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Oxford Industries, Inc.

Oxford Industries, Inc.


222 Piedmont Avenue NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30308-3306
U.S.A.
Telephone: (404) 659-2424
Fax: (404) 653-1545
Web site: http://www.oxfordinc.com

Public Company
Incorporated: 1960 as Oxford Manufacturing Company
Employees: 4,800
Sales: $1.11 billion (2006)
Stock Exchanges: New York
Ticker Symbol: OSM
NAIC: 315211 Men's and Boys' Cut and Sew Apparel Contractors; 315222 Men's and Boys' Cut and Sew Suit, Coat, and Overcoat Manufacturing; 315223 Men's and Boys' Cut and Sew Shirt (Except Work Shirt) Manufacturing

Oxford Industries, Inc., one of America's leading apparel producers, has spent most of its history plotting a course for steady growth by providing affordably priced sportswear to retail chains. In more recent years, the company has sought to increase profits by aggressively acquiring higher-end labels (such as Ben Sherman and Tommy Bahama) and moving most production offshore. Licensing is another area of opportunity that Oxford has tapped, gaining exclusive rights to manufacture such popular clothing labels as Nautica, Tommy Hilfiger, and Oscar de la Renta, among others.

WARTIME ORIGINS

Oxford Industries started as the "temporary" wartime livelihood of Tommy, Sartain, and Hicks Lanier, three Nashville-bred brothers. They had originally joined forces in 1934 by investing in a venture that produced and sold Dictaphones and business forms. Business went well and they were able to expand throughout the southeast until 1941, when the onset of World War II brought the supply of their products' component materials to a standstill. The brothers were casting about for an interim investment when, in 1942, a friend pointed them in the direction of Oxford of Atlanta, a small company that merchandised and sold men's and boys' shirts and slacks, garnering about $1 million in annual sales. Despite the brothers' lack of experience in the apparel business, the three drew upon their sales skills and quickly set about expanding the company.

In 1943 Oxford bought its first manufacturing facility, the Champion Garment Company, in Rome, Georgia, and the company name was promptly changed to the Oxford Manufacturing Company. The limited supply of retail merchandise during the war, coupled with the ability of the Lanier brothers to procure more than the company's allotted amount of material, helped the company immeasurably; according to Sartain, "there was such a shortage of merchandise in those days there was no need for a designer label to sell good. If pants had two legs and the button fly would work, you could sell them."

As the war drew to a close, demand for clothing grew, and Oxford added manufacturing plants in Vidalia and Monroe, Georgia, and Tupelo, Mississippi. The building in Vidalia had originally been used as a bowling alley; for a time the lanes were used as cutting tables. In 1944 the brothers were able to buy out their partners; the "temporary" investment had taken on a life of its own.

POSTWAR GROWTH

After the war one of Oxford's most popular items was a line of slack-suit sets (consisting of a sport shirt and slacks made from the same material, sometimes with a belt from the same material) made from army surplus twill that were marketed prepackaged in two colorsblue and tan. Over time retailers began to ask for more of one color or another based on consumer demand, and at this point Hicks Lanier decided to return to the Dictaphone business. According to Sartain, Hicks felt that "anything this complex is not for me. I'm going back to the dictating machine, where customers only want one model, one size, and one color."

Oxford came out of the postwar recession with a growth strategy that centered on dramatically increasing manufacturing capability and expanding its product lines while maintaining its focus on sportswear. Oxford sought to use its large-scale production force to supply the national retail chains, foremost among them J.C. Penney. By 1950 it had begun to lay the groundwork by opening a new 40,000-square-foot plant in Vidalia, as well as an office in New York City. Throughout the decade expansion of existing plants and the acquisition of nine others greatly increased production strength. The strategy seemed to pay off. In 1950 sales were $3.5 million; by 1954 they had reached $10 million.

High-volume production methods allowed Oxford to provide both branded and unbranded lines, which by this time included men's suits and sports jackets and women's apparel as well. Thus it was able to penetrate the national chainsits merchandise appeared in such stores as J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, and National Shirt Shopsas well as smaller retailers and mail-order companies.

The popularity of the slack-suit set that had fueled the company's early growth began to fade in the 1950s. Oxford expanded into outerwear, denim clothing, and women's shirts, and in 1956 it began to produce slacks for J.C. Penney. By 1959 sales had reached $29 million (47 percent of this figure from pants sales), and J.C. Penney accounted for 44 percent of Oxford's total business. In that year Oxford bought the Freezer Shirt Corporation, a South Carolina-based manufacturer capable of turning out 36,000 shirts a week.

The advent of the men's tailored shirt for women, an item first manufactured at the urging of J.C. Penney, broached the womenswear market for the first time. In 1961 Oxford acquired Aansworth Shirt Makers, a women's sportswear company, and renamed its product line Cos Cob, facilitating penetration into the womenswear market. The growing strength of Oxford's higher-margin womenswear line helped its profit margin during this period of expansion. In 1962 womenswear made up 23 percent of the company's manufacturing volume, yet accounted for 35 percent of the company's earnings.

