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Looking for Growth in All the Right Places

Mainstream firms are looking for growth in the new year, whether it’s in a hot color, fresh launches or the right acquisition.

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NEW YORK — At the start, sportswear vendors had the wind at their backs in 2004. A wave of spring launches in the better area from brands such as Jones New York and Calvin Klein benefited from a favorable economy and from the consumer interest they generated at retail.

Shoppers grew more miserly during the second half, depressing sales and taking some of the momentum from the launches and ultimately fueling some disappointment for fashion firms. The industry is focusing on newness in the new year. For Jones Apparel Group, that means the integration of Barneys New York, while others are concentrating on another round of launches.

Peter Boneparth, chief executive officer, Jones Apparel Group

Accomplishment: “Clearly, the launch of Jones New York Signature, the acquisition of Barneys New York and the revitalization of the Polo jeans business.”

Disappointment: “What’s been disappointing is the macro outlook in the back half. It’s really been a tale of two years — first half, [the industry] could do no wrong.”

Goal: “Our first goal always is to maintain our leadership position from a production and design standpoint…to continue to execute with the same level of precision as we did in 2004.”

Alexander Vreeland, chief operating officer, GAV

Accomplishment: “Establishing a look, establishing a fit, establishing a quality standard, establishing a price point. Calvin [Klein] never was in these price ranges and it never had this size in women’s apparel. There’s a lot of establishing a business.” In June 2003, Phillips-Van Heusen licensed the Calvin Klein women’s sportswear to Kellwood Co., which works with GAV to produce the line.

Disappointment: “Not shipping for February. We shipped [Calvin Klein better sportswear for March and we think we missed a lot. Business was really good in February.”

Goal: “We’re launching our [Calvin Klein] casual line for spring of ’05. The successful launch of casual and the establishment of that business would be our biggest goal in ’05.”

Kenneth Cole, chairman and ceo, Kenneth Cole Productions

Accomplishment: “Another year of record growth, without steroids.”

Disappointment: “I regret underestimating the importance of red in the November delivery.”

Goal: “To start making blue the new black.”

Ken Sitomer, a principal, Apparel Holding Group

Accomplishment: “With the launch of DNA It’s In Your Genes, we have achieved a major branding diversification into the junior area. Now it complements the men’s and women’s Caribbean Joe along with its 12 licenses and the Periscope junior and kids’ lines.”

Disappointment: “The confusion caused by the worldwide quota system, which kind of discombobulated our sourcing strategy. At the end, it can be a positive, since it opened our eyes that much wider to a deeper global opportunity.”

Goal: “It’s like finding that perfect wave, we would like to find that perfect acquisition.”

Michael Lerner, chairman, Marisa Christina Inc.

Accomplishment: “Setting in place a formal strategic road map and especially focusing on meeting our customers’ needs for more forward-looking merchandise. With our company, we’ve been very traditional, so that was a big deal for us.”

Disappointment: “While many stores still talk about product differentiation, most of them are really reluctant to try any new resources other than something emanating from the megabrands.”

Goal: “To achieve substantial growth and continue to work with our stores to heighten the visibility of Marisa Christina product.”

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