TWO VF UNITS COMBINE, FORM LICENSED TEAM LINE

Byline: Lisa Arbetter

NEW YORK — In line with VF Corp.’s strategy of capitalizing on synergies between its businesses, Nutmeg Mills and The Lee Apparel Co., two of the corporation’s units, have joined forces to create Lee Sport, a branded line of team-licensed sports apparel.
The line will be launched to the trade for fall retailing at the Super Show to be held Feb. 3-6 in Atlanta. Consumer advertising will start in July and August.
The unisex line includes T-shirts, fleecewear, jackets and some denim pieces as well as other items sporting original sports team graphics created by Nutmeg’s designers. These products are licensed by the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA. At a press breakfast Tuesday previewing the line, Daniel MacFarlan, president of Nutmeg, contended that Lee Sport will succeed in the saturated market of team-licensed apparel. Nutmeg, he said, “has always been a fashion leader” in licensed apparel with a good service strategy. Taking on a strong consumer brand name in Lee will serve to bolster the products’ appeal to the customer, he said.
Timothy Lambeth, president of Lee Apparel, added that Lee is number one in women’s jeans in all its segments of distribution. Female consumers, he continued, buy 50 percent of licensed sports apparel.
Lambeth said his company will benefit from the ads for Lee Sport in terms of brand awareness, which is already between 95 and 97 percent for the Lee brand name.
Together, he said, the two companies want to completely outfit today’s sports fan — for example, a Lee Sport top over a pair of Lee jeans. Wholesale prices range from $7 to $10 for caps to $30 to $70 for jackets.
Mackey McDonald, president and chief operating officer of VF Corp., would not give volume predictions for the line, but said that Nutmeg will continue as a brand even though Lee Sport will be the principal initiative. He also acknowledged that Cutler Sports Apparel and Wrangler, also parts of the VF Corp., were working on a similar initiative.
McDonald went on to say that a children’s line and one made specially for women may be in Lee Sport’s future.
The new line will have the same distribution as the Nutmeg products, which includes Sears and other moderate-price department stores.
The line is a full-scale example of the collaborative efforts VF is fostering between its units. Last year, for example, its Janzten division introduced a swimsuit with a built-in cleavage bra, a spinoff of the It Must Be Magic bra of VF’s Vanity Fair Mills, while the Cutler and Healthtex divisions jointly developed a Fisher Price program of playwear.

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