Vanderbilt launch pushed to fall

Marvin Lazaro, December 9, 2002

When Gloria Vanderbilt Home Furnishings originally announced that the Vanderbilt name was making a comeback into the world of home textiles, the plan called for product to be ready by spring 2002. However, after a series of obstacles, fall 2003 has now become the target for rolling out the line.

According to Susan Olshan, vp of marketing, the company is ready and waiting to roll out nine lifestyle collections bearing the Vanderbilt name, which had virtually disappeared from the market. One of the problems, she said, may lie in the conflicting images portrayed by Vanderbilt Home and the owners of the Vanderbilt name at the apparel level, Jones Apparel Group.

Olshan said Jones has recently introduced a complete apparel line that, although it bears Vanderbilt's name, is more of a generic apparel collection rather than one which directly reflects the designer's lifestyle or tastes. In contrast, the line developed by Vanderbilt Home Furnishings is taken directly from influences and experiences from Vanderbilt's life. When Vanderbilt Home approached retailers about carrying the line, Olshan said many asked what the connection is between the two companies and how the two disparate lines would complement each other.

"They ask, 'How does this work together?' 'Where is this expressing the same idea?' The non sequitur is driving us crazy," Olshan said.

The second major problem that has arisen since Vanderbilt Home announced the rejuvenation of the name is the inability to meet with the kind of retailer for which Olshan said the line is perfectly suited. "If we could get in front of a retailer we could show them all the designs and styles and the ideas," Olshan said. "We've got to meet with someone … who really decides on designating selling space on the whole selling floor." The "preferred" list included several department stores and leading mid-price retailers, as well as the two powerhouse specialty stores.

In addition, Vanderbilt Home is caught in a virtual Catch-22 since it also does not have a manufacturing partner lined up, and potential manufacturers are concerned about having a retailer committed to the line.

Olshan said the larger problem, in her view, is the retailers, since many are unwilling to commit despite the amount of involvement and help Vanderbilt Home is offering and the recognition of the name. "Because a manufacturer takes it on doesn't make it successful, and it doesn't mean a retailer takes it on either," she said. "It's got to get off the shelf to be successful."

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