Blog: Leonie BarrieBrands for sale

Leonie Barrie | 17 July 2007

If “diversify and conquer” was the maxim followed by many US apparel groups in the past couple of decades, the current slogan seems to be “regroup and refocus.”

Last week it was Liz Claiborne that announced plans to shed 16 of its brands but other groups are at it too. Jones Apparel is in the process of offloading its Barneys New York luxury store chain to focus on its core apparel and footwear business; VF Corp has sold its lingerie business to Fruit of the Loom to concentrate on faster-growing lifestyle brands; and even retailer Limited Brands is selling its Express and Limited Brands chains to devote more resources to its intimate apparel and personal care and beauty segments.
But with such a glut of brands now up for sale, who are the likely takers? Ironically, department stores like Macy’s – whose consolidation and increasing focus on private labels was one of the reasons the US apparel industry is now trying to reinvent itself – could be among the main beneficiaries as they try to differentiate themselves in a very competitive environment by adding well-known labels and making them exclusive.

Or what about licensing companies like Iconix Brand Group and NexCen Brands, which manages brands such as The Athlete's Foot and Bill Blass. Or sourcing companies such as Li & Fung Ltd, which has made no secret of its growth ambitions and whose recent acquisitions include Oxford’s Womenswear Group and the Rosetti handbag business. Or other brand owners like Phillips-Van Heusen whose Calvin Klein women's lines already complement some of Liz Claiborne’s more up-market offerings.

Expect lots of announcements and reshuffling as Liz Claiborne hopes to unload its unwanted lines by the second quarter of next year.

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