Allen B. Schwartz Doesn’t Renew Line at J.C. Penney

The designer has pulled the plug on his Allen B. collection for the beleaguered retailer after five years.

Allen B. Schwartz, co-owner, founder and design director of A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz, has pulled the plug on his Allen B. collection for J.C. Penney Co. Inc. after five years at the beleaguered retailer.

This story first appeared in the September 20, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Allen B., which started out as a sportswear collection but morphed into a dress line, was carried at 908 Penney’s stores. Schwartz said he designed, fit and sourced the collection, which was manufactured by Penney’s. The deal was under a royalty license.

“I just don’t feel it’s the right opportunity. I’m refusing the renewal,” said Schwartz, who was contacted at Fashion Coterie, where he was showing his upscale lines, A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz evening dresses and day dresses, in addition to the Blue Pearl by Allen Schwartz sportswear line. Schwartz discussed it with his partner, Armand Marciano, and they decided that there are better opportunities out there.

“I want to be more appreciated. I’ve done incredible work with them. I became uneasy and I’m not going to renew,” said Schwartz. He said he was the first designer of an upscale collection to go into business simultaneously with Penney’s. He struck his initial deal with Ken Hicks, then president and chief merchandising officer of Penney’s, and Liz Sweney, executive vice president of women’s.

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At the launch, the line was designed to provide novelty to the selling floor with looks such as tie-dyed knit tops and jumpsuits. It was expected to project the California lifestyle, without being too beachy or too Beverly Hills flashy.

Schwartz recently went to the Penney’s seminar, which Myron “Mike” Ullman 3rd, chief executive officer of Penney’s, held. “I listened carefully and I came back and they sent me my renewal. The terms were not acceptable. It wasn’t what it started out to be,” said Schwartz, who declined to divulge what the terms were.

Asked if he had another deal in mind, Schwartz said not yet.

This deal goes through Jan. 14.

Eight months ago, Penney’s told him they wanted him to change from sportswear to dresses, which the retailer thought had more potential.

“I want to be consistent. Every season is something new. We’re staffing 25 people for a project like this, and we just can’t flip a switch. I feel very relieved,” he said. “The terms keep changing and you lose trust.”

A Penney’s spokeswoman said, “We don’t comment on contract negotiations.”