By  on July 23, 2007

Nitches Inc., parent company of NAP Inc., a $100 million innerwear firm, has taken on a new partner: Tokyo-based Sojitz Corp., a $43 billion trading company specializing in aeronautics, chemicals, plastics, energy, minerals, food, textiles and apparel.

The goal of the partnership, in which Nitches secured $1.5 million in funding from Sojitz in April, will give NAP and Nitches the "opportunity for dramatic growth," said Victor Lee, president of NAP. Nitches and Sojitz also signed a manufacturing agreement through which Nitches and NAP will source its branded sleepwear and sportswear.

"Asia presents an enormous opportunity to increase sales and awareness of our stable of brands," Lee said. "Japan is presently the largest consumer market in Asia and China is growing at a rapid rate."

Sojitz, which has 500 subsidiaries and affiliated companies worldwide, operates more than 100 production contractors, managers and merchandisers in China, said Sachio Minobe, president of Sojitz Apparel USA Ltd. In addition to conducting apparel sourcing for major stores in Japan such as Isetan and Takashimaya, Sojitz also produces private label apparel for Fast Retailing Co., owner of the 590-unit Uniqlo brand stores in Japan and the U.K., which recently made a bid to acquire Barneys New York.

"We have limited distribution in Japan, and the partnership will open up distribution in Japan of brands owned and licensed at NAP and Nitches," Lee said. "It will also give us access to Sojitz's extensive apparel sourcing in China, as well as the potential to grow our business in the U.S. through acquisitions and joint ventures involving both companies. We can negotiate lower prices for sourcing and manufacturing in China because Sojitz has tremendous financial leverage.

"For Nitches and its subsidiary NAP, this partnership allows us to have enhanced margin in both the sleepwear and sportswear businesses, and we'll still be able to deliver quality goods at very competitive prices."

Lee said the partnership has generated more than $5 million in orders for fall and holiday selling, primarily in sleepwear and robes by Anne Lewin, a label owned by NAP, the licensed Crabtree & Evelyn line and private label. NAP also has the sleepwear and loungewear licenses for Docker's and Claire Murray, and is the U.S. distributor for Gossard, Shock Absorber and Princesse Tam Tam.San Diego-based Nitches does sleepwear and loungewear by Body Drama, men's casual apparel by Newport Blue and men's golf apparel by Skins Games, as well as women's Western wear by Adobe Rose and Southwest Canyon.

Addressing the business models of Nitches and Sojitz, Minobe said, "I think we have learned that our company philosophies are very similar. We are very careful in our analyses of projects and we see eye-to-eye on avoidance of risk."

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