THE YOUNG CROWD MOVES IN
BROTHERS RANDY AND STEVEN LEIB HAVE REORIENTED THEIR ASSORTMENTS TO BE HIPPER.
Byline: Anita J. Finkelstein
The term “growing up in the business” really means something to independent sales representatives Randy and Steven Leib.
“We started Leib Associates with our father 22 years ago,” said Randy.
“We’ve grown older and wiser,” added Steven.
“We’re not that old,” shot back Randy, who actually is the younger of the two brothers.
The pair isn’t joking, though, when they explain their success is all cumulative.
“We’re doing better now than we ever have, because we have our product mix right and we’ve learned better ways of doing business,” said Randy. “We’ve evolved.”
The Leibs, currently in showroom 11W122 in AmericasMart, opened their business one year after the original mart opened with a mix of better resources. In the Eighties, they claim, their focus was on flashy, trashy clothes. “That was what was selling,” Steven pointed out. “The uglier the better.”
After their father retired 12 years ago, the pair started moving toward a younger, hipper customer. They picked up Isabel Ardee in 1990 and Easel in 1992, two lines that now solidly define their customer. Their current mix also includes Nannette Lepore, Jenne Maag, Tamotsu, Three Dots, Forwear, Trina Turk, ICB, Sanctuary, Autumn Cashmere, View and Fleure de Peche.
“It’s not really a young customer, it’s just more of an attitude and a feeling that is young and contemporary,” said Randy. “People tend to think younger means body conscious and form-fitting, but that is not what our lines are about.”
He cited Trina Turk as an example of a line that works for 20-year-olds and 50-year-olds alike. “Older women are just not dressing like they were 10 years ago, they want to look young and stylish,” he explained. “Most stores that have had the same customer for 20 years are recognizing that and also saying, “I want my customers’ daughter to shop here, too.”
Both brothers agree that the biggest change they have seen in specialty stores is that the successful ones are recognizing that they now need to address classic as well as contemporary.
“The smart stores are developing sections for this younger attitude,” said Randy.
The brothers feel that each of their lines stands on its own, yet complements the other lines in the showroom. As a result, most of their customers buy from just about every resource.
“We have stores that come in during market and spend one entire day just in our room, seeing and buying from each line,” said Steven.
Even so, the brothers both still travel an average of 40 weeks each year. “There are just too many stores that don’t come to market,” said Randy. “Nothing we do is going to get them to come, so we have to go see them.”
When not on the road, Randy handles marketing and customer service while Steven keeps track of the finances. They believe that the fact that they are brothers only makes the business stronger. “There is a base of loyalty and trust that comes only from being family,” explained Steven.
The Leibs also employ two full-time sales associates and a part-time order entry/data processing assistant.
Two years ago, they teamed up with their good friends Brad Johnson and Linda Ambrosia, who own Ambrosia & Co. across the hall in the Atlanta mart, and opened a showroom in Dallas in which they are equal partners, selling their own lines, but sharing expenses.
“It has been incredibly successful,” said Randy. “People are amazed that we can work together, but it’s like friendly competition.”
Steven believes the reason their businesses work so well is because they have surrounded themselves with an honest group of people.
“The fashion business has changed, but in a good way,” he said. “People are more willing to work as a team, manufacturers and stores are realizing that if everyone does their job right, everyone is going to make money.”