PUBLIC IN 1960

When Oxford went public in 1960 with an offering of 240,000 class A common shares and began trading on the American Stock Exchange and the Philadelphia and Baltimore stock exchanges, the company had more than 3,000 employees and $31 million in sales.

The years from 1955 to 1963 brought Oxford 18 apparel companies (six in 1963 alone) and a total of 23 plants. In 1963 sales increased $21 million to reach $61 million, and the company's stock split. By 1964 Oxford was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

One of the men responsible for Oxford's tremendous growth in this period, President Tommy Lanier, was killed in a plane crash near Paris on June 3, 1962, in a disaster that also took the lives of many of Atlanta's civic leaders. Sartain Lanier was thus the last of the cofounding brothers to remain directly involved with Oxford's operations.

COMPANY PERSPECTIVES


Oxford Industries, Inc., is a producer and marketer of branded and private label apparel for men, women, and children. Oxford provides retailers and consumers with a wide variety of apparel products and services to suit their individual needs. Oxford's brands include Tommy Bahama®, Indigo Palms®, Island Soft, Ben Sherman, Arnold Brant, Ely and Walker and Oxford Golf. The Company also holds exclusive licenses to produce and sell certain product categories under the Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Geoffrey Beene, Slates, Dockers, and Oscar de la Renta labels. Oxford's customers are found in every major channel of distribution including national chains, specialty catalogs, mass merchants, department stores, specialty stores and Internet retailers.

Several technological advances greatly changed the business and Oxford was among the first apparel manufacturers to take advantage of them. First was the production process that allowed Dacron and cotton poplin slacks to be sewed without unattractive puckers at the seamsOxford was the first to master the technique and ran large quantities of this product. Another production advance came with the introduction of "permanent press" material in 1965. The handling of this fabric proved problematic for many manufacturers because of its unique properties. Oxford was one of the first to take advantage of its potential and use it to make men's and boys' slacks and then women's shirts, dresses, and sportswear.

When Oxford moved its headquarters into a new 70,000-square-foot site in Atlanta in 1965, the company had grown to include more than 7,000 employees and had topped $81.7 million in net annual sales. Expansion continued with a new 200,000-square-foot plant in Vidalia and a 125,000-square-foot slacks plant and distribution center in Monroe in 1966. Another important development was the 1966 acquisition of Wright Manufacturing Company, a manufacturer and national distributor of men's slacks that had previously served as an independent contractor.

Although fiscal 1967 brought increased sales of $116.2 million, earnings fell sharply after years of growth (they had more than tripled in the previous five years). A sour retail atmosphere, widespread cutbacks and markdowns of inventories, and increased textile and labor costs (stemming from new minimum wage legislation) all took their toll. Thus, Oxford's 25th anniversary year brought a change in name to Oxford Industries, Inc., and marked the beginning of an intensive reorganization process. Its many sales forces, product lines, and manufacturing plants were seen as too often duplicating efforts. With Sartain Lanier in firm control as both chairman and president, the company set out to respond to changes in the economy and society at large. Oxford shed its marginally profitable businesses in rain-wear and outerwear manufacturing. Prices were increased, and the company started to look for ways to lower labor costs. One of its first moves was to lease a plant in Agua Prieta, Mexico, directly across the border from its plant in Douglass, Arizona, in 1968. The minimum wage there was 35 cents an hour.

In 1968 Oxford acquired Lanier Business Products, the office equipment distributor and manufacturer that was a descendant of the Lanier brothers' original business venture. Oxford paid 349,999 shares of class A common stock for Lanier's 1.1 million shares. The strong performance of the business products divisionwhich in 1970 comprised 11 percent of revenuehelped cushion the effects of the apparel divisions' sluggish sales, which were blamed on inflation, rising unemployment, and continuing recession.

The menswear division at this time contributed over 65 percent of volume for Oxford. The cornerstone of its business continued to be sales to Sears Roebuck, J.C. Penney, and Montgomery Ward of branded and unbranded apparel. The popularity of leisure suits was also a factor. The womenswear division, which in 1970 came under the control of John Hicks Lanier, Sartain Lanier's son, sought to make its clothing more fashionable and to this end moved its offices from Atlanta to New York City, the hub of the domestic fashion world.

Sales began to climb again in 1971 and continued to do so throughout the early 1970s. The cost of U.S. labor and the recession that followed the OPEC oil embargo, as well as overarching societal change, radically altered the apparel industry during this period. The large-scale entry of women into the workforce in the 1970s created demand for affordable, office-friendly sportswear, and so Cos Cob in 1974 cast off its lines of separates to capitalize on the demand for coordinates. Another change in the apparel industry centered on the increasing diversity of clothing worn in blue-collar occupations. Finally, the increase in white-collar jobs throughout the 1960s and 1970s proved very good for the shirt business. Although the recession of 197475 caused a loss of sales of 2.8 percent, by 1976 apparel sales had increased 15.7 percent to over $230.5 million.

