By  on May 11, 1994

NEW YORK -- Clothestime Inc. is expanding its off-price concept to intimate apparel with the launch of five stores called Lingerie Time. The first five Lingerie Time stores will open May 19 -- four in Southern California and one in Hawaii. They will range from 2,000 to 2,500 square feet, and be adjacent to Clothestime stores. The units will be connected on their interiors.

The idea is to offer the strip-center customer a romantic environment, similar to a mall-based specialty store, in which to buy intimate apparel, according to John Ortega, chairman of the Anaheim, Calif.-based Clothestime, which sells junior apparel.

Ortega said Clothestime will test the initial stores for at least a month or two before deciding whether to open others. The company has identified about 25 additional sites where Lingerie Times might open.

Projecting sales of about $200 to $400 per square foot, Ortega said, "We think the intimate apparel market is underserved in the off-price arena. This is the first new concept we've had in 20 years, and we think it will be a wonderful complement to our junior apparel."

The shops will sell branded merchandise at 30 to 70 percent off manufacturers' suggested retail prices.

Bill Cass, managing director of Lingerie Time, added, "The synergy of the two apparel stores is very exciting. We feel we'll get the junior who is already in Clothestime, as well as her mother."

Renee Rokkas, merchandise manager for the new division, said labels that the stores will carry include Natori, Bali, Vanity Fair, Christian Dior, Maidenform, Lilyette and Lily of France.

"Prices for a bra-and-panty set typically will be less than the bra alone at a full-price store," said Rokkas. "There's no question of buying the whole set -- it's a guilt-free way to shop."

She added that the stores will feature innerwear, foundations, lingerie and sleepwear. They will sell only a token selection of activewear, because the Clothestime units do a substantial business in that category.

The environment will be like a Victoria's Secret or Cacique, mall-based innerwear concepts owned by Limited Stores, the executives said.

"The stores will be neoclassic-romantic," said Cass, "with a neutral color scheme, custom cabinetry and tables with scrollwork detailing, silk flower arrangements and lower lighting for a more intimate feeling."Dressing rooms will be private, with brass fittings, solid doors -- not curtains -- ottomans and full-length mirrors, added Rokkas.

The California stores are in Placentia, Dana Point, Huntington Beach and Anaheim; the Hawaii unit is in Pearl City on Oahu.

Clothestime has 550 off-price stores in 22 states, all in power strip centers anchored by giant discounters or food stores. In 1993, the company earned $8.1 million on sales of $349 million, and opened 89 stores.

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