KELLWOOD’S PLUS-SIZE PLAN

Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio

NEW YORK — It’s a perfect match.
That’s how Kellwood Co. executives are describing its Ivy division’s new licensing pact with full-figured personality Emme to produce plus-size clothing. The better-priced collection will be in stores for fall.
The deal, signed Friday, fits well with Kellwood’s corporate growth strategy, which has a target of having plus sizes account for 40 percent of sales in many of its divisions. Kellwood, which had overall sales of $2.15 billion in the fiscal year ended April 20, 1999, does not break out its plus-size corporate volume.
To achieve that goal, Hal Upbin, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Kellwood, said, “We will grow through more extensions, not adding new businesses.”
So far, Kellwood’s key divisions for plus sizes are the Melrose unit, which produces the three-year-old Fern Bratten plus-size line, and Sag Harbor and Koret of California, each of which already generates about 40 percent of sales from plus sizes.
Kellwood plans to layer on new categories within those labels, particularly Sag Harbor; for example, Kellwood wants to add lingerie to the brand. Last fall, the company introduced Sag Harbor Casual Woman, which has performed well at retail, Upbin said.
This spring, David Burns, a better-priced collection, added plus sizes, and Lennie, a new suit and dress collection, will expand into large sizes, Upbin said.
With Emme, Kellwood is hoping to attract plus-size women seeking contemporary clothing at better prices. The line is expected to be merchandised near Elisabeth, Liz Claiborne’s plus-size collection, and Jones New York Woman, according to John Henderson, vice president of merchandising.
The company has projected the Emme sportswear collection would generate sales of $30 million to $50 million for the first few years. Upbin believes the Emme collection could eventually be a $100 million business that would include lingerie and other categories.
“We are going to launch a full-court press,” said Upbin, adding he wanted to take advantage of Emme’s popular appeal. “She is just perfect.”
Upbin noted that marketing plans for Emme include developing in-store shops and ad campaigns.
Emme, a Revlon spokesperson, is also host of E!’s “Fashion Emergency.” She plans to promote the clothes on the show by offering sneak previews of the line in May, June and July during a 10-city tour.
The Emme line will range in size from 10 to 24 and will target the 25-to-40-year-old woman. The goal is to launch Emme in 200 doors for the first year.
Despite the model Emme’s marketing savvy and broad personal appeal, Upbin realizes the company may face some challenges, particularly convincing department stores to give the line proper treatment.
“In my view, stores have not fully recognized merchandising plus-size businesses in terms of shops,” he said. “It’s not just setting up racks for sizes 14 and 16. I don’t think stores have wrestled with it in a tasteful way.”
Upbin pointed out that, despite all the hype with teen plus sizes last year, stores had not been been making space for the clothes.
He said he was hoping stores would start to change their minds.
“I think the time has come,” he added.
Upbin acknowledged that the Fern Bratten collection, a moderately priced large-size line launched three years ago, had had some problems.
The line is sold in moderate-price department stores, such as Dillard’s and regional chains of Saks Inc.
However, he said Fern Bratten business was starting to pick up.
“When it first started out, stores were moving their money into better,” he said. “It was just a matter of getting the right look, but I think we found the right formula.”

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