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Changing tactics to keep her business growing

Beth Gold Cohen, founder and designer of Lysse

Beth Gold Cohen, founder and designer of Lysse Leggings in Roslyn, shows some of the leggings she created and sells to retail stores. (June 13, 2012) Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

In the competitive world of retail where it's easy to be one-upped, Beth Gold-Cohen knows standing still isn't an option.

After launching her business, Lysse Leggings in Roslyn, 2½ years ago, she finds herself at a crossroads, trying to find new ways to take the shapewear leggings company to the next level.

She had a meteoric rise -- hitting $900,000 in sales her first year in business -- but now feels she's saturated the large retail market.

"In order to grow my volume in the department stores, I need to find another way to present my product," says Gold-Cohen, 58, a former Macy's buyer.

Part of the problem is large retailers have limited space to stock her leggings, which hang on hangers on clothes racks in large department stores such as Dillard's and Nordstrom. Some retailers have expressed the desire for flat packaging so they could carry more merchandise.

"Shelf space is critical to retail establishments," explains Gene Fairbrother, president of MBA Consulting in Dallas.

Certain items have to be hanging, like suits and slacks, says Fairbrother. "But when you have a product that's basically the same, you don't want 50 hanging up. You want one hanging up and 50 others in the case below them."

Changing the way you deliver your product can be key in trying to grow a business, says Fairbrother, noting that Gold-Cohen's feeling that she's hit a ceiling can happen as a business matures.

"It's pretty easy for a business to see 100 percent to 150 percent of growth in their first or second year," he notes. "It gets a little harder beyond that in future years to grow."

Other options for growth include tapping into markets outside the United States, bringing in outside managers or advisers with a new perspective, and diversifying product lines, he notes.

Gold-Cohen is trying some of those tactics to grow beyond her present $4 million in sales. For starters, she's created a flat packaging option to present to retailers.

"I buy in the accessory department, which is a smaller department, so you can't hang all the products," says Tracy Collins, corporate legwear buyer for Dillard's in Little Rock, Ark. He had asked Lysse to develop a flat package option. The new package allows you to "get more product on the shelves," he notes.

Gold-Cohen has also created an activewear line, Lysse Fit, which will include three fitness leggings and a tank top to retail between the high $40s and low $60s. Her original leggings, offered in more than 20 styles, retail for about $58 to $78. They are manufactured in Long Island City and in China.

"It's a great product," says Jill Scherer of Jill Scherer Ltd. in Roslyn. The store carries the leggings, and Scherer says she hopes to carry the activewear.

Gold-Cohen says she expects to start selling the activewear shortly in about 100 stores. Her products are also available on her website.

A breast cancer survivor, she created her leggings after gaining weight during treatments. Unhappy with existing options, she crafted her own pair of leggings by sewing a control-top undergarment to a pair of regular leggings for a smoother waistline. The name Lysse is a twist on the French word lisse, meaning sleek and smooth, she said. Her products are now in about 2,500 stores, but she sees the potential to grow even further if she can make some necessary changes.

"It's my responsibility to keep evolving in order to increase my market share," says Gold-Cohen, who recently expanded her distribution to Canada and Europe.

SNAPSHOT Lysse Leggings, Roslyn

Owner. Beth Gold-Cohen

Established. November 2009

Employees. 10

Sales. $4 million

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