DENIM DISH

Fast Jeans
So far, so good. That’s the early word from Gap Inc. on the Gap-to-go delivery service it’s currently testing in Manhattan. Customers can call or fax the Gap at a special toll-free number and have a range of basic apparel and accessory items delivered within an hour or two by messenger for a delivery and handling charge of $13 to $15.
A spokeswoman declined to provide sales results or say how many orders it has received since the service began two weeks ago. But she did release a few tidbits:
The pique polo shirt for $24.50 is the best-selling item. Jeans, khakis, ribbed tanks and T-shirts are also popular.
The largest order to date was for 22 items.
Fridays are the busiest day for orders, suggesting, as Gap suspected, that people are using the service for last-minute purchases before weekend getaways.
The Gap operates 29 locations in Manhattan. Following this summer’s test, the service may be rolled out to other cities, the spokeswoman said.
Orders must be paid by credit card when the order is placed. Messengers will deliver to any Manhattan address.

Diva Denim
Gitano Jeanswear has linked up with country-music diva Shania Twain as sponsor of her six-month, 40-city concert tour, which hits Mount View, Calif., today. Twain wears Gitano on stage as well as in advertising and point-of-purchase materials. In return, Gitano’s parent company, Fruit of the Loom, plans to donate $25,000 to Second Harvest National Food Bank Network, Twain’s favorite charity.

Raw Energy
Sixty USA, which distributes the Italian jeanswear brands Energie and Miss Sixty in the U.S., is getting into the craze for stiff and raw denim. The firm has trademarked the name Industrial Denim for a new 18-piece unisex collection based on stiff, utilitarian jeans and unusually dark denim shirts.
Maurizio Donadi, who oversees design and marketing for the brand, acknowledges that Sixty did not invent raw denim. It’s an American icon from the Fifties popularized by such pop culture figures as Marlon Brando and Jack Kerouac. Energie is simply riding the trend along with hot brands like G-Star and Evisu.
But what’s different is that the Industrial Denim collection was conceived, designed and produced especially for the American market, manufactured in advance of orders so that the collection could be delivered in its entirety for the back-to-school sales period. That’s not always the case with an Italian-made product. “It’s almost like a joint venture with our retailers,” he said.
Energie expects to sell about 12,000 pieces of Industrial Denim in the second half of 1998, Donadi said. The jeans retail from $99 to $115.

Financing Designs
Designs Inc., the struggling retailer of primarily Levi Strauss merchandise, has closed on a $50 million revolving credit line. Joel H. Reichman, Designs’ chief executive officer, said the financing “will allow us the flexibility to execute our strategic initiatives and continue to position the company for profitable growth.”
The 122-unit specialty chain, based in Needham, Mass., has been hurt by weak demand for Levi’s brand products, particularly in men’s, and a failed attempt to create a private label concept under the Boston Traders name.
Designs lost $3.1 million in the first quarter. Sales in the latest quarter slumped 22.9 percent to $43.4 million, and dropped 18 percent on a same-store sales basis. Designs last summer liquidated Boston Trader merchandise and began introducing additional brands, including Pacific Trail, Champion, Union Bay, Mudd, Adidas and LEI.
The retailer also began testing a teen concept in its Boston Trader stores that feature Polo Jeans, Tommy Jeans, DKNY Jeans and CK Calvin Klein Jeans, as well as a smaller selection of newer brands such as Buffalo Jeans, FUBU, Enyce, Lucky Brand, Dollhouse, Mecca, Mossimo, Phat Farm, Tag Rag, Wu Wear, Interstate Jeans and Silver Jeans. However, Levi’s continues to represent more than 90 percent of its volume since 80 of its stores feature only Levi Strauss merchandise under the names Levi’s Outlet by Designs, Original Levi’s Stores and Levi’s Outlets.

Novel Leaps
Novel Denim Holdings Ltd., the denim and jeans manufacturer operated by Hong Kong-based backers of Tommy Hilfiger Corp., said earnings shot up 62 percent in the fourth quarter ended March 31.
In the quarter, earnings rose to $4.1 million, or 43 cents a share, from $2.5 million, or 30 cents, a year ago. Sales increased 4.3 percent to $20.2 million from $19.4 million. For the year, earnings jumped 38.4 percent to $15.3 million, or $1.67 a share, from $11.1 million, or $1.30, a year ago. Sales gained 3 percent to $85.7 million from $83.2 million.
Publicly traded Novel sells primarily denim fabric and jeans in the European market. Its major customers include Pepe Jeans, which manufactures Tommy Jeans, as well as VF Europe and Mi-Temps, a French discount chain.

