TOMMY TIGHTENS UP
FOR FALL, TOMMY JEANS IS INCREASING ITS PALETTE OF DENIM OFFERINGS IN ITS REDESIGNED, SEXIER JEANS LINE.
Byline: Scott Malone
NEW YORK — Tommy Jeans is pumping up its denim offerings.
After cutting out the “costumey” looks that had represented a lot of its junior line last year, for fall, the company is refining its focus on denim — offering a smaller group of restyled jeans in a wider variety of fabrics and washes.
“We had good success at retail with the itemization of our business,” said Todd Howard, president of Tommy Jeans juniors and kids’. “For fall, we want to re-introduce Tommy Jeans for juniors in its new form.”
The company’s redesigned jeans offerings focus on four main styles of jean: the Colorado low-rise flare, the hipster flare, and a pair of new lower-rise jeans called the Lola and the Lolita, with rises of 7 1/2 inches and 7 inches, respectively.
The company has also redesigned its junior carpenter-style pants to give it a closer, sexier fit.
A test group of the new styles will be shipping to about 35 department stores and 15 specialty stores on March 1, Howard said in an interview at Tommy Jeans’ Manhattan showroom.
The full fall collection will ship to 700 stores around the nation on July 1.
The main change is that the company has whittled down the number of styles of jeans it’s offering. Previously, Tommy Jeans collections included six or seven main bodies. One result of that was that the brand couldn’t offer as many fabrics in each look.
“Now, if our girl likes the low-rise hipster, we’re giving her the ability to buy that in several different washes,” Howard said.
Washes and fabrics are now a major focus of the line, and Howard pointed out an “optic wash” as a highlight. Jeans with that treatment have a faded look on the thighs and whiskering around the crotch. That is accomplished by lightening the color of the denim, without actually abrading the fabric.
The look is one of the line’s more expensive, with a suggested retail price of $69. However, the company has kept the opening price point at $39. That makes the label more competitive with the moderate junior brands — particularly Mudd, Paris Blues and LEI — that have become so dominant with the junior shopper.
Howard said the bulk of the line will hit the $49 price point, and he expects most of Tommy Jeans’ junior sales to come in below $50 a pair.
“Within those prices, we’re giving them more value,” he contended. “Better washes, better fabric and more detail.”
Consumer tastes on wash are beginning to shift, with dark denim — the core of the jeans business for several years — starting to catch on in mainstream middle America and falling into the supporting role of fashion basic in the big cities, supplanted by lighter-looking jeans.
Recognizing that, the line includes a variety of dark and light washes.
“Big cities are keeping their dark denim as a basic wash,” said Howard. “But in some markets, they’re adding in lighter washes as something a little more sophisticated, more trend-setting.”
Tommy Jeans is also refining its logoing and branding. It’s adopting a compressed version of Tommy Hilfiger’s signature nautical flag — one that’s wider but not as high. It’s also phasing out the Tommy Girl name that it sometimes used on pieces within the line, in favor of Tommy Girl Jeans.
The pre-launch collection includes about 40 stockkeeping units of tops and bottoms, though the full fall line will hit around 400 sku’s, Howard said. The full shipment includes a broader range of sweaters and knit tops than Tommy had produced for juniors in the past, Howard said.
But even then, the full assortment is still a tighter line than the 500 sku’s the company was shipping a year ago.
“In addition to getting focused on presentation in terms of product, we’re also getting focused in terms of retail presentation,” Howard added.
Along with redesigning its styles, Tommy Jeans has also redone its fixtures and shop imagery.
In keeping with retailers’ loss of enthusiasm with hard concept shops, the company’s new fixtures are intended to work in a soft-shop concept. Tables and signs can be added or taken away as the amount of space allocated to the brand waxes and wanes.
Howard said an advantage of soft shops to vendors is that in slow shopping periods, smaller shops look fuller to the consumer.
Retailers, he said, “can expand their assortments during high-traffic times and keep them looking full with fewer units during off-peak times.”
Despite the recent slowdown in shopping, which led to a highly promotional holiday season for most retailers, Howard said the company’s tweaks to its jeans business have helped to strengthen sales.
“We finished up holiday well. We had a fantastic Christmas,” Howard contended. “The momentum carried into January.”
He said that his outlook is “cautious” given the current state of the economy, but acknowledged that, in the end, success in the apparel business isn’t brain surgery.
Having a strong season comes down to making consumers happy, he said — “Hopefully, we’ll give her clothes she likes and she’ll buy them.”