Liz Claiborne looks to expand into home

New York — Liz Claiborne Inc. is looking to the home furnishings market as a major avenue for expansion of its 26 brands, according to the company at last week's Lehman Brothers Retail Seminar here.

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 that 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.

"We're very committed to the home business," Charron told HTT after the 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.

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