NEW YORK — Accessory Network Group appears ready to unload the upscale Ghurka brand, WWD has learned.

“In light of the recent LeSportsac acquisition, we are reviewing our portfolio strategy,” said Abe Chehebar, chairman and chief executive officer of ANG, which acquired Ghurka in February 2003 through its affiliate, Vergier Holdings. “To this end, we are considering strategic alternatives for the luxury brand Ghurka, and we have retained Financo to assist us with this process.”

Ghurka, based in Norwalk, Conn., was ANG’s first effort in the luxury accessories business.

ANG, a privately held firm, is primarily an accessories licensing and manufacturing business, with headquarters and factories here and in Hong Kong. ANG produces private label accessories for mass distribution and holds a bevy of licenses, including Disney properties, Bratz and various Warner Brothers names.

ANG last year acquired LeSportsac for a reported $100 million, as well as the license to produce better handbags and hats for Calvin Klein. In May, the firm announced a partnership with Isaac Mizrahi to produce a line of bridge handbags under the Isaac Isaac Mizrahi label for spring 2007.

Ghurka opened a Chicago outpost in August 2004 and relocated its New York flagship in April 2005 to 683 Madison Avenue, with plans to open 10 to 12 boutiques in the U.S. by 2010. Last September, the firm named John Bartlett as creative director, replacing Simeon Turnbull, who tried to give the bags more of an edge with metallic leather-trimmed totes and rustic hobos with horn details. The first of Bartlett’s handbags, which are classic and truer to Ghurka’s roots with a stingray clutch and smooth leather totes, start selling this fall, with retail prices of $550 to $1,850.

An advertising campaign for the women’s collection is planned for spring. Bartlett also said he is exploring footwear, outerwear and ready-to-wear for the brand.

In May, Chehebar said Ghurka’s sales jumped 30 percent compared with last year because of the store openings, better inventory management, increased supply and brand awareness as a result of an aggressive public relations and marketing campaign.

This story first appeared in the July 20, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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