Byline: James Fallon

LONDON — Jaeger has discovered there’s a danger in updating a fashion image too quickly. It’s a pitfall facing many British fashion companies — from Aquascutum to Laura Ashley — as they attempt to appeal to a younger customer while at the same time maintaining the loyalty of their existing ones.
Jaeger over the last few seasons has pushed more contemporary designs in its core collection and launched a fashion-forward capsule line, Jaeger London, that is sold in only a few of its 206 British stores.
But while Jaeger was keen, its customers were less so. Coats Viyella PLC, the parent of the women’s and men’s wear retailer, recently reported its fashion retail division — which is dominated by Jaeger — suffered a 25 percent fall in trading profits to $4.71 million (3 million pounds) on a 5.1 percent rise in sales to $110.6 million (70.5 million pounds) in the first half ended June 30. The main reason was disappointing spring sales of the core Jaeger women’s wear collection.
“There is a view that we went too far too fast,” said Russell Walls, Coats Viyella’s finance director. “We continue to have a long-term strategy to broaden the Jaeger customer base, but the fall range is less aggressive and more middle ground.”
Jeanette Todd, the company’s design director, has reintroduced full-pleated skirts, shortened some jackets to hip length from thigh length and added more color this fall. But she’s maintained the wider lapels of past seasons, the more fitted jackets and other more modern touches.
“Our core customer now is in her late 40s or early 50s and that market isn’t growing,” she said. “In the long term we must capture a broader market.”
That is where Jaeger London comes in. “Jaeger London is aimed unashamedly at the 30-plus woman,” Todd said. “‘It’s about stylish fashion for women who are fashion aware.”
The line — which covers outerwear, knitwear, pants, skirts and jackets — has a relaxed attitude and competes with other U.K. labels such as Nicole Farhi, Joseph and Whistles.
“It imbues a sense of Jaeger throughout the entire range,” Todd said, adding many of the shapes first shown in Jaeger London are adapted for the core collection.
Now in its third season, Jaeger London is available in 11 of the company’s U.K. outlets and in its Madison Avenue and San Francisco stores in the U.S. The aim is to roll it out to six U.S. stores in spring 1995 and to 12 by next fall, said Ross Manning, chief executive of Jaeger in the U.S. The company operates 47 stores in North America, including 30 freestanding units and 17 leased areas in such department stores as I. Magnin and Dayton Hudson.
Manning admits Jaeger faces a major battle in the U.S. against other bridge lines, most of which are wholesaled and are less expensive. Jaeger currently operates only as a retailer in North America, although Manning said this could change in the long term. In the meantime, he is remodeling Jaeger’s existing North American stores, updating its information systems to improve deliveries and planning to open additional units in Boston, Bal Harbor and possibly New Orleans. Jaeger also hopes to open a new Madison Avenue flagship in 1996, Manning said.