Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio

NEW YORK — After almost 19 years of developing a loyal following in Europe for its designer swimwear fashions, the Tel Aviv-based owner of the Gideon Oberson label is now actively going after the U.S. market.
“We see a potential for big growth,” said Ronald Russell, president of Gideon Oberson USA, a wholly owned U.S. subsidiary formed in April by Gideon Oberson Fashion Industries. The subsidiary, based in Hackensack, N.J., was launched to better market and expand the distribution of the line to U.S. specialty and department stores, as well as to Canada and the Caribbean.
The Gideon Oberson label had been distributed by North Dallas Trading Co., based in Dallas, for the past two years, and prior to that, was distributed by GDM, based in Miami, Fla.
On the international front, the Gideon Oberson line is sold to specialty and department stores in about 16 countries, including Italy, Russia, England, Greece, Switzerland and Spain. About 12 international sales representatives are responsible for selling the line.
Currently, about 33 percent of the company’s overall wholesale volume worldwide is from the U.S., according to industry sources. Wholesale volume hit about $15 million last year. Russell, who was hired in June 1994 by the parent company to start up the subsidiary, aims to increase sales in the U.S. market by 50 percent within the next two years.
“Because of our new subsidiary, we now have better control of the product, and we can improve our relationships with the retailers,” said Russell. He noted that he is aiming to double the number of trunk shows held by the company next year at stores across the country. This year, the firm held 12 trunk shows. He also plans to increase co-op advertising with the stores.
Russell also noted the advantages of being based in Hackensack, N.J., where the distribution facility is located. The delivery time for the merchandise has dramatically improved, he said.
“It takes only 24 hours to ship the product from Israel, because there are direct routes from Tel Aviv to New York,” he said. “We had been averaging a whole week from Tel Aviv to Dallas because there are no direct routes.”
The swimwear is manufactured in Israel, though the piece goods are made in Italy.
Currently, the Gideon Oberson line is sold to about 462 doors in the U.S., with about 70 percent in specialty stores, including Nordstrom and Miami-based Swim & Sport. The remainder is in department stores. Russell said he wants to increase sales by penetrating existing accounts, while expanding into new specialty stores. At the top of his agenda is moving into such areas as the Midwest and the West Coast.
In his plan to build sales, Russell added three full-time salespeople, making a total of six, and plans to add another four next year. Gideon Oberson operates sales offices in San Francisco, Hawaii, Miami, New York and Dallas.
The company has also pared down the number of styles by 10 percent, starting with cruise ’96. “We are trying to be more focused and go after the right trends in order to be able to produce a larger quantity of merchandise,” he said. Still, the cruise line offers 300 styles.
For cruise ’96 selling, the line, which primarily features nylon and Lycra spandex, offered such styles as two-piece suits with an underwire bra and tie front in navy with a silver finish; tanks with a square neck in metallic and mesh, and tanks with a black and white geometric pattern. The spring — or preview — line, geared to hit stores in March or April, features suits that mix vinyl with nylon and Lycra. Designs include black and white paisley prints. The collection also features a group of brightly colored suits.
The line wholesales from $38 to $250, with the average price at $48. Coverups account for about 30 percent of the line and include such styles as denim tops, sarongs and pareos in crushed cotton and rayon.

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