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Holiday Aftermath: Vendors Stay Lean, but More Shakeups Ahead

NEW YORK — Vendor caution will limit the damage from the poor holiday season, but it won’t stop more consolidation in 2003.Most firms...

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Similar reaction came from larger volume firms, which are more likely to be able to ride out any storm and might rescue some smaller firms through an acquisition.

Peter Boneparth, chief executive officer and president at Jones Apparel Group, said: "While this has obviously been a difficult season, the consolidation that began in this business, irrespective of this season, will continue. Even if this was a great season, there were certain things that would make continued consolidation inevitable.

"Like you see in every difficult season, there will be a number of small firms who call it quits. The paradox is that while retail results have not been stellar, for the most part, the major retailers are in excellent financial condition because they’ve done a good job at managing their inventories. So from our perspective, we don’t see any major near-term problems on the horizon. Obviously, should sales continue to deteriorate, credit concerns will become more of an issue."

Gregg Marks, president of Kasper ASL, said: "The suit business is one of the better businesses at retail today. I’m not feeling any impact at this point. We did OK for December. The category that was weak for us was the whole social-occasion area. The classic suits that were good value, and you can wear more than one time, were excellent."

Marks believes there already has been a lot of consolidation among companies and believes there will be constriction among divisions at firms.

"Stores are looking how to control expenses and inventories," he said. "The fourth quarter of 2001 was lousy. Everyone’s controlling their inventories."

He said the company’s inventory is "on plan." As for future orders, Marks said: "Stores are coming in the next two weeks and nobody’s telling us of any plans to cut."

The firm has reintroduced Kasper Sportswear, and since better sportswear has been a tough market, it presents an opportunity for new vendors. He noted that the Albert Nipon bridge rtw line is on plan and evening separates are being added for fall.

Hal Upbin, Kellwood Co.’s chairman, ceo and president, said he doesn’t anticipate major impact or fallout based upon the recent holiday selling period.
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