By  on June 2, 1994

NEW YORK -- Great American Knitting Mills, a division of Bidermann Industries Corp., is looking abroad for new opportunities.

The company is launching a new program for the international marketing and distribution of its hosiery labels, which include Gold Toe, Perry Ellis, Arrow, Jockey and private label brands. All the labels offer styles for women and men, except for Jockey, which is exclusively men's.

Brian Mathe, previously Sara Lee's director of international operations for the Hanes, L'Eggs and Donna Karan Hosiery labels, has been named vice president of international sales for Great American.

Based in New York, Mathe will direct all aspects of international operations for the hosiery lines. He will also develop selective private label businesses for global distribution. He will report to Ray Russell, executive vice president of sales and marketing.

According to Mathe, Canada and Mexico are the top priorities in terms of new distribution. The Gold Toe line has already been launched for spring in three department stores in Mexico, and the Arrow line will appear in Sears stores in Mexico for fall, he said. In addition, the company plans mass distribution of private label products in Mexico and Canada.

The North American Free Trade Agreement had much to do with the company's entrance into Mexico, Mathe said. Great American also wants to manufacture socks in Mexico to sell in the Mexican market.

In Canada, only the Arrow line will be distributed. The Gold Toe name has been registered there for many years by another firm, he said.

After Canada and Mexico, Great American is eyeing Western Europe and Japan.

In the first year of international business, said Mathe, he expects wholesale volume to be $2.5 million.

Mathe said he sees strong potential in Europe because "there is a smaller number of manufacturers there, labor costs are excessive, and most manufacturing takes place offshore."

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