The Vernon, Calif.-based jeans brand, founded and known until recently as Not Your Daughter’s Jeans, will today mark the opening of its biggest shop-in-shop, a 1,200-square-foot space on the third floor of Bloomingdale’s flagship at 59th Street in Manhattan, in something of a celebratory mood.
With a more-than-yearlong transition to its new, less missy-sounding name behind it, the company has leapfrogged over more visible, upscale competitors to become the largest-volume women’s jeans brand in U.S. department stores, according to figures from The NPD Group. Market estimates put the firm’s sales at more than $200 million a year.
“NYDJ’s market-leading position in department stores is unique because we are not classified as a contemporary brand and we don’t see ourselves as traditional ‘missy,’ and I think that’s where we’ve found a distinct position,” said Edwin Lewis, chairman and chief executive officer of the firm. “We offer fashion, quality and comfort in a slimming fit that makes women feel and look younger, confident and more beautiful, and that value proposition has clearly resonated with customers.”
The Bloomingdale’s shop, designed by the Rockwell Group, provides support for Lewis’ theory, as do the observations of Liz Jones, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of the store’s Y.E.S. contemporary area.
“From the day NYDJ first shipped to us about seven years ago, it was very successful and has just grown organically from there,” she said. “In the last three years or so, the growth has been outstanding, and it’s become one of our top five denim brands.”
She conceded that NYDJ was “something of an anomaly” in a contemporary mix sprinkled with Citizens of Humanity, Paige, True Religion, Seven For All Mankind, Joe’s Jeans, Rag & Bone and others. “They’ve done a good job of keeping an eye on what’s happening in the market, with things like color, coatings and prints that are appropriate for the target customer, and that customer is just as likely to be bridge, designer or contemporary. It’s not really an older customer as much as someone who might be looking for something with a bit of a higher rise than what you’d typically find in contemporary,” Jones commented.
Key to the strategy from the start — and implicit in the original brand name — is Lift Tuck Technology, which, through a combination of construction and selective use of stretch fabrics, promises to “make you look and feel a size smaller.” Patented “crisscross panels” minimize the belly while elevating the buttocks.
“We found that once customers tried the jeans on, they not only bought them but became extremely loyal,” Jones said, adding that typical price points — starting at under $100 for the jeans and rarely moving above $120 — have helped cement that loyalty. “We wanted to create a more important environment for them.”
The Bloomingdale’s shop does that in an open setting that uses pillars instead of walls and capitalizes on the high visibility within the space with a video wall loaded with the brand’s imagery and displays and fixtures that show off the brand’s diversity. Tops were added for spring, and trousers and shorts supplement the still jean-centric personality of the brand.
Lewis noted that the demographic profile of the NYDJ customer is broader than when Falconhead Capital LLC, a New York-based private equity firm, acquired control in 2008. “Previously, the customer was a mature woman who felt underserved by a market that skewed younger with low rises and unforgiving fits,” he said. “Now, our ‘typical’ customer is a woman who enjoys a flattering, slimming fit in comfortable fabrics and in the latest trends.”
Lewis, whose résumé includes top management posts at Tommy Hilfiger, Mossimo and Ralph Lauren women’s wear, understood that the switch in brand name was a risky one, but felt that market research and focus groups validated a move that allowed the company to broaden the perception of the company. “The data from NPD supports this,” he said.
The original branding didn’t prevent the company from growing to $80 million in sales prior to its sale to Falconhead and certainly helped deliver the original fit story, even if inviting comparisons to “Saturday Night Live” commercial parodies. As it sorted out its brand identity, the company also was briefly put up for sale by Falconhead, although the owners later opted to hold on to what was seen as an appreciating asset in the aftermath of the recession.
Now, Lewis noted, the company is exploring further expansion into additional categories, including the possibility of licensing, and keeping its eye on a retail portfolio that, with six outlet stores, would easily lend itself to expansion.
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