Blair Taps Women’s Careerwear Market

Warren, PA-based apparel and home goods cataloger Blair Corp. is getting serious about selling careerwear. The 94-year-old company this spring mailed an Irvine Park menswear catalog that includes Blair’s first line of Irvine Park workwear for women.

The women’s apparel debuted in the 60-page summer edition of Irvine Park, which mailed to 400,000 customers and prospects on March 15. Blair aims to target 3 million prospects with Irvine Park catalogs for 2004, says Marsha Maier, the company’s vice president/general manager of menswear, “as well as leverage our 1 million core customer names.”

The Irvine Park catalog includes silk herringbone jackets (priced at $130-$145), pastel oxfords ($30-$35), and linen-blend banded-collar shirts ($25-$30) for the men. The new women’s line, which takes up 10 pages in the catalog, includes a poppy-red microfiber short jacket ($79.99) and pants ($49.99), a bouclé jacket ($99.99), and a pleated stretch denim skirt ($39.99).

The new line targets working women ages 40-60. Blair started the women’s career line because “we saw a gap in the womenswear market,” Maier says. The company’s core group of buyers — older women — do not need work apparel, while its Crossing Pointe catalog, launched in 2002, sells trendier clothing rather than career classics to customers in their 30s.

A month after the mailing, Blair was “very happy” with the results, Maier says, and encouraged by the response from customers and prospects: “Early indications are that we are headed in the right direction.” For Irvine Park’s next mailing, in September, Blair aims to double the percentage of women’s clothing from about 16% to 30%, Maier says. Blair will also add a few pairs of women’s shoes to the book and include more of the outfits in plus sizes.

A brand is reborn

The Irvine Park brand is actually a relaunch of sorts for Blair. The company started the menswear title in 2001 but stopped mailing it in February 2003. After some tweaking, Irvine Park was back in the mail last September as what Blair describes as a “value-priced alternative to moderate and upscale men’s marketers.”

The company is able to keep Irvine Park’s price points down — at about $160-$230 for men’s suits — because of its economies of scale, Maier says. It also helps that the $580-plus million Blair has its own import division.

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