IBrands Global has wrapped up its acquisition of the elevated casualwear label Pam & Gela and is planning to ramp up e-commerce.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed and IBrands Global’s chief executive officer Remy Garson declined to share that information in an interview.
Created in 2014 by Pamela Skaist-Levy and Gela Nash-Taylor, Pam & Gela arrived on the scene with built-in name recognition with many shoppers. The duo is widely known for starting Juicy Couture and making velour tracksuits staples in millions of wardrobes. They sold the company to the-then Liz Claiborne Inc. in 2003; Claiborne’s successor company Fifth & Pacific sold off the brand 10 years later to Authentic Brands Group in a cash deal worth $195 million.
Despite, or perhaps because, they had been so instrumental in laying the groundwork for the athleisure trend, they faced a far more competitive field by the time Pam & Gela debuted. Garson said the brand’s reliance on traditional retailers, especially mom-and-pop ones, was another factor, especially during the pandemic.
Unavailable for an interview, Nash-Taylor said via email, “In truth, we do not feel it is necessary to comment. Simply put, the time was right for Pam and I to move on and devote our time to other things.”
She continued, “I am beyond excited to be creating a luxury lifestyle cannabis brand called Potent Goods with my son Travis. That business really is an exciting new frontier.”
Garson’s father Marc, who serves as chairman of IBrands Global, started the company about 10 years ago. The elder Garson has 40 years of experience in the industry, having worked with such brands and licenses as Harley-Davidson, Skechers, Superdry, Lucky Brands and William Rast, among others. The company’s annual sales are $250 million, Remy Garson said.
From his standpoint, as the pandemic has shifted more sales online, brands that also sell wholesale must look at that as almost a secondary distribution compared to e-commerce. With that in mind, Pam & Gela is being repositioned as a digital-first brand with wholesale distribution playing a supportive role. The brand will continue to work with key existing retailers like Nordstrom, Intermix, Shopbop, Revolve, Bloomingdale’s and others. Noting how breaking out in the digital space is challenging, given the investment needed for performance marketing such as digital ads on Facebook and Instagram, Garson said Pam & Gela’s annual budget will be increased by about $5 million.
As part of its growth strategy, Malinda Behrens has joined the company as general manager of its apparel vertical overseeing all brand development for Pam & Gela, as well as Bebe, EBY, Alloy and Blue Desire. Most recently, she served as chief merchandising officer at Carbon38. Her career experience also included a senior executive post at Juicy Couture after the founders had exited. In addition, Jameelah Booker has been tapped as lead designer of Pam & Gela.
Geared for shoppers between the ages of 35 and 55, Garson singled out Lisa Rinna of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” fame as personifying the brand. (She is not a brand ambassador.)
Knowing that performance marketing, consumers’ interest in content and shopping habits are a swirl of change, Pam & Gela will serve up capsule collections, monthly in-season new drops and digital marketing that reflects that newness. “The first thing we’re going to do is really just wow them with new products on a regular basis, while, of course, maintaining core staples. We’re going to create content that will constantly highlight the new products. We’re already planning regular shoots, and booking spots with great models on a regular basis,” Garson said. “It’s also about having great post-production and editing to get that content out there very efficiently.”
Constantly creating content is no small feat and the preferred means of video is “more costly and challenging,” Garson said. “Basically now, apparel companies and fashion brands are becoming like tech companies and production studios. You’re competing for the consumer’s attention. What is your customer doing during the day? She’s working and scrolling through her Instagram and TikTok feeds. And every brand out there is paying to try to get in front of her. The only way you can get a return on that investment is to entice her enough to stop what she’s doing, click through your site and start shopping.”
Garson said the pandemic has been “hard” on Pam & Gela, since it was heavily leveraged into brick-and-mortar retail. “Not enough work had been done to building out the e-commerce business. The brands that did really well during the pandemic are the ones that were in prime position from an e-commerce perspective,” he said.
Pam & Gela had generated about 10 percent of its overall volume via e-commerce and 90 percent of sales from brick-and-mortar. In addition to revamping the company’s site and the technology used to support it, the plan is to boost digital marketing and content creation to connect directly with customers.
The aim is to develop a wider assortment of apparel offerings geared for the various activities that fill consumers’ days, whether that be lounging poolside, hiking, taking a trip to the beach, skiing or suiting up for a day’s work in loungewear. With IBrands, athletic styles and athleisure will be key categories. In tune with the pandemic-induced dressed-down trends, the company will offer more loungewear and casual options.
Garson said, “We think the Pam & Gela girl cares about her health, her fitness and her appearance. Our customer definitely has an athletic mainstay in their lives. Also, they like to play sports including winter ones. She is spending her vacations in Aspen [Colorado], Park City [Utah] or Courchevel [France].”
The new strategy will include lowering price points by 20 percent. Seventy-five percent of the production is being done in China and the rest is done in Los Angeles. Shifting more production to Mexico and the U.S. is being considered as a precaution for supply chain disruptions. Garson said, “The trucking, at this point, almost feels worse than the shipping. But hopefully, that will improve after the new year.”
As an international supply chain platform, IBrands Global understands logistics. In addition to fashion, the company works in food service, health and wellness and consumer products. Noting how the company has contracts with steamship lines, its own fleet of trucks and drivers and seven domestic warehouses, IBrands Global works with a multitude of ports, Garson said.
On another front, last month, IBrands Global acquired two tech companies — InCharged and Vendx — which specialize in touchless vending. Both companies have been merged under BluLabs, its in-house innovation studio. The plan is to create products across IBrands Global’s portfolio, and to merge tech into apparel.