LOS ANGELES — Pursuing its quest for brand-name products, Tarrant Apparel Group has secured the U.S. licensing rights for French line Alain Weiz and is launching the product exclusively at Dillard’s Inc. for spring.
The Weiz line, known for its plus-size wares with a fashion edge, represents the fourth private brand in the Tarrant stable, which licenses or buys stakes in the clothing companies. Its American Rag Cie juniors’ program is in 180 doors of Federated Department Stores. Tarrant also has exclusive distribution agreements with Wet Seal for No! Jeans and Kmart with Gear7 urban apparel for young men. It also has a deal with Cynthia Rowley for denim and ready-to-wear, bowing for fall 2005.
“The huge success of American Rag has opened the doors to new relationships,” said Gerard Guez, chairman of Tarrant. “We’re pleased to be working with Dillard’s and building Alain Weiz into a lifestyle brand.”
As department stores struggle to find their identity, exclusives provide an avenue of growth opportunities.
“It’s a major initiative on our part to differentiate ourselves from the competition and we plan to look for more exclusive product,” said Jim Stockman, vice president and general merchandise manager for Dillard’s.
For Tarrant, the expansion of its branded division is a change in strategy for the one-time manufacturer of private label clothing, which announced the sale of most of its Mexican manufacturing operations in August. Significant debt — bank borrowings and long-term obligations soared from $36.7 million in 1998 to around $107 million in 2002, according to Tarrant’s 2002 annual report — and the cost of maintaining the operation during slow periods led to Tarrant’s decision to unload the property. The mills, which employed 12,000, ran into unionization efforts and accusations of labor violations.
“It was not an operation we could sustain for 48 to 50 weeks,” Guez said in an interview at his 16th-floor penthouse office in West Hollywood. “Private label is a business that comes with huge peaks and valleys.”
The transition has come at a price.
With its stock trading recently under $1, the company has been warned by Nasdaq of a possible delisting. But it has rebounded in recent weeks and Thursday closed at $1.27, down one cent. The stock hit a high of $48.38 in 1999.
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