NEW YORK — Saks Inc. hasn’t yet shared the identity of Saks Fifth Avenue’s next chief executive officer, but it has coaxed a brand out of retirement for its department stores.
In a move to strengthen its proprietary casual sportswear business, the Saks Department Store Group will look to revive Breckenridge, one of the dormant brands of Leslie Fay. Saks Inc. has signed an agreement with LF Brands Inc., formerly The Leslie Fay Co., to license and subsequently acquire the Breckenridge trademark for exclusive use in a variety of product categories.
Financial terms of the arrangement or the timetable for an acquisition weren’t disclosed. Officials at Saks didn’t return calls seeking elaboration.
Breckenridge enjoyed high brand recognition as a career and casual sportswear label for 20 years until the early Nineties, when LF closed it and a number of other divisions in the wake of its financial scandal. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1993 and has since emerged as a private firm under the LF Brands name.
The Breckenridge brand will be managed by the Saks Department Store Group private brand organization, which is based, like the parent firm, in Birmingham, Ala. Under the deal, SDSG has obtained exclusive rights to design, produce, distribute and sell certain products under the Breckenridge name.
SDSG will introduce women’s casual sportswear in both misses’ and petites’ in all 243 of its stores in March 2004. In the future, SDSG may add additional Breckenridge product categories. SDSG includes Parisian, Proffitt’s, McRae’s, Younkers and Carson Pirie Scott.
“Our customers will associate the Breckenridge name with great quality and classic yet comfortable styling, and we will build on the heritage of this great brand,” George Jones, president and chief executive officer of SDSG, said in a statement. “SDSG’s focus remains on offering exciting, distinctive products to our customers. Adding Breckenridge is consistent with that focus.
“I am confident that this new, unique line of women’s sportswear will be as successful as the Jane Seymour, Ruff Hewn and Laura Ashley proprietary brand merchandise we have introduced during the past year,” Jones added.
Saks said SDSG’s proprietary brands will account for about 14 percent of SDSG’s revenues in 2003. Jones estimated the number will reach 20 percent “in the moderate term.”Peggy Eskenasi, president of private brands at SDSG, said in an interview, “Our goal is to support our effort at differentiating our inventories from the competition. We are interested in putting more private brands into the area because they generate higher levels of profits.”
John Short, who has been at the helm of LF as ceo since last April, said over the past two years the company has been talking to other firms about opportunities to revive through licenses other “hibernating” brands, including Outlander, Andrea Gayle, Knitivo and Personal Sportswear.
“We have gotten a lot of informational requests from a number of retailers and manufacturers for some of these [labels] and we continue to entertain them,” Short said in an interview. “I suspect another one will be happening in the not-so-distant future.”
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