New York Transit Making Moves

NEW YORK — After building its licensing business over the past few years with labels such as Splendid and Ella Moss, New York Transit Inc. switched gears last fall when it acquired Charles David and Bettye Muller.

Now the firm is looking to make those two brands more competitive in the women’s market, said Joe Houser, COO of the Hayward, Calif.-based company.

Bettye Muller — and the lower-priced contemporary line Bettye by Bettye Muller — will relaunch next month. Houser said Muller’s design experience and legacy in the industry, as well as her clearly defined customer, make the lines a strong fit for New York Transit.

Kim Stensrud, who most recently worked as VP of sales at The Jones Group Inc.’s Bandolino division, has been hired as president of the brand, and Muller will remain involved as founder and creative director.

“My goals are to introduce many new [sporty, casual categories] that I have always loved and wanted to do,” Muller said of her two lines, which retail from $95 to $300. “The challenge is to make something wearable, affordable, simple and cool — [something] without an expiration date.”

Additionally, Muller also is designing the licensed Ann Marino line, now called Ann Marino by Bettye Muller, a fresh take on the $69-to-$99 collection.

The Charles David acquisition in September introduced another well-known name to the New York Transit portfolio.

“We [knew] we wouldn’t have to pioneer [that brand],” Houser said. “Charles David was different from our other lifestyle brands. We were careful not to duplicate price points.”

Charles David — including the main line retailing from $200 to $300 and the lower-priced line Charles by Charles David collection — will have its own design and management team within the company.

According to Bruce Moore, VP of Charles David, the deal was attractive because New York Transit was interested in maintaining the aesthetic of the label and valued its legacy.

“William Tai, [CEO of New York Transit], and I wanted to continue to build on the history and equity of the brand,” said Moore, who joined Charles David in 2011. (Charles Malka, longtime president and CEO of Charles David, has since retired after selling the company.)

Moore said that with the new infrastructure and distribution in place, he expects to grow sales by about 30 percent this year from 2013.

Looking ahead, Houser said his team is mulling international expansion and brand extensions such as handbags for Charles David and Bettye Muller. Both brands have new homes at the New York Transit headquarters and have relocated their showrooms to 130 W. 57th St.

Elsewhere in the portfolio, the firm inked a new distribution agreement in Canada with Sherson Group Inc. for the Taryn Rose, Adrienne Vittadini and Marilyn Monroe labels.

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