JONES APPAREL GROUP ACQUIRES JUDITH JACK

Byline: Marc Karimzadeh

NEW YORK — It’s a fait-accomplis for Judith Jack and Jones.
Jones Apparel Group is continuing its spending spree and has acquired the bridge jewelry and accessories firm Judith Jack for an undisclosed sum. This confirms a report in WWD on page 1, Thursday.
Judith Jack, which had reported net sales of $22 million in 2000, will operate as a separate, more upscale division under the umbrella of Jones’s core jewelry business, the costume jewelry firm Victoria & Co. Michael Horowitz will remain as president of the Judith Jack division. He will report to Patricia Stensrud, Victoria & Co.’s vice chairman and chief executive officer.
In a statement, Stensrud said that Victoria & Co. will help Judith Jack to further cultivate its image and product lines with its operational structure, including accelerating marketing investment. Judith Jack is known for its marcasite-based jewelry and watches, and also manufactures handbags and belts. The Victoria brands, which include Givenchy, Nine West and Tommy Hilfiger, are primarily distributed to department stores.
The purchase is part of Jones’s strategy to build its existing divisions using Victoria & Co.’s management team and operating base, and comes shortly after the Bristol, Pa.-based company purchased McNaughton Apparel Group for $572 million. That acquisition will give the apparel giant, which last year enjoyed revenues of $4.14 billion and a net income of $301.9 million, an entry into mass chains, diversifying Jones’s revenue base.
While some analysts at the time noted that Jones might be looking to strengthen its presence at the lower tier in case of an economic slowdown, the Judith Jack acquisition seems to have a different goal. For Jones, whose recognized brands include Jones New York, Nine West, Todd Oldham and Enzo Angiolini, Judith Jack offers an entry point mainly into fine jewelers and gift shops, and extended real estate in better department and specialty stores.
The New York-based Judith Jack is likely to benefit from Victoria & Co.’s operations capacity. The brand currently has no international distribution, while Jones markets its brands globally.
“In order to reach the next level of growth, and to harvest the true potential of the Judith Jack design brand name, we determined that we needed a strategic partnership with a larger company that had the infrastructure to help us manage and expand our business,” said Horowitz. Potential growth opportunities, he noted, could include the brand’s watch business, which was launched with limited distribution last year.
“We are extremely pleased with the results to date of our Victoria & Co. business, which we acquired in July 2000,” said Sidney Kimmel, Jones’s chairman, in a statement, adding that the Judith Jack acquisition adds a strong designer brand name in the jewelry industry to Jones’s existing brand portfolio.
Jones’s stock moved up 86 cents, or 2.3 percent, on Thursday to close at $38.20 in New York Stock Exchange trading, within striking distance of its 52-week high of $41.09, which it reached March 8. The corresponding low is $21.25, on June 23, 2000.
Jones has been in acquisition mode for a couple of years. It acquired Sun apparel in 1998, Nine West in 1999 and Victoria last June, as well as last week’s McNaughton deal.

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