Clash of the Titans: Turf War Brewing As Polo Battles Jones

With the battle between Polo and Jones Apparel heating, there’s speculation about the fate of the Lauren by Ralph Lauren shops in department stores.

“I would assume that Jones would want to move into that space,” said R. Fulton McDonald, president of International Business Development Corp., a consulting firm in New York. “It’s prime real estate. Jones is a quality company. My guess is they’re going to move to get every asset gain they could get. Jones is pretty aggressive.”

“I think it’s a battle of egos,” said Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard’s Retail Consulting Group. “It’s a brouhaha that pits one well-known good name against another.”

Some industry watchers were amazed Wednesday with Boneparth’s chutzpah and felt he filed the lawsuit and announced a new better sportswear collection just to save face.

“I think it’s incredible, it’s brilliant in its pomposity,” said one industry observer. “The interesting thing now is, who did Jones call to indemnify their space?

“He worked both sides against the middle. He ramped up in case the deal blew up,” said the source. He conjectured that Boneparth must have gone to Sidney Kimmel, chairman of Jones, with his plan to negotiate with Polo in good faith, and then have a plan to deliver and cover the Lauren volume for spring 2004 if he lost the license. “He had a plan and he executed it, obviously from the day he heard about it. He became very proactive,” said the source.

“It’s a classic battle of the titans on every level. At the end of the day, the stores will make the two companies happy,” he said. “With a smooth transition, Polo could have picked up the $548 million in volume. Now they’ll have to fight for their space, and they’ll be lucky to pick up $200 million to $300 million.”

As reported, the addition of a Jones New York casual career collection is expected to boost the overall Jones New York volume to $1 billion in 2004, up from $730 million in 2003. Currently, the Jones New York umbrella consists of Jones New York Career Collection, Jones New York Sport, Dress and Suits. Last year, the Lauren by Ralph Lauren collection at Jones generated $548 million in sales.
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