By  on February 28, 1994

NEW YORK -- The little guys are going for the gold on Wall Street.

While small companies have not been excluded from the stock markets, a recent spate of initial public offerings by apparel firms and retailers with volumes ranging from $3 million to $80 million make it abundantly clear the game is not just for giants.

L.A. T Sportswear, an activewear company with sales of about $80 million, raised $11.2 million in January with the sale of 1.2 million shares. In December, Jasmine Ltd., a handbag and footwear maker with sales of $31 million, raised $8.4 million with the sales of 1.7 million shares.

Jalate Ltd., a $40 million women's and junior apparel maker, filed an offering in February to sell 900,000 shares to raise about $6 million in proceeds.

On an even smaller scale, Leggoons Inc., a children's apparel maker with sales of $3 million, was able to raise $2.5 million in November from the sale of 900,000 shares.

Bancroft Plaza Inc., a $13 million retailer that operates six men's stores in Manhattan, plans to raise $3.2 million from the sale of 515,000 shares. And Sport-Haley Inc., a golf apparel maker with sales of $4 million, filed in February to sell 700,000 shares to net $3.5 million.

Market watchers say the continuing strong equity market overall has trickled down to provide these smaller firms with the opportunity to sell shares.

Elizabeth M. Eveillard, managing director at PaineWebber specializing in apparel and related issues, said her firm has turned down some smaller-sized IPO deals, but these firms wound up going to smaller underwriters to reach the market.

"The big investment bankers might be saying, 'If you want us [to underwrite your IPO] you'll have to wait a year or two,' and these smaller companies are saying, 'No, by then there might not be a market,"' she explained.

Robert S. Natale, who covers emerging and special situations at Standard & Poor's Corp., observed a skewing toward smaller deals throughout the new-issue market, mainly because the deals are easier to sell.

"The incremental flow of money into the equity market is probably going to be lower this year than last year. This will make it more difficult for stock prices overall to make much headway and make it a little more difficult for larger deals to get done in the new issue market," Natale said.

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