Kellwood Shares Sink After Firm Lowers Earnings Forecast

Wall Street punished Kellwood's move to shed three divisions and cut its earnings forecast, sending shares down $4.24 to $23.87 on the NYSE.

As for the likelihood of the brands being sold, Lewis added, "My concern would be, and their great challenge will be, for the very same reason they're shedding these businesses there will be correspondingly very few suitors interested in buying them."

Within the divisions that Kellwood will shed, it's the Kellwood-owned brands that are for sale. Several licensing agreements will be discontinued, while others such as Izod sleepwear would be included in a potential sale of LA Intimates.

The divisions that will be discontinued include Kellwood private label men's wear, which primarily produces denim-based sportswear for retailers, and does not include the Smart Shirts division, makers of the Claiborne and Nautica men's shirts collections. The company will also shed Kellwood Intimate Apparel, which includes Biflex, LA Intimates and Dotti, and Kellwood New England, which has the David Brooks, Pink Poodle and Pink Inc. brands. It also includes the Bill Burns and Northern Isles women's licenses, which will be discontinued.

In addition, Kellwood will restructure its Oakland operation by eliminating, and perhaps selling the Jax and Beliza labels to sharpen its focus on the Koret brand. Kellwood will continue to ship its licensed Dockers tops through December 2005, but will not be shipping after the holiday and resort seasons.

"The divisions that are being dismissed are because they don't perform or because they are in highly competitive niches," said Harry Bernard, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Colton Bernard, a San Francisco-based strategic marketing firm. "This decision will help Kellwood's overall business to get rid of those that do not perform. So maybe there are people out there willing to buy these businesses, but I can't imagine why they would. Is there a store out there that sells brands that do not perform?"

Andrew Jassin, managing director of the consulting firm Jassin-O'Rourke Group, said he believes there are buyers out there for some of these labels.

"For the intimates brands, Komar comes to mind right away," Jassin said. "And there are any number of companies out there willing to acquire brands — there's Jones and Claiborne, of course, but also Li & Fung or Land & Sea may look at them. But the overall question here is how much damage has been done to these brands? When we know that, we'll know if they will be purchased or not."

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