KEY DATES


1942:
The Lanier brothers invest in clothing merchandiser Oxford of Atlanta.
1943:
Manufacturing operations are launched.
1954:
Sales reach $10 million.
1960:
Company has initial public offering.
1963:
Ben Sherman Ltd. is founded.
1964:
Shares are listed on New York Stock Exchange.
1978:
Oxford begins making clothes for designer labels.
1993:
Oxford wins license to produce certain Tommy Hilfiger dress shirts.
1997:
Nautica and Geoffrey Beene menswear licenses added.
2003:
Tommy Bahama is acquired via purchase of Viewpoint International.
2004:
Oxford buys Britain's Ben Sherman Ltd.

On July 1, 1977, Lanier Business Products was spun off as its own publicly held company and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Revenues dropped 29 percent (from $302.3 million in 1976 to $220.5 million in 1977) and Oxford lost 57 percent of its earnings. Oxford returned to focus solely on the apparel business.

That year also brought the ascension of J. Hicks Lanier to the post of president of Oxford. Under his control Oxford sought to enter the 1980s, upgrading its production technology and diversifying its customer base. A computer-operated pattern grading and marking system was introduced in the menswear division in 1976. Computers were also brought in for inventory control and production planning, and some sewing and pressing operations were automated.

INTO DESIGNER LABELS IN 1978

In 1978 sales to Sears and J.C. Penney accounted for 55 percent of the company's total sales. The disadvantages of this situation became clear when Oxford saw earnings drop 5 percent in 1979 as both retailers delayed deliveries on ordered merchandise. Oxford, seen for years as a supplier of "commodities" clothing, sought at this time to broaden its customer base as well as increase sales by venturing into the volatile, higher-margin designer label market.

Perhaps Oxford's most striking success in the designer label market was its first; it sealed an agreement with Ralph Lauren in 1978 to produce a line of all-cotton boys shirts known as Polo for Boys. This arrangement brought Oxford products into such upscale retail establishments as Bloomingdale's and Neiman-Marcus for the first time. Another major acquisition was the Merona Sport Division of Merona Corporation in 1981. Other labels included Jhane Barnes and Robert Stock.

These efforts brought immediate results. Sales to J.C. Penney and Sears, which in 1978 accounted for 55 percent of sales dropped to 32 percent by 1982, marking an end to Oxford's unhealthy reliance on the two retailers. Designer label sales soared from $4 million in 1980 to $60 million in 1982. Oxford also expanded its private label business by providing merchandise to L. L. Bean, Lands' End, Eddie Bauer, and Talbots, although private-label manufacturing fell from over 80 percent in 1978 to 60 percent in 1983. In 1982 (the year in which Sartain Lanier retired as chairman and his son gained the post) sales increased $100 million over the previous year. In 1983 Oxford became a Fortune 500 company. Profits peaked in 1984 at $25 million.

Oxford's stunning growth ground to a halt in 1985 when earnings dropped 71 percent, to 64 cents a share. Extensive inventories, weak financial controls, and a peak in popularity of its fastest-growing labels brought three years of reduced sales. Plants operating below capacity and inventory sell-offs also ate into profits.

Facing growing import strength and a global oversupply of production capacity, Oxford opted for a period of downsizing and restructuring. More merchandise was assembled overseas in such countries as the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica. Some plants in the United States were upgraded with new computer systems and information technologies, while others were closed.

Changes were taking place within the retailers as well. Sears Roebuck temporarily discontinued its men's tailored clothing line, and J.C. Penney introduced more brand-name menswearthese two adjustments taken together cost Oxford $15 million. Oxford also sought to increase distribution at Wal-Mart and Target Stores. Small independent retailers were abandoned and the focus was directed at large chains and department stores. Oxford also proved successful at placing self-contained Polo for Boys "shops" within department stores. These shops were found to increase sales 30 to 40 percent per square foot.

Sales began to drop in the apparel market as a whole in 1989 and Oxford responded by paring down lines and reducing inventories. In 1991 the Cos Cob and JBJ lines of women's sportswear were discontinued, the loss of which cost Oxford $25 million. Also in that year Oxford signed a licensing agreement with Target Stores in which Target was given exclusive rights to design and merchandise the Merona label. By the end of that year Oxford was producing merchandise in 22 countries. Oxford's domestic production was matched by its reliance on offshore production, and it was predicted that an even greater percentage of the company's manufacturing would be shifted overseas. Oxford also repurchased over two million shares from 1988 to 1991.

50TH ANNIVERSARY IN 1992

In 1992 J.C. Penney comprised 24 percent of Oxford business, and sales had risen 4.3 percent from the previous year, after three years of reduced sales. Sears expansion of its men's separates department also proved important, as Oxford was one of its major suppliers. Polo for Boys and Jhane Barnes continued as their strongest labels.

Oxford seemed poised to survive the apparel industry convulsions almost inevitably due to an oversupply of production capacity. It saw opportunities for continued growth during this period of industry consolidation through acquisition of cast-offs from other companies and further involvement in the international market.

