Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Liz picks Penney; Isaac takes TV

October 8, 2009

mizrahiJC Penney stores in the United States and Puerto Rico are going exclusive with Liz Claiborne Inc’s namesake brand and celebrity designer Isaac Mizrahi will sell his upscale Liz Claiborne New York line only on QVC, a TV shopping network.

The moves from Liz Claiborne were seen by some as a downward shift to mass-market retail channels and came as department store orders for Liz Claiborne’s products have fallen during what has become the longest recession since the Great Depression.

Analysts said the JC Penney deal is more lucrative for Liz Claiborne and signals the end of a decades-long relationship between Liz’s main brand and the Macy’s department store chain – which didn’t exactly go quietly.

“The Liz Claiborne brand has sold poorly in recent years and has continued to decline. As a result, we could not justify expanding it at Macy’s,” a Macy’s spokesman said.

JC Penney is known in the United States for stressing affordability and discounts while higher-end department stores like Nordstrom or Saks carry more designer merchandise and higher price tags. Macy’s tends to be somewhere in the middle of the two extremes, but lately has been discounting aggressively and focusing on everyday values.

Liz Claiborne, which recently hired a turnaround firm, said its “bold steps” would  “further the revitalization” of the Liz Claiborne brand and “significantly alter its earnings trajectory.”

The agreement with JC Penney begins in August 2010. The Liz Claiborne New York line will partner with QVC after this year’s holiday season.

Mizrahi is no stranger to the small screen — or the silver screen. The outspoken designer currently is co-hosting Bravo’s “The Fashion Show” and was the subject of the 1995 documentary film “Unzipped.” 

While Mizrahi is not the first celebrity to pitch products on a home shopping channel, he did break new ground in 2003 with his exclusive women’s apparel and accessory line for Target.

His QVC show called “Isaac Mizrahi Live!” debuts in December and will sell Liz Claiborne New York apparel, accessories and home goods.

(Photo/Reuters)

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