After the Recession, What Will Execs Do First?

Once the recession ends, top apparel executives believe re-invigorating their brands will be their main priority.

with contributions from Marc Karimzadeh, Julee Kaplan
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Stacey Bendet’s advice was to take a vacation.

Photo By Plush Studios/Getty Images

Reinvest in the brand.

Once the recession ends, top apparel executives believe re-invigorating their brands will be their main priority, whether it be through more aggressive marketing, investing in e-commerce, opening stores or remodeling showrooms to create more pizzazz to lure still-nervous retailers.

After nearly a year of stringent management of working capital, maintaining low inventories and serious cost reductions, fashion firms are finished with battening down the hatches and are now beginning to devise strategies for better times.

While no one can predict when the recovery will begin, there have been signs, albeit tentative, that there may be light at the end of the tunnel. “Although we expect that real consumption will resume its contraction in the second and third quarters of this year before posting growth again the fourth quarter, the worst seems to be over for consumer spending,” said Paul L. Kasriel, chief economist at Northern Trust, in a research note.

So WWD allowed executives to engage in a little wishful thinking and asked them: “What’s the first thing you’ll do at your company once the recession ends?”

William McComb, chief executive officer, Liz Claiborne Inc.

“I could name many things that will begin to happen when we return to ‘normal.’ The one that really stands out — which will begin to unlock greater prosperity in our company — is the recalibration of our marketing investment to levels that will drive even greater interest and engagement in the brands. Unlike some of our competitors, our brands are generally early in their life cycle, and will see tremendous upside from marketing. Our strategy is really about creating demand via great product merchandising and brand marketing. More Web, more print, more in store and more novel media are essential components of our growth plan.”

Mark Weber, ceo, Donna Karan International
“Congratulate the people for their hard work and managing through this tough period.”

Susan Sokol, president and chief operating officer, J.Mendel
“Naturally, there are many things we’d like to do, but at the top of the list would be the chance to remodel our showroom. As our geographical reach expands, we have more accounts coming in to see the collections, and we feel that having the right showroom environment is critical. We have already planned and designed the showroom space with our architect, David Mann, and we can’t wait to get the ball rolling. We definitely need more room for the sales markets, and are looking forward to having a beautiful new showroom to present the collection.”

Glenn McMahon, ceo, St. John
“We haven’t stopped doing anything we’ve planned as part of our strategies. Initiatives such as product expansion to nonapparel categories and international, we’ll probably accelerate that.”

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