Oxford lost some private label women's business in 1993 when Sears stopped producing its famous Big Book. It lost more sales when catalog company New Hampton, Inc., went bankrupt. Even so, revenues rose 9 percent to a record $625 million in fiscal 1994, with income up 30 percent to $19.2 million.

Nevertheless, Oxford continued to pick up valued licenses for designer brands, including trendy, upscale label Tommy Hilfiger and Nautica. In 1995, the company bought Ely & Walker, a Lebanon, Tennessee, marketer of cowboy-style clothing that dated to 1878. In the same year, a T-shirt design business, BJ Design Concepts, was sold to Montreal's Novel Teez Designs Inc.

One new license seemed promising at first but proved to be troublesome and short-lived. Farah, Inc., contracted the Oxford Shirtings division to make Savane-brand, wrinkle-free cotton dress shirts. Oxford had trouble with the new proprietary process, and the relationship ended a couple of years later following delivery delays and poor sales.

The emphasis on designer labels succeeded in eventually lifting Oxford out of its mid-1990s slump. At the same time, the company had aggressively sought to cut costs, closing or selling a handful of U.S. plants and sourcing more product overseas. Licenses for Nautica and the more moderately priced Geoffrey Beene brands were added in 1997. The Polo for Boys license, however, was not renewed after it expired in fiscal 1999. Additional volume came from the purchase of women's clothing manufacturer Next Day Apparel, but this was focused on the lower margin, mass market trade. By this time, Oxford was making 85 percent of its clothing outside the United States.

ADDING BRANDS IN 2000 AND BEYOND

Oxford picked up the rights to the DKNY Kids line and Levi's Slates tailored clothing in 2000. The company employed roughly 10,000 people at the time, but its workforce, especially in the United States, was being trimmed in the face of price competition. Sales for 2000 fell 3 percent from the previous year to $839.5 million, and earnings slipped 11 percent to $23.4 million.

Sales were down to $677 million in fiscal 2002. Still, the company would pass the billion-dollar mark within a couple of years through the purchase of two high-end brands, while an approving stock market doubled its market capitalization.

In 2003 Oxford bought Viewpoint International, which owned Tommy Bahama, an upscale lifestyle brand that had been built around pricey casual items such as silk Hawaiian-print shirts. The deal was worth up to $325 million based on performance. While valued as an explosively successful brand in a new market niche for Oxford, Tommy Bahama was unique in being a well-known designer label the company owned, rather than licensed. In addition, the new unit had 30 retail stores, some with attached restaurants, and was adding new locations rapidly.

In 2004 Oxford acquired Britain's Ben Sherman, Ltd., from leading European venture capital firm 3i and Enterprise Equity. Oxford paid £80 million ($146 million) in cash. Ben Sherman had been formed in 1963 and was long known as a supplier of men's shirts for the "Mod" crowd. It then expanded, most notably in the United States, as a global clothing and footwear brand for hip urban youth. It was beginning to open its own retail stores.

Oxford launched another British-inspired line for the spring of 2005. Dubbed "nick(it)," it was designed by Joe Boxer founder Nick Graham and slated for J.C. Penney department stores to help fill a gap in its young men's collection.

Oxford's revenues rose 18 percent to a record $1.3 billion in the fiscal year ended June 3, 2005. This was fueled largely by the new Tommy Bahama and Ben Sherman lines, which together accounted for more than 40 percent of total sales and 70 percent of total operating earnings. Another new licensing deal came from Orvis; the venerable Vermont catalog company chose Oxford to update its upscale, outdoorsy men's clothing. The Oxford Shirt Group, Oxford Slacks, and Oxford Golf Group were being folded together into one unit, the Oxford Apparel Group.

In August 2005, Oxford added another label to its collection, buying California lifestyle company Solitude. That label had been launched several years earlier by pro surfer Shaun Tomson. The J.C. Penney chain began offering Oxford's Solitude line in spring 2006.

Canadian clothing company SFI was acquired in October 2005, adding the Arnold Brant and Silverstone brands as well as an entrée into the market for premium tailored clothing. SFI, which was formed in the 1940s, employed about 400 people in a plant in Montreal and had annual revenues of about $50 million. Oxford had previously recruited SFI to make suits and jackets for the Ben Sherman line, while farming out necktie production to another manufacturer, Mulberry.

As Oxford was adding new thriving labels, some of its older men's lines were faltering. The Izod Golf business, acquired five years earlier from Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation, was replaced with the company's own brand, Oxford Golf, in 2004. Earnings were falling at the womenswear group too. In May 2006, Oxford announced it would sell the unit to Hong Kong's Li & Fung Group, a move expected to significantly affect sales to its largest customers, Target and Wal-Mart.

