Merry-Go-Round sets up shop in Garment District

March 09, 1994|By Joel Obermayer | Joel Obermayer,Sun Staff Writer

Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc. announced the opening of an office in New York's Garment District yesterday in an effort to bring its clothing lines more in tune with emerging fashion trends.

While the move may prove to be a positive one, analysts said it was only a small step in addressing fundamental problems that led the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January.

The new office also should serve to heighten the profile of Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, chairman and chief executive, who will be spending 50 percent of his time there, meeting with scores of fashion designers and clothing manufacturers each week. Poor fashion choices were the chief cause of the company's economic decline last year.

"Surveying a broader range of merchandise allows us to identify tomorrow's fashion trends early," Mr. Weinglass said in a statement. "We want to see anyone that has an exciting line to show us, whether they have sold to Merry-Go-Round in the past or not."

The company operates stores under the name of Merry-Go-Round, Boogie's Diner, Toofers, Attivo, Chess King, Cignal, Dejaiz, Silverman's and Hollywood Store. The New York office had been in the planning stages for several months.

The company also announced yesterday that it was hiring William Kolber as vice president of sourcing and merchandising to work out of its New York office. Mr. Kolber was East Coast sales manager for LEI, a California jeans company, and has worked as vice president of sales for several clothing retailers, including Faded Glory, Bon Jour and Sasson. The company is still searching for a new companywide head of merchandising, Mr. Weinglass said.

Analysts were less sanguine about yesterday's steps, pointing out that the company's problems stem from a lack of strong management in its fashion department, not from a lack of a New York office.

"It's not a bad thing, but you don't need to be in SoHo to know what's going on," said Peter Schaeffer, a partner in Johnson Redbook Service of New York, a research boutique that tracks retailing stocks. "Direction should come from their fashion department. To me they should be out finding the best fashion director in the country. I don't get that feeling, I get the feeling they are dancing around their problems."

The goal of the new operation is to bring the company "back to the heart of American fashions," spokesman Michael Kempner said. "It's a place to re-establish Merry-Go-Round as a fashion leader."

Merry-Go-Round's relations with many of its vendors and factors, companies that finance its inventory, have soured in recent months, leaving the company's inventory well below normal levels. By finding new vendors, the company may be increasing its chances of having fully stocked shops as it winds its way through bankruptcy proceedings.

Mr. Kempner added that the New York office, which is 6,600 square feet and has nine showrooms, will allow relatively unknown designers to show samples to Merry-Go-Round executives.

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