Product: Bras, panties, daywear, sleep/loungewear, active/swimwear, hosiery, accessories, shoes, fragrance, beauty. Volume: $6.12 billion ($4.56 billion at retail and $1.56 billion catalogue and e-commerce, fiscal year ended Jan. 28, 2012) Owner: Limited Brands Inc., Columbus, Ohio
Since its debut in 1996, Victoria’s Secret’s annual TV fashion show has become a national pastime. The extravaganza ranked number one among adults ages 18 to 49 in 2011, said Ed Razek, president and chief creative officer of the sexy brand. The media blitz and frenzy of pre- and post-show publicity—generated online and at victoriassecret.com and through TV and print ads—rivals the excitement and glamour of the red carpet. Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Bruno Mars headlined as this year’s top entertainment. After Hurricane Sandy, Victoria’s Secret loaned its fleet of generators and forklifts to the National Guard to help deliver food, water and clothing to storm victims.
Few brands have maintained their clout and recognition like Hanes, which was founded in 1901 by John Wesley Hanes, who started making men’s socks. Hanes expanded into women’s socks in 1918, and by the mid-Sixties, the company was a pioneer in sheer hosiery. The brand entered women’s innerwear in 1986 with a capsule line of Hanes Her Way panties. It quickly exploded into a megabrand. In 2005, Hanes Her Way was consolidated into the Hanes franchise, and a slew of product launches followed: Hanes Perfect T, tagless All-Over Comfort Bras and the No Ride Up Panty. Armed with an estimated annual ad budget of more than $50 million, Hanes TV spots feature athletes and celebs such as Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jackie Chan, Cuba Gooding Jr. and, most recently, Michael Jordan.
Product: Retailer of value-priced apparel and accessories. Volume: $5.7 billion Owner: Gap Inc.
Old Navy named Stefan Larsson, a 15-year veteran of H&M, its first global brand president, signaling the start of international expansion. More recently, Old Navy opened a store in Japan—the first time the retailer has landed outside of North America. The store, more than 10,000 square feet, anchors a large shopping mall on an island of reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay called Odaiba. Other mall tenants include Zara, H&M, Uniqlo, American Eagle, Forever 21 and Diesel. Old Navy has seen some momentum with denim, specifically the “rock star” jean, and with its kids’ business. It also settled a lawsuit with Kim Kardashian over using a look-alike model in its ads.
Product: Denim jeans and related sportswear and accessories. Volume: $4 billion Owner: Levi Strauss & Co., San Francisco
The 140-year-old Levi Strauss & Co., and its iconic Levi’s brand, might be less dominant than in years past, but they remain the biggest names in denim, both at home and abroad. Chip Bergh took over as chief executive officer in 2011, and six months ago, former Keen Footwear ceo James Curleigh was named president. It’s added Waste<Less jeans, made from recycled plastics, to go with the 30 million pairs of Water<Less jeans sold since the launch of the water-conserving label in 2010. Curve ID addresses wearers’ specific fit needs, and initiatives like its Commuter Series, for bicyclists, have helped it compete for prime retail real estate with younger and higher-priced rivals.
Nike appears to be going back to its roots. The company recently signed a $570 million deal to sell Cole Haan to private-equity firm Apax Partners (the sneaker giant bought Cole Haan for $95 million in cash and debt in 1988). Nike is divesting the business, along with Umbro, to focus on its core Nike, Jordan, Converse and Hurley brands. Iconix Brand Group agreed to buy Umbro for $225 million in October. Nike was also in the news this fall for dropping Lance Armstrong as a sponsored athlete, after the seven-time Tour de France winner faced doping allegations—again. This spring Nike will host the first East Coast installment of a women’s half marathon in Washington. Some 15,000 female runners are expected to compete. A similar event has been popular in San Francisco.
FRUIT OF THE LOOM
Product: Underwear, T-shirts, activewear, casualwear, socks, bras. Volume: $2 billion to $2.1 billion (estimate, including private label and licensing) Owner: Berkshire Hathaway Inc., Omaha, Neb.
Fruit of the Loom’s colorful logo has helped the mass brand maintain its all-American profile among the underwear-and-T-shirt-buying public since its symbol was first patented 141 years ago. In 2002, the Sage of Omaha, Warren Buffett, bought Fruit, a commodity-driven, unglamorous underwear maker, out from bankruptcy protection for $835 million. Since then, the Bowling Green, Ky.–based brand—bolstered by an estimated $100 million annual ad campaign that included prime-time TV spots during the 2012 Summer Olympics—has bounded back with innovative products. It branched into the premium arena in April with fashion stylist Leslie Fremar, with the Leslie Fremar for Fruit of the Loom Collection. Executives are tight-lipped about marketing strategies, but Buffett himself hawks Fruit products at Berkshire Hathaway annual meetings, where he’s been spotted playing a ukulele with the Fruit guys.