Cheryl Collins

Updated, Frederick C. Ingram

PRINCIPAL SUBSIDIARIES

Lionshead Clothing Company, Inc.; Oxford Caribbean, Inc.; Oxford Garment, Inc.; Oxford Private Limited of Delaware, Inc.; Piedmont Apparel Corporation; Ben Sherman Clothing, Inc.; Oxford International, Inc.; Oxford of South Carolina, Inc.; Camisas Bahia Kino S.A. de C.V.; Confecciones Monzini SA; Industrias Lanier De Honduras S. de R.L.; Industrias Oxford de Merida, S.A. de CV; Manufacturera de Sonora, S.A. de CV; O.R. Fashions S de R.L.; Oxford Internacional de Guatemala Sociedad Anonima; Oxford Philippines, Inc.; Oxford Products (International) Ltd.; Oxford International Ltd. (HK); Top Candor Ltd.; Oxford of Europe; Oxford de Colon, S.A.; Ben Sherman Holdings Ltd.; Oxford Industries (UK2) Ltd.; Oxford Industries (UK3) Ltd.; Ben Sherman Ltd.; Ben Sherman Group Ltd.; Textile Caledonia Investments Ltd.; Ben Sherman (Manufacturing) Ltd.; Ben Sherman (Lurgan) Ltd.; Sherman Cooper Marketing Ltd.; Slix Ltd.; Dunkeld Fashions Ltd.; Ben Sherman (Australia) Pty. Ltd.; The Branded Shirt Company Ltd.; Tern Shirt Ltd.; Neal & Cooper Ltd.; Tommy Bahama Group, Inc.; Tommy Bahama R&R Holdings, Inc.; Tommy Bahama Beverages, LLC; Tommy Bahama Texas Beverages, LLC; SFI of Oxford Acquisition Corporation, Inc.

PRINCIPAL DIVISIONS

Oxford Apparel; Lanier Clothes; Ben Sherman.

PRINCIPAL OPERATING UNITS

Tommy Bahama Group; Oxford Menswear Group; Oxford Womenswear Group.

PRINCIPAL COMPETITORS

Haggar Corporation; Hartmarx Corporation; Perry Ellis Menswear LLC; Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation.

FURTHER READING

Curran, Catherine, and Brenda Lloyd, "Savane WR Shirt Manufacturing Brought Back In-House by Farah; Oxford Held License for Past Two Years," DNR, March 12, 1996, p. 3.

"The Designer Look: It's Oxford Industries Stylish Operating Results," Barron's, January 18, 1982.

Eidam, Michael, "Oxford's Nifty Fashion Statement," Business Week Online, April 28, 2004.

Ettore, Barbara, "Give Ralph Lauren All the Jets He Wants," Forbes, February 28, 1983.

Gellers, Stan, "Geoffrey Been Clothing Brings Another Dimension to Lanier; Moderate-Priced Licensed Designer Label Targets Department Stores," DNR, August 18, 1997, p. 86.

, "How Lanier Plays the Market with Blue-Chip Performers," DNR, August 24, 1998, p. 70.

, "Southern Comfort: Lanier Plays the Name Game with a Balance of Celebrity Brands and Private Label," Daily News Record, August 21, 2006, p. 72.

Gellers, Stan, and Jean E. Palmieri, "Oxford Adds SFI to Lanier Division," Daily News Record, October 31, 2005, p. 10.

, "Sherman Gets Sartorial; Oxford Goes Outside, to SFI, for Ben Sherman Tailored Clothing Alliance," Daily News Record, January 10, 2005, p. 10.

Godlenski, Robert, "Oxford Unveil $5M Improvement Plans," Daily News Record, October 7, 1980.

"Going Public: Oxford Industries, Private Label Maker, Scores with Designer Lines," Barron's, May 9, 1983, p. 56.

L'Heureux, Dave, "Apparel Producer to Close Columbia, S.C., Distributing Plant," State (S.C.), July 2, 2002.

Lloyd, Brenda, "Big Backer Boosts Ely & Walker," Daily News Record, January 3, 1996, p. 1AS.

, "Big Ben Buy Takes Oxford to New High," Daily News Record, June 28, 2004, p. 1.

, "Men's Divisions Lead Way to Solid Gains for Oxford; Stockholders Told Shirtings Unit Had 'Exceptional Year,'" Daily News Record, October 6, 1993, p. 2.

, "Men's Fuels Success at Oxford Industries," Daily News Record, October 6, 1992, p. 6.

, "Oxford Inds. to Give WR Big Push in '95 in Shirts, Slacks," Daily News Record, October 4, 1994, p. 2.

, "Oxford Ready for Recession," Daily New Record, October 2, 1990, p. 3.

, "Oxford Seeking Acquisitions or Licensing Deals," Daily News Record, October 6, 1999, p. 13.

, "Oxford Unveils Proprietary WR Process," Women's Wear Daily, November 22, 1994, p. 6A.

, "Tommy Bahama Buy Boosts Oxford," Daily News Record, May 5, 2003, p. 2.

MacIntosh, Jeane, "Oxford Seeking New Shirt Brand," Daily News Record, November 20, 1992, p. 2.

"Net at Oxford Industries Enjoys More Stylish Look," Barron's, May 11, 1968, p. 39.

"Orvis Gives Oxford a Taste of the Outdoors with Luxe Accent," Daily News Record, November 8, 2004.

"Oxford: A Venture into Designer-Label Clothes Spruces up Earnings by 90 Percent," Business Week, June 21, 1982, pp. 7071.

