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The Top 10 Outerwear: A New Leader

Sporty style takes over.

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD 100 issue 07/23/2008
1. L.L. Bean
2. London Fog
3. Lands’ End
4. Eddie Bauer
5. Columbia
6. Nautica
7. The North Face
8. Kenneth Cole
9. Liz Claiborne Coats
10. Jones New York
 
For the first time in the 11 WWD100 surveys dating to 1993, London Fog did not place fi rst on the list of most-recognized outerwear brands. That position goes to L.L. Bean, which knocked London Fog to number two.

Based in Freeport, Maine, Bean has been fastening its ties to consumers beyond its mail order business and freestanding stores. A paddle sports festival, summer concerts, outdoor discovery schools and a cobranded Subaru SUV are among the many marketing initiatives being used to try to connect with shoppers beyond straight-out purchases. Aside from opening its second store in Chicago this year, the company has already signed up to be part of Freeport Village Station, a commercial development under construction in its hometown.

Founded in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean, the company has grown from a one-man operation to a global organization with annual sales of $1.5 billion. At the end of May, Bean announced it was dropping Bank of America as holder of L.L. Bean Visa card accounts and has started processing applications for new cards through an as-yet-unnamed bank. On another front, the Outdoor Channel will add “L.L. Bean’s Guide to the Outdoors” to the network’s third-quarter 2008 programming lineup. Avid outdoorsman Bill Gorman, the great-grandson of L.L. Bean, and Tim Rajeff, world-renowned master fl y fi sherman, will cohost the program and feature hunting and fishing footage from around the world.

London Fog, meanwhile, is still finding its footing, after being acquired in a bankruptcy court-sponsored auction by the Iconix Fashion Group in 2006 for $30.5 million in cash and $7 million in Iconix stock. Through a new joint venture, Silas Chou and Iconix chief executive offi cer Neil Cole have teamed up to court the Chinese middle class with Iconix China. Iconix has contributed $5 million to the venture and the Chinese rights to its brands, which include Op, London Fog, Joe Boxer and Candie’s.

Iconix has also been staffi ng up to build its labels domestically and all around the globe. Late last year Kimberly Lee Minor joined Iconix as vice president of brand management, overseeing the company’s London Fog, Joe Boxer and Rampage brands. She quickly lined up the brand’s first handbag license, which bows this fall.

Lands’ End, Eddie Bauer, Columbia and Nautica ranked third through sixth, respectively, for the second consecutive year.

Lands’ End, which is owned by Sears, has managed to be a bright spot for the Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based merchant. During the retailer’s annual meeting in May, chairman Edward S. Lampert noted the Lands’ End brand saw record profi ts in 2007 and was expanded to 100 Sears stores. He did not break out sales figures.

After a successful introduction in 2006, Sears Canada plans to expand its offering of Lands’ End apparel by adding it to more of its 197 department stores in Canada and 183 dealer-owned locations. It was initially introduced in four stores.

This year, Eddie Bauer said it had redesigned its Web site “to create an online experience that delivers the ease and interactivity of shopping at one of its stores.” For more than two years, Eddie Bauer has been collecting feedback from hundreds of customers to rebuild the site. The revamped site enables customers to choose items without losing their place, zoom in for details and check product availability in real time.

In this year’s survey, The North Face leaped to the seventh place from 10th in 2007. In the fi rst quarter of this year, the company saw site traffi c increase thanks to a new widget that lets online visitors post their own and The North Face-produced videos to other sites.

“At the start, it makes people a little bit nervous, especially traditional marketers — putting your content somewhere that you don’t totally control,” said Sarah Gallagher, online manager of The North Face. However, the widget proved to be an effective traffic generator, driving conversion rates up to four times higher than average.

Kenneth Cole dropped one slot to eighth. This spring, Kenneth Cole Productions Inc. poached Liz Claiborne Inc.’s Jill Granoff as ceo. Granoff, Claiborne’s executive vice president of direct brands, will take over day-today responsibilities for the 25-year-old Cole brand from Kenneth Cole, who has relinquished his career-long ceo title but will continue as chairman and chief creative officer.

Liz Claiborne Coats and Jones New York were ninth and 10th, respectively, in this year’s survey. Claiborne, which is in the midst of a massive corporate restructuring, maintained its ranking from last year, but Jones New York fell from eighth.