May 27, 2014, 2:24 PM

Apparel designer Lafayette 148 NY offers tips on growing sales

While rising steadily in its own retail sales, the women’s fashion apparel brand designer and manufacturer carefully manages its wholesale sales through retailers, it says.

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Lafayette 148 NY Inc., the women’s fashion apparel designer and manufacturer, has steadily grown its online retail sales over the past several years—from $3.02 million in in 2009, to $44.30 million in 2013, the company says.

But it has also been careful to maintain its wholesale sales to some 400 retail stores throughout the United States and Canada, says Jerry Haught, divisional vice president for the company’s direct business. Lafayette 148 NY maintains about 400 points of distribution through its wholesale business, including through high-end retail stores chains like Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, Haught noted at last week’s IRCE Focus: Brands & B2B conference in New York. “We didn’t want to upset them with our retail e-commerce site,” he said. “We wanted to stay with what we’re good at—design and manufacturing.”

At the same time, he added, Lafayette wanted to build up its brand as well as direct-to-consumer sales, particularly after its U.S. sales dropped sharply in 2009. So it took a multi-faceted approach of engaging customers however they like to shop, including via mailed printed catalogs that shoppers can also browse in digital versions on Lafayette148ny.com, and through an online store locator that lists each retail store selling its products. Lafayette also operates one outlet store under its own brand. “Our goal is to deliver the ultimate experience no matter where she shops—in every channel,” Haught said. “We want to tell our brand story.”

But it also keeping close ties with its wholesale clients. In addition to showing the street address of each retail store on an interactive map, Lafayette maintains a policy of selling its merchandise without undercutting prices in retail stores, and it funds marketing campaigns designed to drive sales across retail stores as well as its own e-commerce site. “Our primary strategy is to drive a full-price business,” Haught said. “We want to support, not compete with, our wholesale clients.”

Lafayette also conducts every year about 900 trunk shows, during which it brings its latest designs to retail stores and other locations to give retailers a head’s up on how to plan new merchandise displays.

Lafayette is named after its headquarters street address, 148 Lafayette Street, where it maintains design and marketing facilities in New York City’s chic SoHo district in Lower Manhattan. It also operates garment production facilities in Shantou, China.

As it works to build sales through fashion boutiques in China as well as in the U.S. and Canada, Lafayette has also discovered demand in China for garments carrying a “Made in New York” label. “Some Chinese women like New York brands,” Haught said.

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