Oxford Fiftieth Anniversary, Atlanta: Oxford Industries, 1992.

"Oxford Sells Women's Wear to Li & Fung," just-style.com, May 2, 2006.

Palmieri, Jean E., "Oxford Buys Solitude; '06 Penney Launch Set," Daily News Record, September 5, 2005, p. 6.

, "Oxford Creates Sportswear Company," Daily News Record, June 20, 2005, p. 4.

, "Oxford to Launch 'Twisted' New Line; Nick Graham's Latest, Nick(It), Set for Spring Selling Debut at J.C. Penney," Daily News Record, November 22, 2002, p. 4.

Walker, Tom, "Investors Like Cut of Oxford Industries," Atlanta Journal and Constitution, January 19, 1997, p. D6.

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Oxford Industries, Inc.

Oxford Industries, Inc.

222 Piedmont Avenue
Atlanta, Georgia 30308
U.S.A.
(404) 659-2424
Fax: (404) 653-1545

Public Company
Incorporated: 1960 as Oxford Manufacturing Company
Employees: 9,800
Sales: $527.7 million
Stock Exchanges: New York
SICs: 2311 Mens/Boys Suits and Coats; 2321 Mens/Boys Shirts; 2337 Womens/Misses Suits and Coats; 2339 Womens/Misses Outerwear Nec

Oxford Industries, Inc., one of Americas leading apparel manufacturers, has spent most of its history plotting a course for steady growth by providing affordably priced sportswear to retail chains; it later sought to dramatically increase profits by aggressively acquiring higher-end labels and turning out upscale merchandise.

Oxford Industries started as the temporary wartime livelihood of Tommy, Sartain, and Hicks Lanier, three Nashvillebred brothers. They had originally joined forces in 1934 by investing in a venture that produced and sold dictaphones and business forms. Business went well and they were able to expand throughout the southeast until 1941, when the onset of World War II brought the supply of their products component materials to a standstill. The brothers were casting about for an interim investment when, in 1942, a friend pointed them in the direction of Oxford of Atlanta, a small company that merchandised and sold mens and boys shirts and slacks, garnering about $1 million in annual sales. Despite the brothers lack of experience in the apparel business, the three drew upon their sales skills and quickly set about expanding the company.

In 1943 Oxford bought its first manufacturing facility, the Champion Garment Company, in Rome, Georgia, and the company name was promptly changed to the Oxford Manufacturing Company. The limited supply of retail merchandise during the war, coupled with the ability of the Lanier brothers to procure more than the companys allotted amount of material, helped the company immeasurably; according to Sartain, there was such a shortage of merchandise in those days there was no need for a designer label to sell good. If pants had two legs and the button fly would work, you could sell them.

As the war drew to a close, demand for clothing grew, and Oxford added manufacturing plants in Vidalia and Monroe, Georgia, and Tupelo, Mississippi. The building in Vidalia had originally been used as a bowling alley; for a time the lanes were used as cutting tables. In 1944 the brothers were able to buy out their partners; the temporary investment had taken on a life of its own.

After the war one of Oxfords most popular items was a line of slack-suit sets (consisting of a sportshirt and slacks made from the same material, sometimes with a belt from the same material) made from Army surplus twill that were marketed prepackaged in two colorsblue and tan. Over time retailers began to ask for more of one color or another based on consumer demand, and at this point Hicks Lanier decided to return to the dictaphone business. According to Sartain, Hicks felt that anything this complex is not for me. Im going back to the dictating machine, where customers only want one model, one size, and one color.

Oxford came out of the postwar recession with a growth strategy that centered on dramatically increasing manufacturing capability and expanding its product lines while maintaining its focus on sportswear. Oxford sought to use its large-scale production force to supply the national retail chains, foremost among them J.C. Penney. By 1950 it had begun to lay the groundwork by opening a new 40,000-square-foot plant in Vidalia, as well as an office in New York City. Throughout the decade expansion of existing plants and the acquisition of nine others greatly increased production strength. The strategy seemed to pay off. In 1950 sales were $3.5 million; by 1954 they had reached $10 million.

High-volume production methods allowed Oxford to provide both branded and unbranded lines, which by this time included mens suits and sports jackets and womens apparel as well. Thus it was able to penetrate the national chainsits merchandise appeared in such stores as J.C. Penney, Montgomery Ward, and National Shirt Shopsas well as smaller retailers and mail order companies.

The popularity of the slack-suit set that had fueled the companys early growth began to fade in the 1950s. Oxford expanded into outerwear, denim clothing, and womens shirts, and in 1956 it began to produce slacks for J.C. Penney. By 1959 sales had reached $29 million (47 percent of this figure from pants sales), and J.C. Penney accounted for 44 percent of Oxfords total business. In that year Oxford bought the Freezer Shirt Corporation, a South Carolina-based manufacturer capable of turning out 36,000 shirts a week.

