WRANGLER AMERICA, MASS MARKET A GOOD FIT

Byline: Georgia Lee

ATLANTA--One year after its introduction, Wrangler America for Women has penetrated the discount market with a focus on fit, new treatments and fashion colors, and packaging designed to educate and inform the consumer.
Although Wrangler, a division of VF Corp., declined to release figures, Phillip Dunn, vice president and general manager of the women's division, said sales were 50 percent over plan. The women's line now represents approximately 20 percent of Wrangler's total business. The company hopes to build it to equal the men's business in the next few years.
According to its 1993 annual report, jeanswear accounted for almost half of VF's $4.3 billion net sales. While the company would not give an exact figure of its Wrangler business, it did say the division had double-digit sales increases last year.
Wrangler has exclusively targeted discounters, and does the majority of its business with approximately 10 stores, including Wal-Mart, Kmart, Ames, Bradlees and Hill's.
Dunn said Wrangler's intensive testing and research on fit before introducing the line had paid off.
"We've learned that fit is the most important consideration for women," he said. "We've tried to give women choices about fit."
Wrangler's relaxed misses' fit, with more hip and thigh room, tapered ankle and contoured waist has performed best, followed by a slimmer, classic fit. Both styles have little embellishment. Details, such as parallel back pockets, are designed to be more slimming. The line offers inseam options of 29, 30, 32 and 34 inches.
Dunn described the line, targeted to a misses' customer over 25 years old, as "fashion basic"--a standard five-pocket 14-ounce denim silhouette updated with color and fabric treatments. The newest finish, called Antique Light, is a light indigo wash released in June for spring 1995. Other treatments include micro sanding, which produces a lightly brushed finish, and a variety of stonewashes.
In addition to overdyed black and blue and vintage blue shades, the line features colors for spring, including seafoam, sea oats, natural and white. Misses sizes run 4 to 20, and some styles are available in 18 to 24. Wholesale prices are $12.95 to $13.95.
Based on strong performance, Wrangler plans to expand its shorts business, now a small segment, to 30 percent of Wrangler America's total sales.
"Shorts are becoming a year-round item, or at least six to nine months in Southern regions," said Dunn.
Wrangler has relied heavily on packaging to convey an image as well as inform the consumer. In most cases, stores use a folded presentation, with visuals that tie into packaging. The logo, a soft W, is reinforced in signage and tags, and fit options are listed on color-coded tags.
"We've learned that the consumer has very little time to spend shopping," said Joyce Markwell, merchandising manager. "On average, she spends between three and five minutes in the department, and after her initial buy, may not try the product on again. That's why point-of-sale information and fixtures are so crucial."
Dunn describes Wrangler's relationship with retailers as a "joint effort" in in-store presentation, product mix and replenishment.
"Every aspect is a give and take," said Dunn. "Before the launch, we consulted with retailers on everything, and we're in constant communication on everything. We don't get involved with decisions about promotions and markdowns, which we leave up to them."
Dunn said overall presentation had become more upscale as discounter jeans departments continued to focus on branded merchandise and better assortments.
"The discount jeans customer wants the same things as customers in other stores," he said. "They want good quality, fashion jeans with correct finishes and fashion, in addition to value."
After testing Wrangler America for Women in selected stores, Bradlees, a Braintree, Mass.-based discount chain, launched the line chainwide last week. Consumer response has been good, and the line has made plan, according to Bob Eagan, divisional merchandise manager, misses' sportswear.
Eagan described a "good relationship" with Wrangler, and applauded the line for its feminine packaging, good point-of-sale information and fit.
"Wrangler for men and boys has always been good for us," he said. "This is a natural extension of that success. We feel that it can be a viable brand."

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