Talbots Pulling Plug on Kid’s and Men’s Businesses

It’s going to be women only for The Talbots: To better focus on its core women’s apparel business, the company announced Jan. 4 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 its total work force. Calls to Talbots were not returned by press time.

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 Men as a bricks-and-mortar operation in 2003.

Few industry watchers were shocked by the announcement. “It’s not too surprising, due to the relatively week retail season for apparel,” says Chris Shannon, managing director for New York-based investment bank Berkery, Noyes & Co. In fact, he notes, “there may be 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.”

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