The advent of the mens tailored shirt for women, an item first manufactured at the urging of J.C. Penney, broached the womenswear market for the first time. In 1961 Oxford acquired Aansworth Shirt Makers, a womens sportswear company, and renamed its product line Cos Cob, facilitating penetration into the womenswear market. The growing strength of Oxfords higher-margin womenswear line helped its profit margin during this period of expansion. In 1962 womenswear made up 23 percent of the companys manufacturing volume, yet accounted for 35 percent of the companys earnings.

When Oxford went public in 1960 with an offering of 240,000 class A common shares and began trading on the American Stock Exchange and the Philadelphia and Baltimore stock exchanges, the company had more than 3,000 employees and $31 million in sales.

The years from 1955 to 1963 brought Oxford 18 apparel companies (six in 1963 alone) and a total of 23 plants. In 1963 sales increased $21 million to reach $61 million, and the companys stock split. By 1964 Oxford was listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

One of the men responsible for Oxfords tremendous growth in this period, President Tommy Lanier, was killed in a plane crash near Paris on June 3, 1962, in a disaster that also took the lives of many of Atlantas civic leaders. Sartain Lanier was thus the last of the co-founding brothers to remain directly involved with Oxfords operations.

Several technological advances greatly changed the business and Oxford was among the first apparel manufacturers to take advantage of them. First was the production process that allowed Dacron and cotton poplin slacks to be sewed without unattractive puckers at the seamsOxford was the first to master the technique and ran large quantities of this product. Another production advance came with the introduction of permanent press material in 1965. The handling of this fabric proved problematic for many manufacturers because of its unique properties. Oxford was one of the first to take advantage of its potential and use it to make mens and boys slacks and then womens shirts, dresses, and sportswear.

When Oxford moved its headquarters into a new 70,000-square-foot site in Atlanta in 1965, the company had grown to include more than 7,000 employees and had topped $81.7 million in net annual sales. Expansion continued with a new 200,000-square-foot plant in Vidalia and a 125,000-square-foot slacks plant and distribution center in Monroe in 1966. Another important development was the 1966 acquisition of Wright Manufacturing Company, a manufacturer and national distributor of mens slacks that had previously served as an independent contractor.

Although fiscal 1967 brought increased sales of $116.2 million, earnings fell sharply after years of growth (they had more than tripled in the previous five years). A sour retail atmosphere, widespread cutbacks and markdowns of inventories, and increased textile and labor costs (stemming from new minimum wage legislation) all took their toll. Thus, Oxfords 25th anniversary year brought a change in name to Oxford Industries, Inc. and marked the beginning of an intensive reorganization process. Its many sales forces, product lines, and manufacturing plants were seen as too often duplicating efforts. With Sartain Lanier in firm control as both chairman and president, the company set out to respond to changes in the economy and society at large. Oxford shed its marginally profitable businesses in rainwear and outerwear manufacturing. Prices were increased, and the company started to look for ways to lower labor costs. One of its first moves was to lease a plant in Agua Prieta, Mexico, directly across the border from its plant in Douglass, Arizona, in 1968. The minimum wage there was 35 cents an hour.

In 1968 Oxford acquired Lanier Business Products, the office equipment distributor and manufacturer that was a descendant of the Lanier brothers original business venture. Oxford paid 349,999 shares of class A common stock for Laniers 1.1 million shares. The strong performance of the business products divisionwhich in 1970 comprised 11 percent of revenuehelped cushion the effects of the apparel divisions sluggish sales, which were blamed on inflation, rising unemployment, and continuing recession.

The menswear division at this time contributed over 65 percent of volume for Oxford. The cornerstone of its business continued to be sales to Sears Roebuck, J.C. Penney, and Montgomery Ward of branded and unbranded apparel. The popularity of leisure suits was also a factor. The womenswear division, which in 1970 came under the control of John Hicks Lanier, Sartain Laniers son, sought to make its clothing more fashionable and to this end moved its offices from Atlanta to New York City, the hub of the domestic fashion world.

Sales began to climb again in 1971 and continued to do so throughout the early 1970s. The cost of U.S. labor and the recession that followed the OPEC oil embargo, as well as overarching societal change, radically altered the apparel industry during this period. The large-scale entry of women into the workforce in the 1970s created demand for affordable, office-friendly sportswear, and so Cos Cob in 1974 cast off its lines of separates to capitalize on the demand for coordinates. Another change in the apparel industry centered on the increasing diversity of clothing worn in blue collar occupations. Finally, the increase in white-collar jobs throughout the 1960s and 1970s proved very good for the shirt business. Although the recession of 1974-1975 caused a loss of sales of 2.8 percent, by 1976 apparel sales had increased 15.7 percent to over $230.5 million.

On July 1, 1977, Lanier Business Products was spun off as its own publicly held company and was listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Revenues dropped 29 percent (from $302.3 million in 1976 to $220.5 million in 1977) and Oxford lost 57 percent of its earnings. Oxford returned to focus solely on the apparel business.

That year also brought the ascension of J. Hicks Lanier to the post of president of Oxford. Under his control Oxford sought to enter the 1980s, upgrading its production technology and diversifying its customer base. A computer-operated pattern grading and marking system was introduced in the menswear division in 1976. Computers were also brought in for inventory control and production planning, and some sewing and pressing operations were automated.

