Runway designers may grab the attention, but not always the profits. Consider the no-nonsense suit maker Lanier Clothes: When Oxford Industries Inc. reported third-quarter results in December, it was the Lanier division that set the pace, and not by a fraction, either. Lanier’s sales slumped 13.3 percent in the three months, to $30.8 million, just 22.1 percent of the corporate total, but operating profits grew 2 percent to $5.3 million, accounting for 83.1 percent of the total and a rather remarkable 17.3 percent of divisional sales. By contrast, the far trendier Tommy Bahama and Ben Sherman units threw off operating margins of 4.2 percent and 6.6 percent, respectively. Clothing might not be men’s wear’s hot ticket, but it is its high ticket, and, at least at Oxford, it’s an area accustomed to operational discipline. Lanier did benefit from a shift away from its private label business and toward its brands, which include Kenneth Cole and Arnold Brant. “They’re very, very, very good at managing their expenses,” says Oxford president Tom Chubb of Lanier, careful to keep expectations in line by adding: “I think being as high as they are this quarter…while we’d love to see it, I don’t think we can count on seeing that every quarter going forward.”
This story first appeared in the January 17, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.