Milestone: Pliner Plans Ahead

With 20 years under its belt, Donald J Pliner is writing its next chapter.

While the rocky economy has forced the company to put most of its growth plans on hold in recent months, founder Donald Pliner said his team has outlined an aggressive agenda aimed at taking the business to the next level in the coming years.

Bolstering the brand’s retail presence is a key focus. To get there, it has introduced faster, lower-priced collections including Donald by Donald J Pliner for men and Lisa for Donald J Pliner for women, both of which will hit stores this fall.

“[Based on bookings], these lines have already enabled us to open many new doors we wouldn’t typically have sold,” Pliner said. “And they’ll help us reach a younger audience.”

The company also is working to expand its e-commerce business, according to CEO Roxanne Ehrenberg. “The Internet is a huge monster for us,” she said. “For every dollar we put into that business, we get 10 back. It’s a very good marketing vehicle.”

In addition to keeping the merchandise offering compelling and the look of the site fresh, Ehrenberg said the company would like to utilize its online store as platform for testing new product. “There are so many different avenues we can be taking. It’s just a matter of how fast we can do [things],” she said.

Despite the recent closures of its Beverly Hills, Calif., and Orlando stores, the company remains committed to its branded retail business and is focused on growing its door count, Ehrenberg said. “We have a list of cities where we could have stores,” she noted, citing Texas and California as likely sites for future shops. New York is also high on the wish list, she added. “We need a store [there].”

On the wholesale front, Pliner said the company is seeking to delve back into licensing. Robert Kaplan was brought on board three months ago to help develop and implement a strategy for taking the Donald J Pliner brand into other categories outside of shoes.

Building up the brand’s international presence is yet another objective. While roughly 85 percent of Donald J Pliner’s business is done in the U.S., Pliner said he is hoping to change that.

“Overseas is a small part of our business right now, but it can be much bigger,” he said, noting that the company distributes throughout Canada and has a sprinkling of accounts in parts of the U.K., France, South Africa, Mexico and Israel. “When the economy improves, we would like to pursue international expansion in a more serious way.”

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