In 1978 sales to Sears and J.C. Penney accounted for 55 percent of the companys total sales. The disadvantages of this situation became clear when Oxford saw earnings drop five percent in 1979 as both retailers delayed deliveries on ordered merchandise. Oxford, seen for years as a supplier of commodities clothing, sought at this time to broaden its customer base as well as increase sales by venturing into the volatile, higher-margin designer label market.

Perhaps Oxfords most striking success in the designer label market was its first; it sealed an agreement with Ralph Lauren in 1978 to produce a line of all-cotton boys shirts known as Polo for Boys. This arrangement brought Oxford products into such upscale retail establishments as Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus for the first time. Another major acquisition was the Merona Sport Division of Merona Corporation in 1981. Other labels included Jhane Barnes and Robert Stock.

These efforts brought immediate results. Sales to J.C. Penney and Sears, which in 1978 accounted for 55 percent of sales dropped to 32 percent by 1982, marking an end to Oxfords unhealthy reliance on the two retailers. Designer label sales soared from $4 million in 1980 to $60 million in 1982. Oxford also expanded its private label business by providing merchandise to L.L. Bean, Lands End, Eddie Bauer, and the Talbots, although private label manufacturing fell from over 80 percent in 1978 to 60 percent in 1983. In 1982 (the year in which Sartain Lanier retired as chairman and his son gained the post) sales increased $100 million over the previous year. In 1983 Oxford became a Fortune 500 company. Profits peaked in 1984 at $25 million.

Oxfords stunning growth ground to a halt in 1985 when earnings dropped 71 percent, to 64 cents a share. Extensive inventories, weak financial controls, and a peak in popularity of its fastest growing labels brought three years of reduced sales. Plants operating below capacity and inventory sell-offs also ate into profits.

Facing growing import strength and a global oversupply of production capacity, Oxford opted for a period of downsizing and restructuring. More merchandise was assembled overseas in such countries as the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica. Some plants in the United States were upgraded with new computer systems and information technologies, while others were closed.

Changes were taking place within the retailers as well. Sears Roebuck temporarily discontinued its mens tailored clothing line, and J.C. Penney introduced more brand name menswearthese two adjustments taken together cost Oxford $15 million. Oxford also sought to increase distribution at Wal-Mart and Target Stores. Small independent retailers were abandoned and the focus was directed at large chains and department stores. Oxford also proved successful at placing self-contained Polo for Boys shops within department stores. These shops were found to increase sales 30 percent to 40 percent per square foot.

Sales began to drop in the apparel market as a whole in 1989 and Oxford responded by paring down lines and reducing inventories. In 1991 the Cos Cob and JBJ lines of womens sportswear were discontinued, the loss of which cost Oxford $25 million. Also in that year Oxford signed a licensing agreement with Target Stores in which Target was given exclusive rights to design and merchandise the Merona label. By the end of that year Oxford was producing merchandise in 22 countries. Oxfords domestic production was matched by its reliance on offshore production, and it was predicted that an even greater percentage of the companys manufacturing would be shifted overseas. Oxford also repurchased over 2 million shares from 1988 to 1991.

In 1992 J.C. Penney comprised 24 percent of Oxford business, and sales had risen 4.3 percent from the previous year, after three years of reduced sales. Sears expansion of its mens separates department also proved important, as Oxford was one of its major suppliers. Polo for Boys and Jhane Barnes continued as their strongest labels.

Oxford seems poised to survive the apparel industry convulsions that almost inevitably arise when an oversupply of production capacity becomes apparent. It also sees opportunities for continued growth during this period of industry consolidation through acquisition of cast-offs from other companies and further involvement in the international market.

Further Reading

The Designer Look: Its Oxford Industries Stylish Operating Results, Barrens, January 18, 1982.

Ettore, Barbara, Give Ralph Lauren all the Jets He Wants, Forbes, February 28, 1983.

Godlenski, Robert, Oxford Unveil $5M Improvement Plans, Daily News Record, October 7, 1980.

Going Public: Oxford Industries, Private Label Maker, Scores with Designer Lines, Barrons, May 9, 1983, p. 56.

Lloyd, Brenda, Oxford Ready for Recession, Daily New Record, October 2, 1990, p. 3.

, Mens Fuels Success at Oxford Industries, Daily News Record, October 6, 1992, p .6.

Macintosh, Jeane, Oxford Seeking New Shirt Brand, Daily News Record, November 20, 1992, p. 2.

Net at Oxford Industries Enjoys More Stylish Look, Barrons, May 11, 1968, p. 39.

Oxford Fiftieth Anniversary, Atlanta: Oxford Industries, Inc., 1992.

Oxford Industries, Inc., Annual Report, Atlanta: Oxford Industries, Inc., 1992.

Oxford: A Venture into Designer-Label Clothes Spruces up Earnings by 90 percent, Business Week, June 21, 1982, pp. 7071.

Cheryl Collins

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