Private Brand Fashion Reaches New Heights

This fascinating article comes from Crains New York Business and focuses on the growth and success or Private Brands in fashion retailers. Check it out.

Private labels are back in fashion
Retailers protect margins with in-house brands.

Items from new apparel brand Bar III are flying off Macy’s shelves, with young fashionistas grabbing the line’s floral dresses and sheer ruffled blouses. Bar III is not the latest creation from a hot designer but is one of Macy’s private labels, which the department store designs, manufactures and markets in-house.

“Bar III has been on fire since its debut” in February, said Molly Langenstein, Macy’s executive vice president of fashion and new business development.

As they face unprecedented pressure from rising costs for raw materials, competition from online discounters and shoppers still reluctant to spend, more and more department stores are turning to a money-saving solution: private-label and exclusive apparel lines.

Midrange chains such as Macy’s and Kohl’s, as well as upscale stores, including Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, have recently added more private labels.

Such brands allow retailers to eliminate middlemen and capture more earnings. Exclusive partnerships, such as Macy’s with Madonna and J.C. Penney Co.’s with Liz Claiborne, are also on the rise.

At some stores, the mix of private and exclusive lines has risen to 40% from 20% a few years ago, according to retail consultancy Kurt Salmon. The development stands in stark contrast to the recession, when most department stores focused on big-name designers to get shoppers in the door.

“Retailers got more aggressive with the recession and are looking at how they can keep more of the dollars,” said Amy Klaris, a strategist at Kurt Salmon. She notes that producing clothes in-house has been trending up for the past five to seven years.

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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.