By  on December 9, 2011

A brand renaissance is projected to drive innerwear business in 2012.

That was a key message from The NPD Group’s chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen at a seminar hosted by the Intimate Apparel Council unit of the American Apparel and Footwear Association.

The presentation, which drew more than 50 industry executives, was staged at The Union League Club during the fall innerwear and legwear market.

Innerwear business is “trending well above the average” reflecting overall sales gains of 1.2 percent at retail from September 2010 to September 2011, he said.

Cohen cited innovative new product, technology and social media as key factors that have helped bolster intimate apparel business. But he said retailers and manufacturers are “just scratching the surface” when it comes to marketing products to consumers through social media.

“Intimate apparel continues to be one of the most passionate products for women, more so than sportswear or ready-to-wear, and retailers and manufacturers need to decide how they will address that passion in the future through social media,” said Cohen. You have to reach that customer before she comes into the store, while she’s at the store, and after she leaves the store.”

Cohen outlined the consumer mind-set for 2012 and how brands, buying patterns and the perception of quality and value have been impacted by a volatile economy over the past decade.

The time line included:

• Brand Pride in 1999: Proprietary private labels were in demand and stores featured myriad aspirational brands.

• Carrying Pride in 2002: Luxury and heritage brands were the main draw during a time of conspicuous consumption.

• Frugal Pride in 2008: Consumers are hard-hit by the recession and are buying basic products at the lowest price.

• Frugal Fatigue in 2010: Consumers are tired of buying on a budget and begin investing in brands again.

• A Brand Renaissance for 2012: Opportunities will abound for trusted heritage brands.

“A year ago, consumers wanted the lowest-cost product. We’re approaching a brand renaissance....The consumer wants brand names for less...brands they recognize and can be trusted as well as established brands that have a heritage,” he explained.

Cohen further noted that a combination of newness, innovation and a recognized name is a successful formula for 2012.

“Intimate apparel is one of the few categories that has the opportunity to grow. I liken it to consumers who love Apple products — they love everything about it and can’t get enough of it,” he said.

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