OLSEN EXPANDS HER HORIZONS

Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio

NEW YORK — Sigrid Olsen, a better-price designer, is broadening her company’s consumer appeal with a new merchandising strategy. Olsen named Edward M. Jones 3rd president and chief operating officer on Oct. 1 to oversee the company’s growth strategy. Jones, who came on board in January as a consultant, is working first on revamping its merchandise, but he is also mapping marketing plans, with a big push for fall 1995.
Jones succeeds Bob Leavitt who left the firm.
Jones, who continues to consult for other apparel firms, has held posts as president of the Esprit Collection and president of Calvin Klein Classics, now CK.
“I am personally ready now to go forward,” said Olsen, an artist turned designer. Her 10-year-old company, Segrets Inc., is based in Beverly, Mass. She is known for her colorful handcrafted sweaters.
“I’ve been getting to know and understand the customer and meet her needs,” she said. Jones said that for fall selling, lighter gauge knits were added to the line for their Southern store customers. “We are developing a more North/South sensibility,” he explained. “I think for a while, the line had been perceived as a Northeast-based collection.”
Jones said he aims to double sales within two years. Sources put the company’s current wholesale volume at about $20 million.
Jones said the company’s annual sales growth has been in the 5 to 10 percent range.
As part of the growth strategy, Olsen — who started as a weaver — changed the name of her label from Segrets to her own name this year to give the line “a more personal spin.” About 65 percent of Sigrid Olsen’s 1,200 accounts are in specialty stores, with the remainder in department stores. But Jones said he plans to boost distribution in department stores and more updated specialty stores.
Olsen has branched out over the years from handcrafted printed sweaters and country style clothing to a full apparel collection. For spring 1995, the designer has added dresses, including Empire, fit and flair and slip styles; vests and two-piece knit dressing; short cropped sweaters, and baby T-shirts. The spring line also contains print knit sarong skirts; twill colorblock jackets, and black and white striped knit dresses.
The line, which was primarily in basic twills, denim and cotton knits, now includes rayon cotton blends, rayon jacquards and rayon linens.
“The merchandise is now more representative of who I am,” said Olsen, adding that it caters to a working woman’s lifestyle.
Wholesale prices for the Sigrid Olsen line are $54 for sweaters; $29 to $32 for skirts; $27 to $32 for blouses, and $44 to $49 for dresses.
“The line has been doing great,” said Anne DeFreese, a buyer of better sportswear at Rich’s, Atlanta, which has been selling the label for two years.
DeFrees added that the store has done well this fall with the designer’s novelty knit sweaters, jeans and twill pants: “Given all of the novelty, the consumer is getting a lot more for the dollar than some of her other competitors.” Now that she is fine-tuning her merchandise, the line looks even better, offering more casual, comfortable pieces to wear to work.”
As part of the company’s marketing strategy, Olsen will be increasing store appearances to about 12, from about two per year; going international by selling to stores in Japan, Hong Kong, Europe and Mexico, and developing in-store shops at department stores. Jones said that he expects to spend about 5 percent of sales on advertising next year.

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