Fashion Retailing Beckoned When Stock Analysis Soured

"Career change" is hardly an adequate way to describe Lacy McNaron Shockley's move from bank stock analyst on Wall Street to the world of haute couture.

"I traded Wall Street for Seventh Avenue," she said during a recent conversation.

When least year's crash in bank equities made analysts' recommendations look way off the mark, more than half a dozen analysts -- including Ms. Shockley -- lost their jobs. Most eventually shifted to other investment firms or into similar kinds of work.

But after her departure from New York's Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co., Ms. Shockley, 45, concluded that continuing consolidation would make jobs in the banking industry even scarcer. So she decided against staying in securities analysis or moving into areas like investor relations.

Instead, she now owns and runs a women's apparel shop called Lacy's at the Two Greenville Crossing shopping center in Greenville, Del., an affluent suburb of Wilmington.

Host of Designers Represented

The shop offers fashions by such designers as Tamatsu, Robert David Morton, Jeanne Marc, Helen Hsu, Eugene Alexander, and Noviello Bloom. She makes a trip to New York's garment district once or twice a month to keep track of the latest design trends.

It was a big change from a 20-year career that included stops at Fidelity Management and Research, the huge Boston mutual fund concern; McKinsey & Co., the management consulting firm; and half a dozen securities firms in Washington, Philadelphia, and New York.

Before joining Smith Barney she followed East Coast banking stocks for Butcher & Singer, the Philadelphia firm since merged with Wheat First Securities, and for Mabon Nugent & Co., New York.

Previously at Thomson McKinnon Securities, she managed a $10 million equity options portfolio. She also designed and implemented a computer-based system there for trading options. But Ms. Shockley coped with the stresses of Wall Street by taking up needle and thread. "It was a hobby and my own way of relaxing." She also admits to being an avid shopper.

She gave no thought to upscale apparel retailing as a career, but realized on leaving Smith Barney that "I had been conducting informal research for 20 years and had a good basic knowledge of women's apparel, including the technical aspects of how it's made."

Ms. Shockley eventually intends to branch out into manufacturing women's clothing under her own label.

A Recession-Resistant Area

She chose to locate her shop in Wilmington after some economic analysis more akin to her former career. It was a recession-resistant area where exclusive marketing rights were available for works of designers she wanted.

After closely studying banks on behalf of investors, Ms. Shockley now uses her knowledge of the industry in other ways. "Now I'm concerned with financing for business, and focus on letters of credit and the like."

She doesn't work fewer hours than she did on Wall Street, but she didn't expect to. "If you own your own business, you have to be involved in something you find vitally interesting," she said.

And if you own it, you don't have to worry about nosy securities analysts.

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