BETTER’S BIG POWER PLAY
Byline: Anne D’Innocenzio
NEW YORK — Retailers and apparel executives are banking on five new sportswear lines and a blitz of edgy campaigns to invigorate traffic in better sportswear departments.
Kenneth Cole, Anne Klein 2, Perry Ellis, Slates Janet Howard and Nine West are being launched this fall at retail to create a new modern zone. The area — a hybrid of contemporary styling and better sportswear — is expected to get at least one more player when DKNY City, a career and casual collection, makes its debut for spring.
Their goal: to recharge the better selling floor and to woo consumers who have been shopping in specialty stores back to department stores.
Last week, Kenneth Cole New York, a licensed venture with Liz Claiborne Inc. and Kenneth Cole Productions, began shipping to 200 doors. It’s part of a three-pronged women’s sportswear business with Claiborne. Cole’s Unlisted.com label, which targets the so-called Generation Y customer, will be unveiled for fall 2001, while Reaction, which caters to the Gen X market, will bow for spring. Kenneth Cole women’s sportswear business is projected to generate about $250 million in sales over the next five years. DKNY City, part of Claiborne’s licensing venture with Donna Karan International, is planned to be a $200 million business within five years, as reported.
Anne Klein 2, a relaunch of the career pioneer label Anne Klein II from the Anne Klein division of Kasper ASL, will be in 250 doors; and Perry Ellis, a licensed partnership with Kellwood Co. and Miami-based Supreme International, will be bowing in 80 doors. Slates, a division of Levi’s, is the least expensive of the new offerings, with jackets retailing for $138 and pants priced from $68 to $98.
Company executives are backing their merchandise with multimillion dollar campaigns. The Slates campaign, shot by Richard Avedon, highlights groups of professionals behind six vanguard high-tech companies.
Perry Ellis is spending $10 million on its ad campaign to mark the relaunch of Perry Ellis women’s wear this fall and promote men’s sportswear, as well. The ads, shot by Mario Sorrenti, feature sexy shots of models Karen Elson and Tyson Balou, some with Elson in a bra and panties while a fully clothed Balou leans over her; other images feature him fully dressed, with her naked leg stepping over him.
Kenneth Cole, which spent $20 million in advertising last year, is increasing its budget this year by an undisclosed amount, according to Andrea Hyde, marketing director. Its ad campaign for fall incorporates women’s and men’s wear, as well as accessories.
Meanwhile, Tommy Hilfiger is counting on his new sportswear campaign to jump-start his women’s and men’s business, which has hit a few rough patches over the past year. As reported, the company came off its first quarterly loss since going public in 1992. The company posted a loss of $1.5 million in its fourth quarter ended March 31 compared with earnings of $46.2 million, or 48 cents a share, a year ago.
Taking a more sophisticated approach than that of previous campaigns, Hilfiger, along with ad agency Deutsch Inc., is banking on more stylized images shot by Mario Testino to show the consumer that the company has returned to its roots of classics with a twist. Vintage Mustang cars, classic dinners and key sportswear looks are the key components of the campaign.
All these developments come at a time when sales of better-priced merchandise were somewhat soft for spring and summer. Many of the traditional firms went too young in styling, and the clothing was just too tight for the consumer, according to Kathy Bufano, executive vice president of merchandising at Macy’s East.
“We were not happy with spring and summer. The clothes were too gimmicky,” said Bufano, citing a plethora of beading and fringe that saturated the selling floors. She also added that the status business, including DKNY and Tommy Hilfiger, continues to be soft.
“We went too modern, too embellished, too young,” admitted designer Tommy Hilfiger. “We realized that in order to grow the business, we would have to do what we do best — only better.” At the same time, the company has to watch that it doesn’t go overboard in its classic offerings, he said. Fall’s lineup, overseen by Ginny Hilfiger, senior vice president, women’s design, and the designer’s sister, includes a mix of classic styles like peacoats, parkas with leather pants, and suede suits.
“The better zone is certainly evolving,” said Denise Seegal, president of Liz Claiborne. “These new lines will bring a whole new resurgence to the better area.”
Jackwyn Nemerov, president of Jones Apparel Group, said the company is pegging future company sales to its cross-selling ventures with Nine West, which it acquired last year. She observed that the Nine West women’s wear collection, which has the potential to reach “several hundred million dollars,” in a few years, should play into the current trend toward leather and suede.
The launch of Nine West apparel is only the beginning. Jones is set to launch Easy Spirit apparel, with an emphasis on casual comfortable wear, slated to be in stores sometime in 2001. The firm is also looking to market some of Nine West’s subbrands to the mass market by next year.
Nemerov and Seegal are quick to point out that their traditional core signature labels will not be cannibalized by the new influx of collections. They said they’re just reaching out to appeal to a new consumer who is trendier than their traditional customer.
Seegal said that for fall, Claiborne’s real estate in its stores will be flat, but the company will be gaining overall real estate and marketing dollars in the better area through its Kenneth Cole and DKNY additions.
She admitted that the retail environment was tough this spring, blaming it on the lack of new silhouettes. She believes that the cycle toward classic and traditional styling will only benefit Liz Claiborne’s core sportswear business, which is expected to maximize the current fashion mood with stepped-up offerings in ladylike blouses, tailored blazers and herringbone pants.
Jones Apparel may be pursuing its cross-selling ventures with Nine West, but it continues to be quite bullish with its Lauren by Ralph Lauren labels and its core Jones brands.
“We are being very careful that each brand stands for something unique, and that it is clearly directed at a different consumer,” said Nemerov, noting that the Jones New York and Sport businesses have been strong and that the company never strayed away from its trademark tailored looks. “We stayed the course, softened the product, and integrated more knitwear. Now, we are seeing a tremendous resurgence in jackets.” The company is capitalizing on the trend, expanding its suit and dress collection under the Jones New York labels.
The company’s licensed Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Ralph and Polo Jeans lines ended last year with about $900 million in wholesale volume. Nemerov has said that revenue volume could double over time. The number of Lauren shops increased by 25 percent this year over last year, according to Benny Lin, senior vice president and creative director at Jones Apparel. Petites, plus-sizes, dresses and jeans have all been added. Ralph by Ralph Lauren, its Gen Y collection, had a bit of a slower start, but the sales of the line are improving, Nemerov said.
Jack Weinstock, chairman and chief executive officer at August Silk, a better silk sportswear house, said he projects a 10 percent increase in the second half, and he said he intends to fortify its position in the market by expanding into new categories, including blouses. The firm plans to further developing its Options collection, which offers tops in cotton and cotton blends. The line was launched for spring. The firm also aims to expand into new silk offerings to include brushed silk.
“We are constantly testing new products,” Weinstock said.