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Ann Inc. Realigns, Launches Lou & Grey

Ann Inc., parent company of women’s specialty retail brands Ann Taylor and LOFT, plans to realign its organization to accommodate a shift in its consumers’ purchasing behavior and to position itself for continued growth.

The company announced the strategic move last Friday saying it would be working to keep pace with today’s omnichannel shopper by supporting an integrated store/ecommerce structure.

Kay Krill, Ann Inc., president and chief executive officer, said, “The new integrated structure will enhance our focus on delivering great fashion, building our brands and servicing our clients, wherever and whenever she chooses to shop.”

Gary Muto, previously brand president of LOFT, was promoted on Friday to president of Ann Inc. to lead the charge. He will be primarily focused on design, merchandising and marketing for all channels of the Ann Taylor and LOFT brands.

Ann Inc. says the realignment is expected to result in pre-tax operating savings of $25 million, $15 million of which should be realized in this fiscal year. As part of the shift, the company will streamline its operations eliminating 100 jobs, a move that was announced last week.

“The strategic realignment we are announcing today builds on our ongoing initiatives to expand our omni-channel capabilities, enhance the productivity of our store fleet, grow our international presence, and develop new categories of growth, including the launch of the Lou & Grey brand, while also furthering our objective to maximize the profitable growth of ANN INC.,” Krill said.

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Lou & Grey is Ann Inc.’s newest brand of loungewear-meets-lifestyle clothing targeted to a more youthful consumer. Formerly LOFT Lounge, the new collection has “evolved into a new line of easy, texture-rich pieces for your every day,” the company website notes.

The line includes sports-inspired pieces like zip pocket pullovers, drapey Sportif lounge pants and a spacedye tee dress.

Ann Inc. plans to launch Lou & Grey this fall and will open four freestanding stores, set up shop-in-shops within LOFT stores and the goods will also retail on a microsite, according to Women’s Wear Daily.

The company also announced its fourth quarter results Friday, reporting a net income of $4.7 million, or $0.10 per diluted share, compared to $2.4 million, or $0.05 per diluted share, in the same quarter last year.

For the full fiscal 2013, the company reported a net income of $102.4 million, or $2.19 a diluted share, almost flat to last year’s $102.6 million. Total comparable sales were up 2.3% for the year.

“Fiscal 2013 was another successful year for ANN INC., driven by the strength of both of our brands as well as the benefits of our strategic growth initiatives. We delivered record earnings per share for the second consecutive year. And, for the fourth consecutive year, comparable sales were positive at both Ann Taylor and LOFT,” Krill said.

Ann Inc. did note that soft traffic and lackluster consumer spending across the industry negatively impacted the company mostly in factory outlet centers and where extreme winter weather was the worst.

Aside from the Lou & Grey launch, the company also plans to expand its international business and will open its first store in Mexico later this year and plans to continue its expansion in Canada.

With the realignment underway, the outlook for 2014 is positive. Krill said, “Overall, we believe these actions position ANN INC. for success in an omni-channel world and will drive continued profitable growth in 2014 and beyond.”