No Time Like the Present
After 87 years, the maker of Pointer Brand jeans is contemplating a bit of a break with its past — it’s ready to introduce women’s jeans.
While it hasn’t quite nailed down the details of the line, it expects to introduce three styles of women’s jeans for fall, said Jack King, president of L.C. King Manufacturing Co., which has been producing men’s overalls, coveralls and hunting apparel in Bristol, Tenn., since 1913.
“What’s really driven this is that we are trying to get into this market to keep our label alive,” King said. “We see that to be competitive, you’re going to have to grow with the times.”
Last year, Jack King succeeded his father, Reilley, as president of the company. The elder King remains involved part time, the younger King said.
The company has been producing two women’s items — a denim jumper and a bag — for about 10 years. But King acknowledged that expanding its presence in the women’s market will require an extension of Pointer Brand’s distribution beyond its current store base — primarily, feed stores serving farm communities.
“We’ve been a Southeast region brand, and those stores have been our main distribution point. Those are going away. We don’t want to go away, so we need to change with the times,” he said. “We’re trying to get more into the urban market, specialty boutiques, not that they have to be high-end-priced ones. We’re looking for someone who’s not trying to compete with the big retail stores.”
He said the brand would target women age 18 to 30.
The company still manufactures all its products — about 750,000 pairs of jeans and overalls a year — in Bristol, King said.
Good News, Bad News
You can’t always win on Wall Street. The day after Guess Inc. posted a 34.3 percent jump in first-quarter earnings — handily beating analysts’ expectations — its shares fell 20 percent.
The reason? Earnings were up, sales were up, but inventories were really up.
“Inventory is a topic that investors can get quite alarmed by, when you see substantial increases of this nature,” explained John Rouleau, analyst at Gruntal & Co., who noted it was a hot topic on the company’s Tuesday conference call with the investment community.
When it reported its results after the close of trading Monday, Guess noted that inventories as of April 1 were $135.5 million, up 91.1 percent from $70.9 million a year ago. Revenues were up 46.3 percent in the same time.
That drove its stock down 5 9/16, to close at 22 1/4 Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.
The fear was that the steps necessary to lower inventories would affect margins in the months ahead, Rouleau said.
“Management addressed that issue on the call, that inventories are too high and that they are looking to get more aggressive bringing those down,” he said Tuesday. “One way to do that is to sell additional merchandise in off-price channels. That created some very nervous people today.”
He added that concerns that April retail comparable-store sales — which most major retailers are due to report today — also left investors jittery.
Guess shares slipped further Wednesday, falling 2 5/8 to 19 5/8.
Sell No Jeans Before Their Time
Americans like their conveniences. That fact has not been lost on jeans makers, who have spent years developing new techniques to prematurely age jeans so that consumers don’t need to spend hours riding horses or crawling around mines to break in their pants.
But Americans are also picky. Recognizing this, Paper, Denim & Cloth — the high-end brand owned by Mudd that’s hitting stores this month — has given shoppers a choice of how old they like their jeans to look. For fall, the line will include five-pocket silhouettes in one-year, two-year, three-year and four-year washes, each offering a more faded and battered look. They’ll retail for around $118.
For those who want their jeans to look not just old but abused, PD&C is introducing a wash it calls “antique 67,” essentially dirty denim without the name.
“Dirty’s coming up with a negative connotation at retail,” said Scott Morrison, the Mudd vice president of sales and marketing who overseas PD&C.
Morrison’s responsibilities extend to Jack Jeans, a brand positioned between Mudd and PD&C on the price spectrum, which the company is starting to soft-pedal.
While the firm continues to sell Jack Jeans and has introduced new styles recently, competition at the $50 retail price-point it targets is fierce.