NEW YORK — Kellwood Co. has ambitious plans for its intimate apparel businesses.

At the top of the list is the launch of a line of sleepwear, robes and at-homewear bearing the Sag Harbor Intimates name.

The new line, which is part of the LA Intimates Group unit of Kellwood that includes Crowntuft and Stan Herman robes, will be unveiled at next week’s market here at 180 Madison Avenue. It is aimed at consumers in the 35-to-55 age range.

Robert C. Skinner Jr., corporate vice president of St. Louis-based Kellwood, a $2.2 billion apparel conglomerate, said Sag Harbor Intimates “has the natural potential of becoming a $50 million dollar business” within the next several years. Sportswear bearing the Sag Harbor label generates annual wholesale sales of $500 million, he said.

Skinner said a multimillion-dollar national print campaign is being planned for spring 2004. The tag line, which also will appear on point-of-sale materials, will be: Sag Harbor Be Assured.

Distribution will be aimed at major stores currently selling Sag Harbor apparel and accessories, including J.C. Penney, Sears, Kohl’s and Belk Department Stores. Suggested retail will range from $19.99 to $45.99.

James Mogan, president of Kellwood Intimates, said, “This has been an 18-month project with the collaboration of our designers of sleepwear, at-homewear, ready-to-wear and sportswear. Our senior vice president of merchandising, Susan Feldman, has been instrumental to developing the Sag Harbor Intimates collection.”

The line will be comprised primarily of easy two-piece separates, including a variety of tops, pull-on pants, boxers and long and short wrap robes. Fabrics include French terry, chenille, softly brushed cotton knits, cotton wovens and interlock, and woven seersucker. Special effects include contrasting stitching and piping, mesh trims, waffle-pattern knits, cargo pockets, contrasting cuff and collar treatments, and subtle logos on interior and exterior labels. A pastel color palette includes mint green, baby blue, princess pink and cafe au lait. Sizes will be S to 3X.

Marc Kimmelman, vice president of sales, noted that the company conducted consumer focus group studies in five cities for six months with women who made at least one purchase of Sag Harbor apparel to determine their likes and dislikes.“According to NPD Fashionworld, Sag Harbor ranks fourth among the top five national [apparel] brands in dollar volume. Only Liz Claiborne, Jones New York and Polo Ralph Lauren enjoy a higher ranking,” said Kimmelman. “The focus groups were extremely loyal, with 94 percent responding they will buy Sag Harbor again.”

Kimmelman said the survey revealed several factors that drive sales of sleepwear and at-homewear: comfort drives purchase; two-piece sleepwear and loungewear is preferred; the Sag Harbor name generates a positive response and the name provides “assurance” of purchase if other needs are met, and a well-respected brand name confers validity to the purchase.

Regarding Kellwood’s overall intimates businesses, which total $200 million, Skinner said, “We are targeting to grow internal brand initiatives, as well as acquisitions.” He would not elaborate except to say intimate apparel is one of Kellwood’s key growth businesses.

Kellwood’s portfolio of core intimate apparel brands includes LA Intimates, which features sleepwear of polyester charmeuse, a variety of knits and fashion prints; Dentelle, a line of bridal and special occasion sleepwear; Emme, a line of plus-size sleepwear; True Beauty, a sleepwear label at Penney’s, and Stan Herman, whose line of at-homewear and robes is sold on QVC with estimated annual sales of $10 million. The firm also produces XoXo intimates.

In addition to the LA Intimates division, the company also has a sister unit called Biflex Intimates, which produces the licensed Oscar de la Renta foundations, private label bras and proprietary bra labels like Delicates for J.C. Penney. The newest venture in this area will be the Lucy Pereda label for Sears. Shipments are scheduled January 2004.

“Lucy Pereda is the Hispanic Martha Stewart at Sears because she uses Sears appliances in her TV show,” Mogan said. “It’s a critical market we’re going after and is the largest minority growth market. The segment accounts for 20 percent of business at Sears.

“We’ll be doing Lucy Pereda intimates, sportswear and accessories, which will be distributed to more than 400 Sears doors in the next two to three years. It will be a $15 million to $20 million business.”

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