McComb has new approach for Liz Claiborne and fashion industry

Liz Claiborne CEO William L. McComb took a new route to potential success when the company known for its department store brands launched a line...

Liz Claiborne CEO William L. McComb took a new route to potential success when the company known for its department store brands launched a line for J.C. Penny, which led Macy’s to significantly cut orders, The New York Times reports. The former J&J division president and new-to-fashion exec has decided to deflate the company by “...keeping only the brands with the potential to sustain dozens of retail stores, multiple product categories (not just clothing, but shoes, handbags and cosmetics) and international growth.”

While analysts have endorsed the plan, McComb has laid off many high-level execs and hired Project Runway star Tim Gunn as chief creative director, prompting complaints from designers.
Current and former Liz Claiborne executives said that Mr. McComb had damaged morale by effectively creating two tiers of brands — winners (like Juicy, Lucky and Kate) and losers (like Ellen, Dana and Sigrid). “It’s no fun to learn you haven’t made the A Team,” said one well-known designer whose brand is up for sale, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the company forbade employees from discussing the changes.

...Four made [the] cut: Juicy Couture, Lucky Brands, Mexx and Kate Spade. By 2010, the company plans to open 300 new stores for these labels. It will operate 148 Juicy stores, up from 56 today; 311 Lucky stores, up from 189; 120 Kate Spade stores, up from 40; and 275 Mexx stores, up from 234.

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