By  on March 9, 1994

LOS ANGELES -- Rampage, the junior and misses' clothing company here, is trying to live up to its name. Beginning this month, when it unveils the first Rampage junior store in Reno, Nev., the company is putting into motion a series of ambitious retail and manufacturing plans, A second store, at the Beverly Center here, will open in early May. These will resemble the Judy's junior stores -- another Rampage retail chain -- in every way but name.

In October, the company plans to open the first Larry Hansel boutique, a better contemporary store here named after the 33-year-old president of Rampage Clothing Co. and Rampage Retail. Larry Hansel will also be the name of a new contemporary clothing line breaking in May or June for fall delivery. That division, targeting women 25 to 45 years old, will wholesale from $70 to $200.

Rampage Knits -- a better junior knitwear division -- will debut in stores nationwide later this month. Featuring shrunken T-shirts, cropped camisoles, rompers, gored miniskirts, bodysuits and sweaters, the line is $5 to $15 wholesale.

Design details include lacing, lettuce edges, spaghetti straps, contrast stitching, ribbing, pointelle, racer backs and bra influences. Fabrics will range from yarn-dyed cotton and Lycra spandex to fine-gauge sweater knits.

The Rampage junior line will roll out its first collection of recycled clothing for April delivery. The first group -- whimsical sportswear items made from old flannel shirts and thrift shop jackets at $12 to $30 wholesale -- is dubbed Rampage Revamped.

That's not all. Between May and July, the company will launch two children's wear stores here under the name Friends. It will carry Rampage merchandise as well as offerings from other children's wear firms.

Looking at concept boards of the store, which features pink cushions and dressing room curtains as well as elaborate mirrors and chandeliers, Hansel said, "I think of it as a kiddie boudoir."

The 46 Judy's junior stores that Hansel acquired at bankruptcy court a year ago are also undergoing renovations expected to be completed in three years. Not only will their appearances change (warm wood and pewter will replace black and white and chrome) but Hansel is also revving up the service policies."We've put in place an unconditional return policy," Hansel said. "We'll be sending out birthday cards to our customers. We want to give our stores a neighborhood feeling. We want to go further for our customers than anyone else will."

The company is also launching a new ad campaign this week. Black and white photos that feature parts of a woman's body including her legs, waist and rear, will appear in the April issues of Vogue and Mademoiselle, on billboards in Los Angeles in April and bus posters in New York this month. The same images will appear on in-store posters and Rampage clothing hangtags.

"We are constantly evolving," said Hansel. "Junior stores out there are in trouble because they don't evolve.In the past couple of years, the manufacturing base has consolidated drastically. At the same time, there is the proliferation of discounters and shrinking market share in the 15-to-25 year-old area. We need to reinvent the business. It shouldn't even be called 'junior' anymore. That sounds like a boy's line. It has no sophistication, no sensuality. It's dumb."

Hansel's new approach includes targeting women from 15 to 35 years old.

"Why stop at age 24?" he asked. He also believes in broader price points -- from $10 to $400 retail, steep by junior standards. Hansel also thinks junior retailers should take more chances. He is. While the first Rampage store will be only 4,000 square feet, subsequent versions will range from 7,000 to 12,000 square feet. That's about two to three times the size of an average junior store.

What will fill that space? Hansel plans to do with Rampage, Friends and Larry Hansel stores what he has been doing with Judy's stores -- order merchandise from Rampage Clothing as well as other companies.

"Both names are strong," Hansel said. "We just wanted to capitalize on the Rampage name where we can, and keep the Judy's name where we have developed a loyal Judy's clientele."

In addition, he's looking into producing a wide range of new products for the stores -- from underwear to fashion accessories and even bath products."Everything will relate to the fashion we already produce," he said. "We are changing from apparel stores to lifestyle stores. It's a natural progression."

Responding to some industry observers who say Rampage is trying to copy Urban Outfitters, the trend-setting retailer and manufacturer out of Philadelphia, Hansel said, "Urban Outfitters stores exude a sincerity that I would want to emulate, but I don't want to do what they do. Their thing is ecology. They are more anti-culture, more grunge. That's not us. We carry a range of looks -- from casual to dressy. We don't want to be locked in by look, price, age, anything. We'll change with the market."

Apparently, that philosophy works. In 1993, the firm's wholesale arm -- which includes the CDC misses' dresses, Rampage kids 4 to 6x and 7 to 14, Rampage junior dresses, Rampage junior sportswear and private label divisions -- grossed $155 million, and Judy's, the retail arm, took in $40 million, according to Hansel.

The company should achieve a volume between $250 to $300 million this year, Hansel said, refusing to break down the numbers by division. He added that since he founded the firm in 1983, it has posted increases of 35 percent annually. He said the growth pace should continue for another five to six years.

How does one run a large company in "constant restructuring" mode? Hansel's answer: empower one's employees.

"We have a full-time motivation trainer for our 1,100 employees," he said. "In a month, we are going to start offering three-to-four-day seminars. We are developing business leaders here. I believe that everyone I hire should want my job. And, someday, one of them will get it."

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