “We’re not an outerwear company,” said the Mark Fishman, company president. “[Siegel] is a better fit with a company whose core business is outerwear.”

Levy, on the other hand, is an outerwear specialist that will extend both its extensive sourcing and distribution expertise to its new division. “In many cases we’re buying the same fabric, and the cadence of the production, warehousing and selling is the same,” Saft said, noting that Siegel will maintain its current manufacturers.

Both Siegel and Levy serve primarily the department store channel, with a few brands, like the Jacob Siegel label, that are marketed to better specialty stores. Saft stressed that the acquisition will not disrupt sales or service for its customers.

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