Product: Apparel, underwear, jeans, fragrance, accessories, licensing, home, retail. Volume: $7.6 billion (global retail, including licensing) Owner: PVH Corp., New York
Calvin Klein continues to thrive with its three-tier setup: designer-level Calvin Klein Collection; the bridge ck Calvin Klein line (mainly in Europe and Asia), and the better Calvin Klein label, which generates most of the brand’s overall sales. The brands have more than 800 freestanding stores—including Calvin Klein Jeans and ck Calvin Klein Jewelry & Watches. This year, Calvin Klein Performance opened stores in Scottsdale, Ariz., and San Francisco, with plans to expand into China. Coty launched the Encounter men’s scent and ck one color cosmetics. In October, PVH said it would buy Warnaco Group in a deal valued at $2.9 billion, reuniting the brand with its two largest categories—Underwear, owned by Warnaco, and the licensed Jeanswear.
Product: Jeans, casual slacks, related men’s and women’s sportswear. Volume: $1 billion Owner: VF Corp., Greensboro, N.C.
In 1889, Henry David Lee established the H.D. Lee Mercantile Co. in Salina, Kan., and—not unlike Levi Strauss in San Francisco—quickly saw the opportunity in making jeans and other workwear for local laborers. Sold to VF Corp. 80 years later, Lee was well situated when jeans moved from workwear to fashion in the Seventies. Fit and comfort are cornerstones for Lee, which is sold by midtier retailers and moderate department stores. Already one of VF’s better-seated brands in China, it’s exploring greater department-store distribution and is reaping benefits from initiatives like Slender Secret and Slender Stretch. Online performance is strong, with lee.com growing 19 percent in the third quarter.
Product: Casual all-American sportswear and denim. Volume: $5.7 billion Owner: Gap Inc., San Francisco
Gap’s recently elevated denim offering has driven the overall business. The baby and kids’ businesses have been strong, too. As part of a reorganization across all divisions of Gap Inc. for an international perspective, Steve Sunnucks became global president of the Gap brand. In other key appointments, Mark Breitbard became president of Gap North America and Rebekka Bay was named creative director and executive vice president for Gap Global Design. While Gap Inc. overall has had a good year, executives are still looking for the Gap division to draw greater traffic.
Product: Watches Volume: $700 million (estimate) Owner: Timex Group USA Inc., Middlebury, Conn.
Established in 1854, Timex has made an effort the past several years to tap into a more female and trend-conscious audience, continuing to introduce more fashion-forward styles. In February 2011, Gary S. Cohen was named chief executive officer of Timex Group, which includes Timex (Timex, Timex Ironman, Marc Ecko, Nautica, Opex), Timex Group Luxury Watches and Vertime (dedicated to Salvatore Ferragamo and Valentino and the Versace and Versus brands, respectively) and Sequel AG (the five-year-old Swiss company that has exclusive distribution rights for Guess and Gc watches globally).
Product: Full-figure, full-support and average-figure bras, panties, shapewear. Volume: $600 million (estimated U.S. sales) Owner: Hanesbrands Inc., Winston-Salem, N.C.
Playtex has been an American mainstay in foundations, especially since its boldest move in 1955, when it was the first bra maker to feature its trademark Cross Your Heart bras and Living Girdles on daytime TV. Playtex distributes to diversified channels, from mass merchants to department stores, and keeps plugging its successful strategy of comfort and solutions for women with fit-specific needs, especially full-figure and full-support products. Innovative technology like the Comfort Gel Strap and hot-melt glue treatments have kept the brand in step with the needs of modern women, and an estimated yearly ad budget of more than $25 million for TV and national print campaigns also keeps the 80-year-old brand in front of consumers.
Product: Sportswear and accessories. Volume: $5.6 billion (global retail sales) Owner: PVH Corp., New York
Classic American sportswear brand Tommy Hilfiger has seen its U.S. business percolate at Macy’s, where it has an exclusive arrangement. Hilfiger also distributes its merchandise worldwide to more than 90 countries and 1,000 stores. PVH Corp. acquired the brand in May 2010 for $3 billion and has seen strong results. The company has been planting flagships, like its 11,000-square-footer at Tokyo’s busy Omotesando and Meiji Dori intersection and the Brompton Road unit in London’s Knightsbridge area, and stores in Osaka, Japan, and Hong Kong. This summer it signed a lease for a 6,600-square-foot flagship at the corner of Robertson and Beverly Boulevards in West Hollywood.
Product: Women’s sportswear and accessories. Volume: $6.88 billion (Ralph Lauren, Polo Ralph Lauren, Lauren Ralph Lauren, RRL, RLX Ralph Lauren, Pink Pony, Denim & Supply Ralph Lauren; Club Monaco; Rugby; American Living, which is discontinued, and Chaps). Owner: Ralph Lauren Corp., New York
Ralph Lauren Corp. is investing “along many dimensions, including new stores and e-commerce platforms and emerging merchandise categories and regions,” said chairman and chief executive officer Ralph Lauren in November. The company sees opportunity in China, where it opened two stores in the fall, as well as in Macau, Tokyo, Hong Kong and South Korea. This fall the firm said it will close its 14-unit Rugby chain and Web site to focus on higher growth globally with the core Ralph Lauren brand. The company found itself in a stir this past summer when it was revealed that it had made U.S. athletes’ outfits for the London Olympics in China. For 2014, Lauren said it will make the uniforms domestically.
