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Liz Claiborne Predicts Fashion Industry Revamp
A fashion show
Slowing purchases of clothing and accessories may spur consolidation in the fashion industry, Liz Claiborne Inc's chief executive officer (CEO) said on Dec. 5, but the owner of the Juicy Couture and Kate Spade brands is not looking for acquisitions right now.

As he completes a restructuring that includes shedding several brands, CEO William McComb said industry deals may come as clothing makers and retailers struggle with the weakest holiday shopping season in years.

In contrast to previous slowdowns, "there is a strong sense here that this particular economic force ... is Darwinian, and that across all industries, market structures, competitors and competitive structures will change as a result," McComb said.

He said there could be more consolidation among department store vendors than among the stores themselves. "People ask questions like, 'Are department stores just going to go away?' Hell no. Will there be a number of doors that close over time? Maybe. Will that necessarily be bad? Not necessarily," McComb said.

Consumers facing a recession, job losses and tight credit have been cutting back on all but the most necessary purchases.

During last week's unofficial kick-off to holiday shopping, they snapped up apparel that was deeply marked down as US retailers sacrificed profit margins to keep customers coming to their stores, analysts said.

Competition among department store operators like Macy's Inc and Kohl's Corp is heating up as consumers become more selective.

In order to avoid getting stuck with too much unsold inventory, retailers have trimmed orders from vendors such as Liz Claiborne, Jones Apparel Group Inc and Perry Ellis International Inc.

This is putting pressure on both vendors and retailers, causing many to search for new solutions, McComb said. "Just about every scenario you could lay out is probably happening out there right now because, really, things are so unconventional that nobody is using a standard play book," he said.

New York-based Liz Claiborne slashed its full year earnings forecast in October, saying the financial markets meltdown had changed spending patterns in its stores, which include Lucky Brand and Mexx in addition to Juicy Couture and Kate Spade. In the third quarter the company reported declining sales and a net loss as it restructures to focus on higher-growth retail brands.(Reuters)




 

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