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Stock Exchange

The 20 most actively traded fashion stocks over the last 12 months.

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The 20 most actively traded stocks of apparel and accessories manufacturers over the last 12 months.

Wall Street is a hard master to serve as any official of a public company will attest. Stocks can move on tangible data or seemingly thin air. The Street devours financial information and spits out its verdict. Strategic business initiatives, a new ceo or an acquisition can also heat up buying and selling. Many of the most actively traded issues on this list demonstrated sustained solid performance and strong fundamentals, which added to their appeal. They also had plenty of news to report in the last 12 months, which always sparks interest.

1 SARA LEE CORP. 1,905,227

The consumer products giant’s apparel unit posted a sales decrease in the fourth quarter ended June 28 and the full year, however, bras, legwear and men’s and women’s underwear gained market share.

2 COACH INC. 1,559,500

Since its IPO in 2000, Coach has been one of the hottest public companies in fashion — investors on board since the beginning have tripled their money. Impressive earnings and sales, not to mention a 61 percent stock-price increase has made Coach a darling of Wall Street.

3 NIKE INC. 1,312,863

Expansion in overseas markets overcame slower growth in the U.S., while a detente with top retail account Foot Locker — the two companies had a contentious relationship that impacted Nike sales — calmed investors’ jitters.

4 JONES APPAREL GROUP 1,102,636

After losing its fight to retain Polo Ralph Lauren’s lucrative Lauren license, Jones bounced back by acquiring Kasper A.S.L. during a bankruptcy court auction. That will give Jones clout in the moderate suit business through the Kasper brand and entry to the high-end designer market through Anne Klein. The acquisition also gives Jones the Albert Nipon and Le Suit brands.

5 REEBOK INTERNATIONAL 739,818

Reebok has kept pace with number one Nike in footwear and apparel. In an effort to attract teens, the company dusted off its fusty image by teaming up with musicians such as Eve and Shakira. Reebok paired with Diane Von Furstenberg to develop co-branded tenniswear for Venus Williams to wear.

6 LIZ CLAIBORNE INC. 654,227

Liz Claiborne’s signature brand used to account for a majority of the company’s sales, but no more. But if one door has started to close, the company is opening many others. In the past year, acquisitions such as Ellen Tracy and Juicy Couture have given Claiborne a diversified portfolio and more clout in department stores, while Mexx has brought an international flair to its retail business.

7 WARNACO GROUP INC. 625,227

Warnaco, which emerged from Chapter 11 in February, has been emphasizing better discipline in sales forecasting and production planning. The company is focused on building market share for CK underwear and Speedo and launching new products under the Olga label.

8 QUIKSILVER INC. 611,909

Quiksilver’s continually impressive sales, earnings and stock performance have earned it a special place in investors’ hearts. The company’s stock appreciated 42 percent in the past year, compared with the Standard & Poor’s 500, which lost 24 percent. A major proponent of lifestyle brands for the young and active, Quiksilver has mined the popularity of athletes such as Tony Hawk in marketing.

9 TOMMY HILFIGER CORP. 555,045

Tommy Hilfiger is trying to put its problems — including a $513 million loss in its last fiscal year — behind it. In August, the company hired David Dyer, a highly regarded merchant and talented manager, as president and chief executive officer. Hilfiger’s performance has been improving of late, aided by the acquisition of a former licensee in Europe.

10 POLO RALPH LAUREN CORP. 404,181

Polo Ralph Lauren’s genteel image was shattered by its all-out war against Jones Apparel Group to reclaim its lucrative Lauren license. Besides bringing Lauren in house, the company is busy aggressively building its retail and worldwide businesses and growing the Club Monaco brand.

11 VF CORP. 388,045

VF, a $5.08 billion behemoth in jeans and innerwear, jumped headfirst into the women’s sportswear arena with its acquisition in August of Nautica Enterprises Inc. Nautica will give VF its first high-profile fashion presence in department stores. Having plumbed the lifestyle niche with Nautica, the company is looking for acquisitions in the outdoor category.

12 RUSSELL CORP. 252,909

While Juicy Couture has made inroads with the decaf latte/spinning crowd, Russell Athletic still appeals to the sweaty hordes. The company reaped the benefits of a restructuring despite tough deflationary and promotional pressures at retail. Meanwhile acquisitions such as Spalding, Bike and Moving Comfort have contributed to a rosy sales picture.

13 KASPER A.S.L. LTD. 247,954

Preparing to emerge from bankruptcy as part of Jones Apparel Group, Kasper reported better sell-throughs in the Anne Klein bridge and better lines, strong suit sales at retail and wholesale and a strengthening in the firm’s outlet stores.

14 FOSSIL INC. 242,272

Fossil may be known for its watches, but the company has made diversification its mantra. Product offerings like small leather goods and handbags as well as a selection of Fossil apparel are beginning to bear fruit. Sunglasses and jewelry (most notably a line by Philippe Starck) are also part of the new Fossil universe.

15 COLUMBIA SPORTSWEAR CO. 209,818

Excellent earnings growth, solid business fundamentals, a thriving outerwear business and the acquisition of Mountain Hardwear have kept Columbia flying high. The momentum seems poised to continue with the company raising its guidance for net income growth to 10 to 12 percent for the full year — music to Wall Street’s ears.

16 OAKLEY INC. 207,227

Oakley’s newer apparel, prescription eyewear, footwear and watch categories offset pressure in its core sunglass business. The company has been normalizing relations with Luxottica’s Sunglass Hut, a key account. The chilly relationship between the companies stems from an intellectual property suit initiated by Oakley against Luxottica and its affiliates.

17 KELLWOOD CO. 194,136

Kellwood has been racking up licenses and acquisitions like so many notches on a bedpost. The company teamed up with G.A.V. for a Calvin Klein women’s better sportswear collection launching in the spring. Kellwood has also taken on licenses for Liz Claiborne dresses and suits, an Izod moderate women’s line and XOXO junior apparel.

18 GUESS INC. 127,954

Guess is trying to find some balance. The company’s retail business has been growing at a double-digit clip. At the same time Guess’ wholesale business has suffered, with weak traffic at department stores taking a toll on demand and heavy markdowns hurting margins.

19 KENNETH COLE PRODUCTIONS INC. 115,772

Kenneth Cole, who recently celebrated 20 years in business, may still be “sole searching,” as he likes to say, but his company doesn’t seem to share his angst. Over the past decade, the company’s sales have managed a compounded annual growth rate of roughly 24 percent. In the first quarter, the firm managed double-digit gains on both the top and bottom lines.

20 PHILLIPS-VAN HEUSEN CORP. 105,590

The nation’s largest dress shirt marketer now has a seat at the table with the fashion elite as the owner of Calvin Klein. Since acquiring the business in February, PVH has discovered that the Klein opportunity is even greater than it initially forecasted. PVH has also been ramping up a moderately priced Izod line selling to J.C. Penney, Macy’s, Lord & Taylor and Robinsons-May.

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