By  on February 24, 1994

LONDON -- Who says Sara Lee doesn't build muscles?

With an advertising and promotion budget of more than $10 million (7 million pounds) compared to a minuscule $150,000 in 1993, Playtex U.K. is aiming to double its market share in Britain in 1994.

This aggressive stance comes a little more than a year after Playtex was acquired by the giant apparel and food conglomerate Sara Lee Corp. in November 1992.

A key element in the push is the launch of the Cross Your Heart bra line in the U.K. with five products, including four from the U.S., and one designed by the Playtex design center in Paris, said Brian Duffy, managing director of Playtex U.K.

In June, Playtex will introduce a group of cotton and Lycra spandex panties, yet to be named. The company will spend about $7.5 million on TV advertising for the Cross Your Heart products and the new panties group.

Playtex also will spend some $1.5 million to promote its Wonderbra line, which last year -- when the brand was licensed to Gossard -- had sales in Britain of nearly $15 million (10 million pounds).

Wonderbra was licensed in the U.K. to Gossard for 25 years, but the agreement expired Jan. 1. The new Playtex ad campaign, will show a model with prominent cleavage in a Wonderbra with such provocative lines as "Look me in the eyes when you say that," and "Are you just pleased to see me?"

The remaining $1.5 million will go to Playtex Secrets, an established line of control bodyshapers, augmented last year with bras and panties carrying the Superlook Secrets label.

Playtex currently has about 7.6 percent of the U.K. bra market, primarily with the Playtex brand, Duffy said. He said the aim will be to increase the company's overall market share to about 16 percent by the end of 1994.

The U.K. bra market currently is worth about $350 million (236 million pounds) and is growing by about 10 percent annually. The U.K. has traditionally been the weakest lingerie market in Europe for Sara Lee, which claims a 22 percent share of the French market with its Playtex and Dim brands, and a 19 percent share in Italy.Duffy said the low market share in the U.K. results from the dominance of stores' private label lingerie; a lack of investment in marketing the Playtex brands, and a reliance on bra designs from Paris, which were too upscale for British tastes.

Over a six-year period, unit sales of Playtex in the U.K. dropped sharply to 2.5 million in 1992 from 4 million in 1986. But Duffy believes changes in the British market make it the right time to reinvigorate Playtex.

His optimism is based on the end of the recession in the U.K., and the successful launch of Superlook Secrets bras and panties, which sold 500,000 units in 1993. He predicts the company's unit sales will more than double by June.

With its Sara Lee connection, Playtex U.K. now can draw designs not only from the Playtex teams in the U.S. and Paris but also from Sara Lee Intimates' two other major players -- Hanes Her Way and Bali.

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