CAROLE LITTLE TAKES ON JUNIORS

Byline: Kristi Ellis

LOS ANGELES — Carole Little, a veteran player in the better sportswear and dress market, plans to launch a better junior-contemporary line in November for summer 2000 retailing.
Banking on a new $45 million credit facility with GMAC Commercial Credit and a sourcing alliance with Li & Fung International, based in Hong Kong, the company plans to introduce a capsule junior collection in November and launch a full line for fall 2000, according to Leonard Rabinowitz, Carole Little’s co-founder and co-chairman.
Marilyn Hikida has joined the company as senior merchandiser to launch the division, which is aiming at department stores’ lifestyle shops, usually focused on teens.
“I see a window of opportunity for established resources to enter the junior business,” Rabinowitz said. “Our alliance with Li & Fung, which has a $2 billion sourcing network, helps us level the playing field.”
Carole Little merged its own Hong Kong sourcing into Li & Fung in April.
“We went from having one office in Hong Kong to having 45 offices in 33 countries,” said Rabinowitz. “Now we have the competitive advantage on pricing with a $2 billion company, without the expense structure, and we have the ability to be nimble as a niche player.”
Carole Little will target 16-to-36-year-old customers and offer wholesale prices ranging from $14 to $34.
Rabinowitz said the line would “be weighted” in knits and include embellished denims and crochets.
Carole Little, which has an annual wholesale volume of $180 million, produces Carole Little Career; Carole Little Petite; Carole Little Dresses; Carole Little Sport; CL2, its plus-size line, and St. Tropez West, its moderate line.
Rabinowitz projected first-year wholesale volume of the better junior-contemporary line of $7 million to $10 million.
“Today, you either have to be acquired or grow, and we are taking the growth path,” he said.