While some are busy keeping up with the Joneses, The Jones Group (formerly Jones Apparel Group) is too busy taking stock in its own brand portfolio to take notice. The company provides a wide range of clothing, shoes, and accessories for men, women, and children. Its brands include Anne Klein, Jones New York, Gloria Vanderbilt, Kasper, Evan-Picone, and l.e.i., among many others. Subsidiary Nine West Group designs apparel and shoes under the names Easy Spirit, Enzo Angiolini, Bandolino, and Nine West. Through licensing agreements, Jones also supplies Givenchy jewelry, Rachel Roy designer apparel, and Dockers footwear. The firm operates about 940 outlet and specialty stores, as well as branded e-commerce sites.
With roots reaching back to 1970, The Jones Group has established itself as a leading provider of quality, contemporary ready-to-wear apparel, footwear, and accessories. In recent years it has faced declining sales as consumers slash spending on their wardrobes and retailers pare their inventory levels to match the falloff in business because of the economic downturn. The company's revenue dropped by 6% to $3.6 billion in 2008 and by 8% to $3.3 billion in 2009. Jones' margins have also taken a hit; the company narrowed its loss of $765 million in 2008 to a loss of $86 million in 2009. The firm has been working to turn its fortunes around by freshening up its mainstay labels, adding new ones that are poised for growth, and marketing exclusive collections through select retailers. It has also been right-sizing its retail footprint and taken other steps to cut costs. To reflect its reach into categories beyond apparel, the company plans to change its name to Jones Group Inc. in late 2010. The name change will not impact Jones' organizational structure or its slate of licensing deals and brands.
Jones operates through five business segments: wholesale better apparel (consisting of such brands as Jones New York, Anne Klein), wholesale jeanswear (Energie, Gloria Vanderbilt, l.e.i.), wholesale footwear and accessories (Nine West, Sam & Libby, Mootsies Tootsies), licensed brands (Givenchy, Dockers), and retail (company-operated stores and e-commerce sites).
The company has been shrinking the size of its brick-and-mortar store network and focusing on e-tailing. It closed about 130 underperforming stores in 2009 and plans to shutter another 130 locations by the end of 2010. Also in 2009 Jones launched the anneklein.com and rachelroy.com e-commerce sites. Its other Internet properties include ninewest.com, easyspirit.com, bandolino.com, and jny.com.
Along with other apparel wholesalers, including Liz Claiborne and V.F. Corporation, Jones has struggled as department stores have cut back on inventory amid the economic downturn. Department stores and other retailers in the US and Canada generate a significant portion of the company's sales. Ten retail customers accounted for about 60% of Jones' 2009 revenue; Macy's, alone, generated some 20% of sales that year. To boost demand for its offerings, Jones has been inking exclusive brand distribution deals with select retailers. In 2010 it launched the Rachel Roy collection as an exclusive Macy's line and began providing GLO Jeans casualwear exclusively to Kmart. Its l.e.i. brand saw its sales pick up in 2009, following Jones' 2008 decision to make Wal-Mart the jeanswear label's exclusive retailer.
Jones is also pursuing growth opportunities to entice consumers to spend more readily again. In early 2010 it acquired Moda Nicola International, the owner of the Robert Rodriguez Collection of contemporary womenswear, for $28 million. Later that year the company purchased a 55% interest in high-end women's shoes and accessory maker Stuart Weitzman Holdings for about $180 million in cash. Designer Stuart Weitzman remains the principal owner of the balance of the business; however, Jones will acquire Weitzman's stake at the end of 2012, the payment being contingent upon the shoe company's value at the time. Adding more sole to its portfolio, Jones acquired UK-based luxury shoe retailer Kurt Geiger from investment firm Graphite Capital in mid-2011. The deal, worth an estimated $350 million (including debt), boosts Jones' profile internationally as Kurt Geiger offers an assortment of designer shoes and has operations in leading department stores (such as Harrods and Selfridges).
Licensing deals also remain key to Jones' business. In early 2010 the company announced plans to design, manufacture, and distribute Jessica Simpson brand jeanswear. The Jessica Simpson line will consist of casual tops and denim pieces and will launch in fall 2010. Previously, Jones entered a joint venture with Rachel Roy, Damon Dash, and TSM Capital to market Roy's New York-based fashion brand in 2008. The firm holds a 50% stake in the Rachel Roy venture, as it continues to invest in the global designer business.
Jones' products are manufactured -- mainly by third parties -- in Asia (mostly), the Middle East, and Africa. Footwear is made in China. The company also licenses its Jones New York and Evan-Picone brand names to other makers of women's and men's apparel and accessories. The company reached the Asian market in 2008 by purchasing a 10% equity interest in GRI, an international brand-management firm that concentrates on accessories and apparel, as well as retail distribution. Jones' more than $20 million investment had secured its foothold in Asia, as GRI operates in a dozen countries and is the exclusive licensee for several Jones brands, such as Nine West, Easy Spirit, and Enzo Angiolini, among others. Looking to strengthen its commitment to Asia, Jones in 2009 acquired an additional 15% interest in GRI for $15 million, increasing its ownership interest in GRI to 25% and its overall investment to $35 million.
Richard Dickson, formerly of toymaker Mattel where he ran the resurgent Barbie business, joined the company in February 2010 as president and CEO of branded businesses. As a result, Wesley Card relinquished the title of president but remained as CEO, with Dickson reporting to Card.