NEW YORK--Lingerie Week was a hit at some stores, but a nonevent at others. The sixth annual promotion--entitled "The Spirit of a Woman" and spotlighting innerwear with in-store events--was staged last week under the usual sponsorship of the Intimate Apparel Council, a vendor organization, and DuPont. This year's theme of "Focus on Fit" got big play with certain department stores, such as Bloomingdale's and Macy's here, with bra-fitting clinics and promotions fostering the concept of bra wardrobing. The week also received a nod in chains as well, most notably within 1,400 doors of Wal-Mart, according to the IAC, and in all, some 2,000 individual locations participated. Some retailers claimed the week brought gains of 15 to 30 percent over last year's Lingerie Week. At the same time, though, several retail organizations, including such names as Mercantile Stores and Carson Pirie Scott, complained that vendors seemed to be ignoring them when it came to planning or offering promotions for Lingerie Week. Retailers and vendors agreed there was a need to address more stores across the country. "The onus is on us, and it's a problem, something the new regime at the Intimate Apparel Council is working on," said James Mogan, new IAC chairman. "Lingerie Week is New York-based, but we have to make it happen with more major retail accounts," continued Mogan, who also is executive vice president of the Maidenform, True Form and licensed Oscar de la Renta divisions of Maidenform Worldwide. "Each vendor has sales reps and stylists who cover these stores, and they should work with individual stores to make Lingerie Week happen nationwide." Innerwear manufacturers generally believe the number of participating retail doors, including major department and specialty stores, as well as more mass merchants and discounters, could once again be pumped up to the 3,500 figure posted in 1993. This year's tally of around 2,000 doors compares with 1,000 doors in 1994, said the IAC spokeswoman. Here's what some of the key stores did this year. Bloomingdale's featured a bevy of bra-fitting and shapewear events, with representatives of such brands as Calvin Klein, Valentino Intimo, Warner's, Wacoal, Natori/Josie, Dior/Lily of France, Silx and Vogue Dessous. There were also several designer sleepwear and at-homewear seminars given by such additional lines as Donna Karan Intimates by Wacoal, Michael Kors by Boutique Industries, and Christian Dior and Carole Hochman by Carole Hochman Designs. There also was a special wardrobing workshop featuring the upscale Hanro line of daywear, bras and panties and sleepwear. Laurene Gandolfo, divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel for Bloomingdale's 15 units, stated: "Our business is much better than we expected, with gains of up to 30 percent. "It's because all of our stores got behind this. This was really an initiative for the stores, and I told them it is an important tool." Gandolfo also credited the week's success to a 24-page intimate apparel catalog that was available to the store's sales staff the prior week, calling it a "wonderful selling tool," as well as daily ads in the New York Times. "The daily ads reinforced the validity of the promotion and told the customer what was going on every day," said Gandolfo. Macy's East limited its promotion to its Herald Square store, but gave it a big play there with bra-fitting clinics, with many of the same vendors as at Bloomingdale's. The store also had body-shaping seminars, gifts-with-purchases and informal modeling. It also showcased a new line of legwear called Vanity fair Intimate Legwear licensed to Ithaca Industries, with a troupe of Broadway dancers called "The Lady Long Legs." At J.C. Penney Co., 37 units featured bra-fitting workshops by Vanity Fair that targeted full-figure customers. "Our week really kicked off very well," said Nancy Hillis, corporate buyer of bras and shapewear. Mailers advertising Lingerie Week were sent out in select regions, she said, and newspaper ads in color were featured for the first time for Lingerie Week and generated "good reaction." Strawbridge & Clothier, Philadelphia, had a "very successful" week-long series of bra-fitting clinics at its 13 units, said Kim Waeltz, foundations buyer. The store featured African violets as its gift with any bra purchase of $35 or more. "We're seeing increases over a year ago, all at full price, and we've had a tremendous amount of traffic. We are very, very pleased," she said. "This is the first time we've gotten collateral from the Intimate Apparel Council," said Waeltz, noting that videos and ribbons identifying fitters contributed to the success. Warner's and Bali were the key vendors that supplied fitters to train salespersons a week before the promotion and helped make the promotion a hit, she said. Belk Matthews, Gastonia, N.C., staged bra-fitting events with fitters at two of its nine units and offered a picture frame as a gift-with-purchase of any lingerie retailing for $30 or more. "I think Lingerie Week did real well for us," said Rachel Falls, intimate apparel buyer. "It's something our customers look forward to every year." Falls, however, noted that the promotion was first arranged by her New York offices six years ago and was not initiated by the innerwear industry. Since then, other Belk operations have joined in, she said. Some 1,400 Wal-Mart units participated this year, and featured the lingerie promotion as part of its promotional announcements on its PA systems, according to the IAC spokeswoman. A percentage of lingerie sales are going to the Children's Miracle Network, said the spokeswoman. Wal-Mart spokesmen did not return requests for comment. While many retailers were celebrating results, others were griping that they got no call from the industry. "We are not participating in Lingerie Week mainly because not one vendor has approached us to program one thing for the promotion," Kathy Strohmeyer, divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel at Mercantile Merchandising Group, the merchandising arm of Mercantile Stores, stated. "There's been no dialog, no interaction. Vendors have done absolutely nothing." Strohmeyer, who is based in Fairfield, Ohio, and oversees 101 department store doors, noted that for the past several years, Mercantile has designated two weeks each April and August as "Lingerie Month" at all units. This month's promotion, which ended April 23, included 5.5 million 10-page "value catalog" inserts in newspapers. Foundations, as well as daywear, sleepwear, at-homewear and robes, were featured. "In the heartland of America, you do your own thing," she said. Bob Pawlak, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel, coats, and furs at Milwaukee-based Carson Pirie Scott & Co., had this to say about Lingerie Week: "I don't think the show plays on the road--it's good for Broadway." Pawlak said he initiated participation in a Lingerie Week program four years ago, but "nobody has ever approached us about doing the promotion again." What Carson's focuses on in April, he said, are a semiannual foundations sale and advertising for off-price goods for Mother's Day promotions. "It's just one of those things--vendors no longer approach the stores the way they used to," said Rosemarie Marranco, a buyer of intimate apparel for over 20 years at Jenns, a four-unit specialty chain based in Amherst, N.Y. Marranco, however, noted that bra-fitting workshops, which are conducted every two weeks, have been "very successful." The most recent featured the Lilyette and Playtex brands. Reacting to complaints about lack of industry initiatives, however, Bloomingdale's Gandolfo said, "This sounds a bit jaded. You have to have the initiative. Usually, it comes from the retailer who goes to the market and asks 'What are we going to do for Lingerie Week?"'
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