Liz Claiborne heads into home, again

New York — Liz Claiborne Inc. is looking to the home furnishings market as a major avenue for expansion of its 26 brands.

It is already in home textiles with its Villager brand program at Kohl's from licensee Springs Industries, which "is just as big as the Springs Liz at Home program for department stores was" in the 1990s, said Paul Charron, chairman and ceo.

The company also has a table linens collection under its Crazy Horse brand that is a JCPenney exclusive from licensee W-C Designs and rolled out in March and April.

Other licenses are in negotiations and some are expected to be finalized shortly, said Barbara Friedman, president of licensing, Liz Claiborne.

"Hopefully we will have a complete Liz program by the end of 2003."

"We're very committed to the home business," Charron told Home Textiles Today after last week's Lehman Bros. Retail Seminar. "We see ourselves being established in home sooner than later — definitely within a couple of years — and in all product areas, including furniture. We see our brands having important extensions, and there are important initiatives under way."

The move into home will be the third for Liz Claiborne. The first was in the early 1980s with a bedding collection licensed at Burlington. After a hiatus, Liz at Home for bed and bath was launched in 1995 with Springs and lasted until 1999, with annual volume at its peak estimated at more than $20 million. It produced one of the industry's pattern icons — In Full Bloom.

The company, with 2001 sales of $3.4 billion, transformed itself from an apparel company with the Liz Claiborne brand as its core to a company of many brands and multi-channel distribution focusing on design, sourcing and brand management. Its products are sold in more than 26,000 retail locations globally, including company-owned specialty and outlet stores and e-commerce sites for Elisabeth, Lucky Brand and Mexx.

In 1997 the Liz brand represented 70 percent of total revenues; in 2001 it was 43 percent, Angela Ahrendts, executive vp, told the Lehman audience.

Mexx Group, a Netherlands-based apparel and accessories company, is targeted to "modern urbanites," age 20 to 40, with a distribution of more than 40 countries. It also is active in the bed and bath arena.

The company focuses on "fashion product as the core of our business," Ahrendts said. But, she emphasized, "it is commercial fashion."

The company also has instituted programs for supply chain management, including sourcing and logistical synergies internally and with customers, said Trudy Sullivan, executive vp. New in this area is a collaborative financial planning program with retailers. These programs enhance the Chase program that gives the company reorders of best-selling styles and margin enhancers as well as LizQuick, an internal response system that has cut response time to a 14-week period from 48 weeks.

Home & Textiles Today Staff | News & Commentary

 Home Textiles Today is the market-leading brand covering the home and textiles markets, offering a comprehensive package of print and online products. Home & Textiles Today provides industry news, product trends and introductions, exclusive industry research, consumer data, store operations solutions, trade show news and much more.

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