Descendants of Ship 'n Shore originator reclaim name Samuel Netzky started the clothing line in the '20s; his son sold it in the '70s. Heirs just bought it back.

Posted: May 07, 2002

Ship 'n Shore, a venerable brand name in moderately priced women's clothing, has been purchased by SWC Enterprises Inc., a Berwyn company owned by descendants of the man who started the apparel line in the 1920s, the company said yesterday.

SWC bought the Ship 'n Shore name for an undisclosed sum from the bankrupt estate of Montgomery Ward Co., said Joel Schwartz, president of SWC.

SWC, which was formed to buy the brand, intends to license the Ship 'n Shore name to manufacturers or retailers but has no agreements in place yet, Schwartz said.

The company was founded in 1916 as Susquehanna Waist Co. in Susquehanna, Pa., by Samuel Netzky, Schwartz's great-grandfather. The company began making blouses for women in the 1920s. The company moved to Upland, Delaware County, in the late 1940s and later to Aston. The name was changed to Ship 'n Shore in 1954. Schwartz said his grandfather, William Netzky, sold the brand to General Mills in 1977, ending the family's involvement, and General Mills sold it to Ward's in the mid-1990s. SWC Chairman Paula Spiegel is Samuel Netzky's granddaughter.

Ship 'n Shore is best known as a brand name of blouses, but the company also added women's pants, skirts and jackets over the years. The company was a pioneer, with Du Pont Co., in blending cotton and dacron in the first drip-dry, no-ironing-needed apparel, Schwartz said.

To understand what customers want today, SWC conducted market research with two groups of women, ages 35 to 49 and ages 50 and up, and found a desire for moderately priced clothing that looks youthful but not dowdy and fits women's bodies better as they age, he said.

"There was a sea of complaints about styles of clothing for the age 35-plus woman," Schwartz said.

Lori Greenawalt, a partner and retail specialist for Arthur Andersen L.L.P. in Philadelphia, said the company was targeting an underserved market of women looking for clothing that fits them, yet comes in a range of styles, colors and fabrics. But even a brand with a long history and a once-loyal following has to be updated to sell, she said. "If you're going to revive a brand, no one can do it better than family," because of the pride they have, Greenawalt said. At the same time, "You had better live up to their [consumers'] expectation of price and quality. They may buy it only once out of nostalgia."

Contact Tom Belden at 215-854-2454 or tbelden@phillynews.com.

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