By  on June 9, 1994

NEW YORK -- The Limited Inc. has invested $5 million in one of its private label jeans suppliers to form a new company, Rocky Apparel LP, and is exploring additional links with manufacturers. "Clearly, we're looking to build relationships with uniquely skilled manufacturers," Leslie H. Wexner, chairman and chief executive officer of The Limited, said in a statement Wednesday.

In other news, Michael Weiss, The Limited's vice chairman in charge of the women's divisions, reportedly informed Wall Street analysts this week that the company is seeking designers to serve as consultants.

At The Express and Limited Stores divisions, business has been slumping. Company officials have acknowledged that part of the reason is that the fashion has not appealed to customers. It could not be learned which designers will be tapped as consultants, but one source said Weiss is after "some well-known names."

Weiss reportedly also told analysts that due to recent procedural and management changes over the last 60 to 70 days, some fall deliveries at Limited Stores could be a couple of weeks late, arriving in August instead of July. Management changes include last week's announcement that Cheryl Nido Turpin, who turned around the Lane Bryant division, was named president of Limited Stores. Weiss reportedly said there has been a renewed focus on higher quality fabrics and workmanship, and more sophisticated looks, including coordinates and career wear at Limited Stores.

Meanwhile, Wexner described the Rocky Apparel investment as part of an "ongoing strategy of building a long-term, high-quality apparel manufacturing base to support the growth of the company." He added that such investments "are helping us also become true financial partners with some of our suppliers." Wexner was not been available to comment further on potential investments. The Limited has already had financial links with manufacturers through its Mast Industries apparel sourcing division. The latest purchase gives The Limited a 49 percent stake in Rocky Apparel. For The Limited, it's a potential new profit source and an opportunity to build a company that could play a more significant role in its operation. Sales at Rocky Apparel were $32 million in 1993. The Limited, predominantly Express, accounted for just over half of that.

Another key Rocky Apparel account is Merry-Go-Round.Gabriel Zeitouni, president of Rocky Apparel, said last year the company's net profits were "above industry norms," which he placed at 3 to 4 percent of sales, but he declined to be specific.

The $7 billion Limited bought out Zeitouni's partner, Jacob Mendelson, and the new company purchased the assets of Gabriel Manufacturing Co., in Ruleville, Miss., and its New York selling arm, Rocky Apparel Inc.

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