Product: Apparel and accessories for young men, women and kids. Volume: $2.34 billion Owner: Aéropostale Inc., New York
The mall-based teen retailer in October unveiled a high-tech retail prototype at the Roosevelt Field mall in Garden City, Long Island, with features including a jukebox where teens can vote for the music played in the store, iPods in fitting rooms and Apple desktops and iPads to scan products and read reviews (iPads also have a build-your-own-outfit guide). Aéropostale has been trying to infuse more fashion and to build brand awareness, and hired Chloë Grace Moretz, whose films include Dark Shadows and Hugo, as its first brand ambassador. In November, the company acquired online footwear and apparel retailer GoJane.com.
The brand, with its signature three black bars, was founded in 1949 by Adolf Dassler on the guiding principle of sport performance. Originally known for soccer cleats, the brand today focuses on five key categories—football, basketball, running, training and outdoor. Although the corporation—whose other brands include Reebok, TaylorMade, Rockport and CCM—expects sales to be lower this year due in part to the player lockout in the National Hockey League, the Adidas brand continues to perform well. Sales in the third quarter were up 10 percent worldwide and 11 percent in North America as consumers embraced the more fashion-forward Adidas Originals line. Its collaborations with Stella McCartney and Yohji Yamamoto also continue to thrive.
Product: Men’s, women’s and kids’ jeanswear and sportswear. Volume: $1.5 billion Owner: VF Corp., Greensboro, N.C.
VF Corp.’s 1986 purchase of Blue Bell Holdings made it the country’s largest apparel company and brought the Wrangler brand—and its ample goodwill amassed in markets from Western wear, where it had its roots in the post–World War II years—to the car-racing world. With two jeans brands in its arsenal—Lee and Wrangler—VF supplemented Wrangler’s presence on the rodeo circuit with distribution in the mass channel, which would turn it into the corporation’s first $1 billion brand. Wrangler remains a niche brand, with major business in Wal-Mart, in Western stores, in workwear and in markets like hunting, fishing and the outdoors. It’s keen to promote comfort and fit, as it has with country-music singer Laura Bell Bundy for its Booty Up jean.
The brand that put a generation of working women in pantsuits found a new home at J.C. Penney—and was one of the first brands to get its own shop as the retailer transforms into what’s been described as a specialty department store. Penney’s cut a deal in 2009 to get the brand as an exclusive, and then bought it outright last year. Penney’s chief executive officer, Ron Johnson, said this summer that Claiborne was one of the company’s “highest-performing women’s apparel brands.”
Product: Women’s, men’s and children’s jeanswear, casual sportswear, accessories, fragrances. Volume: $2.69 billion (2011 wholesale, retail and licensing revenue) Owner: Guess Inc., Los Angeles Guess brought back the original “Guess girl,” Claudia Schiffer, marking its 30th anniversary with its flagship Guess brand, the upscale Guess by Marciano label and the more youthful G by Guess line. Under chief executive officer Paul Marciano, the firm continues to thrive from its risky decision in the late Nineties to make its retail operations the foundation of the business. Michael Prince and Dennis Secor stepped down in November as chief operating officer and chief financial officer, respectively, as the firm works out a tax dispute in Italy. Meanwhile, 12-year-old opera singer Jackie Evancho will front Guess Kids’ fall campaign, and Dannielynn Birkhead, the late Anna Nicole Smith’s six-year-old daughter, is modeling in the spring ads.
Product: Fitness, training, sport and casual footwear, apparel, equipment, accessories. Volume: 1.962 billion euros (2011 net sales; $2.74 billion at average exchange) Owner: Adidas AG, Herzogenaurach, Germany
Reebok has a long history as a leading fitness brand, but it’s been a challenge for parent Adidas Group in recent years. Reebok’s sales declined 25 percent (currency-neutral) in the third quarter and 20 percent in the first nine months of the year. The toning shoe bust, allegations of fraud at its Indian unit and the loss of a major football contract all hurt sales. To battle back, it introduced footwear technologies ZigTech and RealFlex a few years ago, followed by a partnership with the CrossFit craze. It is now the official supplier of CrossFit apparel and footwear, title sponsor of the Reebok CrossFit Games, and this year it unveiled its Fit Hub retail concept that is part store and part CrossFit Box.
Product: Handbags, small leather goods, footwear, scarves, watches, sunglasses. Volume: $4.76 billion (total global sales, wholesale and retail; 11 percent, or $523.6 million, is wholesale) Owner: Coach Inc., New York
This year, Coach launched its Legacy dual-gender line that allowed the brand to cycle in some higher-priced pieces, and to revamp its store design. The brightly colored leather-centric collection marked the 71-year-old brand’s first dual-gender approach with looks that nod to its most classic handbag silhouettes, like the Duffle Sac from 1973. Coach hopes to continue its global expansion as it banks on its men’s business and China for robust growth. The brand recently added e-commerce in China and said it expects to have 125 stores there by yearend. Sales in China should reach $400 million this year, against $300 million in 2011. Other initiatives include growth in digital and overseas retail. This year, Coach bought back its retail operations in key Asian markets, including Malaysia and Korea.