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NEW YORK — Susan Bristol is ready to expand into a new arena.

The 35-year-old Boston-based better knitwear firm is launching a department store-based line called Bristol Inc., for spring selling. The new line features novelty-driven sportswear and activewear for women, targeting 25- to 45-year-olds, a younger customer base than the traditional Susan Bristol line, which is currently sold in 1,000 better specialty stores nationwide and targets women 35 and up.

According to Art Henkens, vice chairman at the $100 million-plus company, the new line could bring in about $10 million in wholesale volume in its first year at retail.

“There are too many labels out there as it is,” Henkens said. “To be successful you have to have a strategy to make the product something that consumers want to buy. With Susan Bristol’s ability to come up with creative, novelty-driven product, this new line is sure to do well in the better area of department stores.”

Henkens said the line wholesales at the opening price point in better, from $12 to $30 per item, and will be manufactured in China and India. He said the company will start slowly, hoping to get the product into about 200 doors in its first selling season. Ideally, he said, he would launch the product with one appropriate retailer, whether that be Federated Department Stores, Dillard’s or Belk, and it would be housed near lines such as Liz Claiborne and Jones New York Signature.

“We really want to keep a close eye on things at first, be sure we can handle distribution and deliver on time,” he said. “I am so confident in that, but keeping things small at first assures that.”

Bristol Inc. includes an array of novelty pieces such as embellished back pocket denim jeans with lined belt loops for added detail, crochet cardigans and zip-up sweaters.

“What we’ve done with this line is try to stay in the same price range as our competition on the better floor,” he said. “But we offer more novelty than the competition, giving the customer more value.”

This story first appeared in the October 19, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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