NEW YORK -- A growing base of younger consumers who want just a bit of toning for their figures is helping to keep the bodyshapers business at least on a par with last year.
For fall, selling in the category is generally expected to be split into two areas: updated firm-control items for aging baby boomers and sleek light-to-medium fashion items aimed at women under 40.
Several manufacturers say bodyshapers are generating sales gains of between 20 and 30 percent over a year ago. In some cases, vendors note that business has more than doubled.
Retailers are also upbeat about the category as a small but healthy business that's managed to hold its own after gaining new prominence about four years ago. That happened with the introduction of the Hipslip by Bodyslimmers, a modernized version of a control bottom. Some retailers see a potential for growth come fall, as they bring in new ideas from a core group of resources.
At the innerwear market for late fall and spring set for Aug. 1-5, foundations makers are planning line extensions of firm-control styles, and some will introduce new groups of lighter-weight control items.
Robin Suvoy, administrator of foundations and sleepwear at Macy's East, said updated, light-control shapewear aimed at younger women is the fastest-growing segment of Macy's shapewear business.
Suvoy singled out three vendors in this area: Bali, Warner's and Vanity Fair.
Kim Anderson-Curry, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel at Saks Fifth Avenue, noted, "We recently did a whole analysis on shapewear, and sales have been fairly even."
Anderson-Curry said her most successful shapewear vendor is Smoothie by Strouse, Adler, a resource that Saks used for the first time this spring.
"We are looking to expand Smoothie for fall due to its success with us," said Anderson-Curry.
"Control shapewear has always been very important for us," said Paula McManus, buyer of foundations at Jacobson Stores, Jackson, Mich. "We've seen the biggest influence in medium-control, lighter-weight-looking garments. The Jacobson's customer primarily is the aging baby boomer who needs a little help, but wants pretty and young-looking shapewear."
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