American retailer and design firm
Incorporated: by Sidney Kimmel as Jones New York, 1975. Company History: Acquired several licenses and became America's fastest-growing apparel company, 1980s; sales fell and company approached bankruptcy, 1987; went public, 1990; launched Rena Rowan for Saville label, 1991; purchased Evan-Picone brand, 1992; surpassed $1 billion in sales, 1996; licensed Lauren by Ralph Lauren, 1996, and Ralph by Ralph Lauren, 1998; launched Jones New York menswear program and purchased Sun Apparel, 1998; purchased Nine West Group and Todd Oldham, 1999; acquired Canadian Ralph Lauren licenses, repositioned Evan-Picone, and acquired Victoria & Company, 2000; designer Rena Rowan retired after 25 years with company, 2000. Company Address: 250 Rittenhouse Circle, Bristol, PA 19007, USA. Company Website: www.jonesnewyork.com .
On JONES NEW YORK:
Derdak, Thomas, ed., International Directory of Company Histories, Chicago, 1988.
Lockwood, Lisa, "Jones: Keeping Up with the Laurens," in WWD, 17July 1998.
"Jones New York Offers First Watch Line for Men," in DNR, 8January 1999.
"Jones New York," in Women's Wear Daily's Fairchild 100 Supplement, November 1999.
Solnik, Claude, "Jones Buys Back Bags," in Footwear News (New York), 15 November 1999.
"G-III Gets License for Jones New York Outerwear," in DNR, 17March 2000.
"Jones Apparel Acquires Polo's Canadian Licenses," in DNR, 7 April 2000.
D'Innocenzio, Anne, "Jones to Swing Some NWG Lines Into Fast-Track Mass Market," in Footwear News (New York) 29 May 2000.
Cunningham, Thomas, "Jones Men's Facing Uncertain Future," in DNR, 20 November 2000.
Wilson, Eric, "Polo-Jones New Deal, in WWD, 16 November 2000.
Jones Apparel Group, U.S.-based marketer of moderate women's suits, dresses, and sportswear under the Jones New York trademark, was incorporated in 1975 by Sidney Kimmel, an executive with two decades of apparel industry experience. His goal was to create clothes similar in style and quality to expensive designer fashions but at an affordable price.
Kimmel's fashion career began at a knitting mill, after which he became president of Villager, Inc., the women's sportswear firm. He remained there until 1969, when W. R. Grace & Company, which wanted to increase its presence in women's apparel, hired Kimmel as head of its new women's clothing division. Villager knitwear designer Rena Rowan joined him.
In 1975, W. R. Grace spun off the division to Kimmel and Gerard Rubin. They renamed the business Jones Apparel Group and went after the inexpensive designer lookalike market. The company's first five years were difficult, marked by debt and low cash reserves. All the same, management adhered to an aggressive growth strategy, launching new labels and acquiring rights to others. Its most successful brand was its Jones New York $100 to $300 careerwear line.
Jones New York generated steady demand in an era when women were entering the workforce and wanted affordable yet fashionable clothing. The company's practice of outsourcing manufacturing while concentrating on marketing, distribution, and design was sound. It achieved profitability at the beginning of the 1980s and, within a few years, became one of the fastest-growing U.S. apparel companies.
By the mid-1980s, the company boasted sales of $250 million, making it the leading supplier of moderate women's apparel. But Jones' fast growth and heavy debt, combined with poor acquisitions— including Murjani's Gloria Vanderbilt Jeans, for which Jones had purchased marketing but not manufacturing, pricing, inventory, or delivery rights and lost $20 million—left the company near bankruptcy. In 1987 creditors demanded a reorganization that required the firm to divest many of its licensed labels (although it kept some, such as Christian Dior), lay off employees, and close divisions and warehouses. The reorganization helped almost immediately, with the company showing a profit, albeit a small one, in 1988, after two years of declining sales and earnings.
The Jones New York label led the way for a growth spurt that continued into the mid-1990s. Consumers fought tight budgets during the era's economic recession by buying Jones New York rather than pricey designer apparel. In 1990 management took the firm public, with Kimmel retaining 45 percent ownership. The following year, 1991, Jones Apparel launched Rena Rowan for Saville, priced slightly below Jones New York. Two years later, Rena Rowan was the firm's fastest-growing label and accounted for 15 percent of company sales. Jones New York continued to expand, with its Sport line accounting for about 20 percent of sales; other related labels included Jones & Company, Jones New York Dress, and Jones New York Suits.
Jones Apparel Group purchased the Evan-Picone brand for $105 million in 1992. It also began to extend distribution from its base of department stores (which continued to dominate sales) and catalogues, adding 100 high-margin factory outlet stores across the U.S. (as of 2000, the company operated 970 specialty and 590 outlet stores.) By 1994, revenues were up to $600 million, and in 1996, they passed the $1-billion mark.
The success of the Lauren lines resulted in some changes for Jones New York. The company launched the first Jones New York advertising campaign in 15 years. While its labels, which now included Jones Jeans and Jones New York Country, dominated moderate apparel in department stores, Jones New York's competitors had created recognized lifestyle images through advertising, something Jones New York had not done. In 1996, Jones Apparel Group launched the licensed Lauren by Ralph Lauren line, which, with heavy advertising, grew to $350 million in sales in 1998, when Jones added the Ralph by Ralph Lauren label. Lauren has continued to play a significant role in the company's fortunes. In 2000, Jones acquired the Canadian licenses for several Polo brands and forged a deal to export its licensed Lauren and Ralph brands overseas, its initial foray into foreign markets.
Jones also extended the label into other categories, including jewelry, swimwear, footwear, watches, and handbags through licensing. All products were advertised and cross-promoted with the core Jones New York line. By the late 1990s, the company had retaken control of some of those licenses, bringing footwear and handbags in-house.
In fall 1998, Jones launched a Jones New York menswear program, which it expanded further by signing several licensing agreements, such as for men's leather, outerwear, and tailored clothing. Menswear turned out to be a tough business, however. Despite repositioning the line from collection to main-floor pricing, Jones failed to receive orders from some of its key customers for spring 2001, leading it to consider closing down the division.
On the acquisition front, Jones purchased Sun Apparel, a jeanswear and sportswear company and Polo Jeans licensee, in 1998; Todd Oldham in 1999; and Victoria & Company, a designer and marketer of Givenchy, Tommy Hilfiger, Napier, Richelieu, and Nine West costume jewelry, in 2000. Another major purchase was the Nine West Group in 1999, the footwear marketer's brands included Nine West, Amalfi, Bandolino, Luca B. for Calico, cK/Calvin Klein, 9 & Company, Pappagallo, Pied á Terre, and Selby. In 2000, Jones began repositioning several of those brands, along with Evan-Picone, into the mass market.
Acquisitions boosted total company volume to more than $4.5 billion in 2000. Designer and cofounder Rena Rowan announced her retirement that year, but Sidney Kimmel remained chairman. Over the past two and a half decades, the two partners supplemented their flagship Jones New York career collections by moving into new brands, markets, customer bases, price points, and distribution channels—expansion that promises to continue.