Blue Plywood
It’s cool to be uncomfortable in jeans. That’s the cheeky message in Levi’s new national TV campaign for “hard jeans” that began running Wednesday on MTV. The spots break Friday on major networks and cable stations during prime time.
The gritty, stark, product-focused commercials show jeans standing upright like a sheet of plywood or being used to “saw” through a two-by-four. One shows a trouble light making its way up a stovepipe-stiff pant leg and poses the question of what it would be like to wear them without underwear. In total, 15 spots for hard jeans will run through the remainder of the year.
Created by TWBA/Chiat Day, the spots are meant to position Levi’s as the original source for dark, cuffed jeans, a trend that has been percolating over the last year. But the campaign also conveys the “in-your-face, cutting-edge” attitude of the brand, said Mark Hogan, director of consumer marketing for the Levi’s Brand USA. “The brand has always stood for strength, confidence and toughness.”
A corresponding print campaign, with slogans such as “Stiff With a Vengeance,” runs in music, fashion, sports and teen titles from July through September, including such magazines as Bikini, Detour, Paper, Vibe and Slap.
Hogan said the stiff, dark trend in denim “is something we can own.”
“In terms of a fashion look, it should grow,” he added. “It’s still early in the trend. In a lot of major cities, this is what the leading-edge consumers are wearing.”
Hogan noted that hard jeans are targeted mostly at males, “but we feel it will appeal to women as well.”
The jeans, including a softer version at a premium price, are arriving in stores now and will comprise up to 30 percent of the assortment in some stores, he noted. Retail prices range from $35 to $55.
Hogan declined to disclose the budget for the hard jeans campaign, but said, “It’s our major launch of the year.” Levi’s spent more than $100 million on media last year. Levi’s next campaign, breaking in August, will focus on Silver Tab, its junior subbrand, he noted.

Mexico Shift
Slammed by a $21 million charge related to the closing of domestic plants and shifts in directors and executives, Chic by HIS lost $23.2 million in the second quarter ended May 2.
The charges included write-offs of domestic plants being shut down and manufacturing inefficiencies.
“We look forward to a successful transition to Mexican production by fiscal yearend and rejuvenation of Chic’s revenues and profitability in due course,” said Daniel Rubin, Chic’s new chief executive officer. As reported, Rubin succeeded Burton M. Rosenberg, who resigned in May as chairman and ceo.
Rubin said that excluding the charges, Chic cut its operating loss to $1.8 million from $16.1 million. In the year-ago quarter, Chic’s net earnings were $9.1 million, or 93 cents a share, after a $34.1 million gain on the sale of stock in its German subsidiary.
Sales in the latest quarter inched up 3.6 percent to $68.8 million. Sales in the U.S. improved 18.9 percent, while European sales dipped 12.9 percent, partly due to foreign currency conversion rates.

Denim Glut
Thomaston Mills Inc. has sliced its quarterly dividend to 3.75 cents from 7.5 cents, citing continued losses. Thomaston has been hurt by a glut of inventory in denim fabrics and price competition in yarn. In the nine months ended March 31, the denim and yarn producer lost $5 million on sales of $210 million.

Fire Fly
No one is likely to forget the party Diesel threw to celebrate the opening of its Santa Monica, Calif., store. Only a few hours into the event at Barfly, fire engines and police cars with lights flashing lined up to shut down the celebration.
“When the fire marshal checked the doorman’s counter, I think it didn’t show the same number of people as there were inside,” a Diesel spokeswoman said the day after the event.
Oops.
Apparently, there were more than 600 people who responded to the invitation, although Barfly holds only about 400.
Despite all that, the 3,000-square-foot Diesel unit on the Third Street Promenade has been humming since its May 8 opening. The store is expected to pull in annual sales of $2 million, said Don Henshall, president of Diesel USA. Top items are capri pants and sleeveless T-shirts with scalloped edges or embroidery, said Amy Shecter, vice president of retail.
“In our more casual area, we’re doing very well with tank tops for women and really great cargo pants,” Shecter said. “In denim, our better washes are performing quite well, especially our antique dirty denim and some of the more expensive washes, which are overperforming at our Santa Monica store.”
Bowing to the temperate climate, the newest unit will carry more summer clothes and shorts year-round. And the laid-back Southern California atmosphere means that the store “won’t be as club-oriented” as other Diesel stores, Henshall said.

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