Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio

NEW YORK — Duck Head Apparel Co., Winder, Ga., doesn’t want to waddle back into the women’s business.
Armed with a new licensing agreement with Wilkins Industries of Athens, Ga., Duck Head, a major player in the men’s moderate-priced casual sportswear arena, has big plans to develop a misses’ and junior business to reach a combined annual wholesale volume of $40 million within the next three years, according to Paul A. Robb, president and chief executive officer of Duck Head, a division of Delta Woodside Industries.
Robb noted the line, called Duck Head for Her, will be in 700 to 1,000 doors starting in February ’98. The collection, which is expected to be in the same department store channels as the men’s, should hit between $7 million and $10 million in wholesale volume in its first season. By fall ’98, the junior and misses’ offerings will be broken out into separate lines, Robb said.
About 60 percent of that initial volume will come from juniors and the rest from misses’, but that ratio will be reversed within the next few seasons, he said.
Duck Head for Her is expected to compete with Docker’s for Women, Robb said.
The firm, whose roots go back to 1865, had dabbled in women’s wear in-house for a couple of years, but closed the division in 1995 when Robb came on board. The women’s category had accounted for 20 percent of the business. Its men’s and boys’ wear generate $100 million in wholesale volume, and its 15 licensees in children’s clothes and women’s and men’s accessories ring up another $40 million in sales, he said.
“This is a logical extension of our casual lifestyle brand,” said Robb, noting the timing couldn’t be better, since khaki workwear, Duck Head’s trademark, has become a major fashion statement these days.
“The trend plays right into our heritage,” he said, adding khaki offerings will account for 65 percent of the misses’ and junior collection.
Robb also pointed out that licensing the women’s business was critical.
“Women’s takes a different set of disciplines, and a whole new infrastructure,” he said.
In addition to khaki looks, Duck Head for Her’s core items include twill pants, knit tops, polo-style shirts and denim separates. Denim will account for 35 percent of the line. Polo-style shirts are heavily featured in the collection. All the designs carry the Duck Head logo, as do the men’s offerings.
Twill pants retail for about $32 and knit T-shirts are $20. Jeans are about $32.
For Wilkins Industries, a private label firm, this venture enables the company, whose customer base is in chain stores, to expand into the department store arena, according to William F. Gilmore Jr., division manager at Wilkins Industries.
“It definitely complements our business,” Gilmore said.
Founded in 1865 as O’Bryan Bros. Manufacturing Co., Duck Head Apparel, which marketed clothes from the beginning under the Duck Head label, started out producing khaki workwear, then expanded into men’s sportswear. The company changed its name to Duck Head Apparel in 1989 when it was purchased by Delta Woodside.