BETTER: PUSHING NEW LOOKS
Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio
NEW YORK — The better market might be faring better than the moderate crowd, but business is still tough. So, to keep sales pumping, better firms are implementing new strategies that include updating their lines and adding new layers of products.
Cambridge Dry Goods, which three years ago went from marketing preppy fashions to Southwestern styles like fringed suede vests and embellished jeans, is now changing its fashions even more. Starting for spring, the sportswear firm, which is owned by Reassurance Guarantee and Bear Stearns, is pushing contemporary casual classic styles, a look its executives say will attract a broader audience.
“It was a nice product, but it was just too narrow. Frankly, we began to be out of favor with many retailers,” said Don Horning, president and chief executive officer, noting that a slew of stores in the Northeast and South had dropped the line over the last two years.
The move to Southwestern fashions was part of the company’s effort to capitalize on new and growing opportunities in Texas and the Rocky Mountain region, Horning said.
Now, Horning says the switch to contemporary casual has paid off, noting a double-digit increase in orders for early summer.
“We now have a more central point of view, fitting the lifestyles of the North, South and East,” he said. For early fall, the line includes chenille sweaters, denim vests and jackets with fake horn buttons.
Last year, Cambridge Dry Goods reportedly generated a wholesale volume of about $50 million, and sources expect a 10 percent increase for 1996.
After languishing in a commodities-driven moderate zone, Andrew America, which has marketed sportswear under the Brittany label, shifted its emphasis from moderate to better.
The company is focusing less on Brittany, which is now being sold to smaller department stores, and is now going full throttle with a new better-price line called Andrew America, which was launched in March 1993.
For early summer, Andrew America features constructed jackets, camp shirts and tank tops in such fabrics as linen, cotton and rayon.
The line is expected to generate $3 million at wholesale for 1996, and $6 million for 1997, according to Lonni Favorito, sales manager.
Andrew America accounts for 70 percent of the business, with Brittany generating the rest.
“It’s very difficult in the moderate market,” said Favorito. “It’s all commodities-driven, and stores are demanding the best price. Everyone also has the same look.”
Still, trading in the better zone is not without its problems.
“We are trying to get on the matrices of big department store, but it is very difficult,” said Favorito. “We are competing with all the big traditional houses, but we are making inroads.”
Passionne, a leather and vinyl sportswear firm, has branched out with a T-shirt line. “We felt it was necessary to add more products to the line,” said Jacqueline Park, president.
For early fall, the collection includes leather skirts, jean jackets with vinyl trims and leather jackets.
Jean jackets wholesale for about $20, while leather skirts average about $57. T-shirts wholesale for $19.75.
High Point, based here, is serving up more fabrics, from linen and Lurex metallic to triacetate.
“We are going after novelty fabrics,” said David Ray, vice president.
The firm has also stepped beyond its sportswear focus and has added suits for spring. It added a dress line for the early fall season.
The company, which sources here and in Italy, is also trying to expand its sourcing network to maintain competitive prices. The line ranges from $89 to $159.