Talbots to drop Kids, Mens lines

Feb 01, 2008 10:30 PM  By

The Talbots is turning its back on men — and children. To better focus on its core women’s apparel business, the company announced Jan. 4 that it will drop its Talbots Kids and Talbots Mens lines.

The Hingham, MA-based merchant will close 66 Talbots Kids stores and 12 Talbots Mens stores, as well as the catalogs for both units. The closings will affect 800 positions, or 5% of the company’s total work force.

The Talbots, parent company of women’s apparel cataloger/retailer J. Jill, launched Talbots Kids in 1989 as a catalog-only operation. It started Talbots Mens as a bricks-and-mortar operation in 2003.

Talbots did not return calls for comment, but few industry watchers were shocked by the announcement. “It’s not too surprising, due to the relatively weak retail season for apparel,” says Chris Shannon, managing director for New York-based investment bank Berkery, Noyes & Co. In fact, Shannon notes, the industry “may be seeing more of these [closings] in the near future.”

The concept of selling stylishly classic men’s clothing apparently never gained enough traction for Talbots to roll out, says Stuart Rose, managing director for Wellesley, MA-based investment bank Tully & Holland.

“Talbots is having a rough time right now, ever since the [February 2006] purchase of J. Jill,” Rose says. “Apparently, management felt these concepts were a distraction or had been given enough time to prove themselves.”

COLDWATER ALSO FEELS THE CHILL

Women’s apparel, in particular, is having a tough time. Coldwater Creek on Jan. 8 eliminated 65 positions companywide. The cataloger/retailer laid off 51 people at its corporate headquarters in Sandpoint, ID, six in Coeur d’Alene, ID, two each in Seattle and New York, and four in other locations.

The job cuts will save the $1.05 billion merchant about $6 million, according to the company. Coldwater Creek did not return calls for comment.