Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio

NEW YORK — With continuing expansion of its group of brands, executives at Jones Apparel Group said they are looking for a sales increase of 30 percent for the second half and a 20 percent growth rate for ’98.
“We have developed a successful multibrand strategy,” said Sidney Kimmel, chairman of the $1 billion giant, who was addressing analysts Tuesday morning at a Robertson Stephens seminar here. In the second half of 1996, Jones Apparel’s sales came to $567.4 million.
Kimmel was joined by Wesley R. Card, chief financial officer, Irwin Samelman, executive vice president of marketing, and Jackwyn Nemerov, president.
“We are addressing the classifications on every level….There is great opportunity in each brand,” Kimmel said.
Other growth opportunities include acquisitions and international expansion. And on the retail front, the executives said they were looking to dramatically expand the firm’s business with Dillard’s and Nordstrom, two major merchants where Jones feels it has yet to achieve an appropriate presence.
Jones has been rapidly expanding its family of labels beyond its core Jones New York and Jones New York Sport labels, as well as the Rena Rowan name and the Evan-Picone brand, which was bought in 1993. Other labels now include Jones & Co., its business casual line, Jones Jeans, a special-size denim line, and Jones Studio, key fashion separates. Lifestyle lines, aiming at versatility, include Jones New York Country and its highly successful licensed Lauren Ralph Lauren.
Jones Jeans, launched last fall as a large-size line, has been expanded into petite and misses’ sizes for Lord & Taylor, with plans to roll these categories to other doors.
Jones Apparel is also gearing up to launch a casual line for men, which will be in 120 stores for June ’98. First-year wholesale volume is expected to be $10 million, Kimmel said. The casual men’s sportswear line is aimed at a 30-to-55-year-old customer, he said.
As for women’s wear, Kimmel noted improved sell-throughs were achieved by Rena Rowan during spring selling. In Lauren Ralph Lauren, Kimmel noted, “There’s been dynamic growth at the expense of other bridge, moderate and better lines.” Kimmel gave no sales figures for Lauren, but the firm previously reported the line is expected to hit $200 million this year.
Lauren Ralph Lauren, which debuted for fall ’96 in 275 stores, was in 550 stores for spring ’97 and is in 680 doors for fall. The line has been expanded into petites, reaching 270 doors for fall, and company officials noted that they are planning to go into large-sizes, slated for fall ’99.
Penetrating Nordstrom and Dillard’s is a top priority, company officials said. Samelman would not comment on sales potential for both channels but noted they present “enormous opportunities.”
For example, in Nordstrom, the firm’s Jones New York Country line is currently in three doors but will be rolled out to 21 doors for spring ’98. Nordstrom also picked up the Lauren Ralph Lauren line for early spring this year, and for fall has rolled out the line, including the petites collection, to all of its doors.
In the acquisition area, Kimmel said, the firm has been looking to acquire strong “problem-free” companies but “there’s been slim pickings.”
As for international expansion, “We want to piggyback on the Polo Ralph Lauren international network,” said Kimmel, who would not elaborate.
For the most recent six months, as reported, earnings at Jones Apparel surged 44.9 percent to $48.8 million, or 90 cents a share, from $433.7 million, or 63 cents. Sales pushed ahead 28 percent to $580.9 million from $453.6 million.