By  on May 19, 1994

NEW YORK -- Cleavage-enhancing bras are living up to the hype.

That's the consensus from retailers after the barrage of publicity over push-up styles that began in March and reached a crescendo during the May market last week.

Saks Fifth Avenue became one of the first stores to benefit from the boom, when the Super-Uplift bra by Gossard was introduced at the flagship store in March. Saks reportedly has sold about 20,000 units since then at its 47 stores.

Kim Anderson-Curry, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel would not confirm that figure, but: "Our push-up business has been phenomenal -- absolutely tremendous. We are filling special orders for 3,000 Super-Uplift bras this week."

Anderson-Curry noted that the push-up bra classification is seeing a 50 percent sales increase over a year ago because of the hoopla over enhanced cleavage. She added that promotions for the push-up bra classification at Saks are being planned for this summer.

Other top selling push-up labels at Saks are Felina, Lou, Natori and Josie by Bestform, and the licensed Valentino Intimo line at Warnaco Group.

Super-Uplift is Gossard's answer to the Wonderbra, the push-up padded bra that it produced under license in the U.K. for 25 years until the end of last year, when Sara Lee Corp. took back the license.

The hyperbole over such bras started up again last week, when Sara Lee Foundations staged a preview launch of its Wonderbra at three New York stores -- Macy's, Abraham & Straus and Lord & Taylor -- and various vendors introduced their versions at the market.

"We were down to six Wonderbras on Monday. By Tuesday we were sold out," said Benny Lin, fashion director of Macy's East.

Lin said Macy's padded push-up bras accounted for 6 percent of total bra business at Macy's East two months ago, and it now comprises 10 percent of bra sales. He added that Macy's Herald Square will be getting a "healthy replenishment" of Wonderbras this week, but he would not specify the number of units.

Around 3,000 Wonderbras by Sara Lee Foundations were introduced at Macy's flagship May 9. Some 2,000 to 3,000 Wonderbras bras, as noted, also were introduced at A&S and Lord & Taylor here the same day.While Bloomingdale's is not expecting its first shipment of the Wonderbra until late June, the cleavage-enhancers are grabbing a growing share of bra business there as well, noted Laurene Gandolfo, divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel. The styles have grown to 5 percent of current sales from 4 percent in March.

Among the push-up labels at Bloomingdale's are Super-Uplift, Vogue Dessous, Natori, Lilyette, Maidenform and Oscar de la Renta. Jezebel, a longtime specialist in push-up styles, has not been in Bloomingdale's for several years, but Gandolfo said she was "very interested" in bringing the label back to Bloomingdale's soon.

A special shop for push-up bras was opened next to foundations at the Bloomingdale's flagship store last week, and branch stores have been instructed to do the same, she said. A name for the shop has not been selected.

Leslie Freytag, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel at Neiman Marcus, Dallas, noted, "Historically, push-up bras have accounted for 1 to 2 percent of our total bra business. The classification has grown significantly." She would not give specific figures, but said she was planning to further expand assortments. Among the styles carried by Neiman's is an imported version -- the Canadian-made Wonderbra, which is produced by a Sara Lee Corp. subsidiary there, Canadelle.

Paula McManus, foundations buyer for Jacobson Stores, Jackson, Mich., said sales of padded push-up bras over the last two months have increased 10 percent over a year ago.

Jacobson's has sold approximately 600 Super-Uplift bras by Gossard at five Midwest units since getting them in early February, she said. She said sales of the Gossard bras picked up considerably after it became the topic of regional radio talk shows and newspaper coverage.

McManus said she may be adding more vendors and was considering the The Push-Up Bra by Wacoal.

"We will be making a big third-quarter push for push-up bras," said Donna Coughlin, divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel at Sears, Roebuck & Co., Chicago. "Our field people and customers have literally been hysterical over push-up bras."

Coughlin noted that Sears began offering a wider assortment of its private label push-up bras two months ago and now features collar tags on hangers to identify the push-up numbers at 700 units nationwide.On the vendor level, Mark Pilkington, marketing director for Gossard, said the first-year wholesale volume in the U.S. for its Super-Uplift are projected at $10 million -- if the firm can fulfill its production plans.

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