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Clothes late at 2 chains run by Merry-Go-Round


Between 15 percent and 20 percent of the back-to-school orders for two large men's apparel chains operated by Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc. are arriving late in the stores, company officials say.

The delays will hurt results for August, usually Merry-Go-Round's second-biggest selling month, after December.

Customs hangups and other problems have delayed fall-season deliveries for the Chess King and Dejaiz/Attivo chains, company executives said. Together, those units make up more than half of Merry-Go-Round's 1,300 stores.

Deliveries to the company's Merry-Go-Round and Cignal divisions, which sell to women and men, are on target or close to it, executives said, and they're encouraged by sales in those units so far this month.

But in men's merchandise, some new manufacturers hired by the company "are not as reliable as the ones I've been using," Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, Merry-Go-Round's chairman and chief executive, said in an interview. "That's why I don't have my complete men's package yet."

Mr. Weinglass and other officials at the Joppa-based firm are optimistic about the fall season, saying that they're happy with the fashions they've purchased and that they expect corporate-wide sales to substantially improve later this year.

But the delivery problems for the men's stores are another disappointment for a company that has struggled all year, filing for bankruptcy protection in January and reporting sharp sales declines and millions in losses since then.

The back-to-school season is key for Chess King and Dejaiz/Attivo, since both cater to teens and young men. The ideal time to put back-to-school clothes on the shelves is early August, retail experts said, since some colleges start before the end of the month.

"You had to have it a couple weeks ago," said Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates Inc., a New York retail consultancy.

With store inventories 15 percent to 20 percent below plan, Chess King and Dejaiz are "missing full-price sales," Mr. Davidowitz said. "They're missing early indications to react" by identifying hot-selling items to reorder, he added.

Michael D. Sullivan, Merry-Go-Round's president, said, "It'll probably be after Labor Day before we're fully complete" in Chess King and Dejaiz/Attivo.

In many cases, the delays have been beyond the company's TTC control, Mr. Sullivan said. In one instance, incomplete paperwork held a shipment at the border while Merry-Go-Round officials tracked down the manufacturer in the Far East to obtain the correct information. In another, customs officials refused to inspect a shipment at JFK International Airport in New York because it had been rained on and was still wet. Merry-Go-Round officials had to travel to JFK to unpack the boxes, Mr. Sullivan said.

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