NEW YORK — Express is poised to let fly with a multilayered marketing campaign aimed at rapidly raising awareness of — and stirring desire for — the sportswear brand among twentysomething consumers.

The promotional events will be held in and around five recently opened, dual-gender stores, plus a one-year-old, dual-gender location. The events are centered on two major media markets for Express — Miami Beach and Los Angeles — and four more that have produced hefty denim sales for the 1,027-unit chain: Minneapolis, Detroit, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

“The message is we’re cool, we’re in the know and we can tell people where to go that’s cool,” said Pamela Seidman, director of public relations and communications at Express, in speaking of the upcoming effort. “We’re trying to take the mass sensibility out of the Express brand and localize its appeal.”

Primary elements of the marketing salvo include:

  • Access Only passes given to customers who spend $75 during promotional weekends at four Express stores, which will bring them a private night of shopping with a 20 percent discount and an Access Only pass, styled like a backstage concert pass, providing entree to a variety of events and promotions at partner establishments.

  • Style Lounges on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles and Washington Avenue in South Beach, where nightcrawlers spotted by Express scouts will get a chance for a style makeover and new Express clothes they’ll get to keep. The lounge comprises an Airstream trailer, dressing rooms and a carpeted area with couches and music.

  • Fashion Moments awarded to customers spending $75 at either of two Express sites will receive the chance to star in a photo session where they pose as supermodels, sporting Express apparel and newly styled hair and makeup.

The Fashion Moment sets, to be mounted at Mall of America in Minneapolis and Lakeside in Detroit, will be strategically situated at a distance from the recently opened Express stores in those venues, in a play to build buzz and drive mall traffic to Express, while visitors to the Style Over lounges in Miami Beach and Los Angeles will receive 10 Bounceback coupons intended to spur purchases at local stores with which Express is partnering. By engaging in those activities, Seidman explained, Express is aiming both to build loyalty and prospect for new customers found beyond the chain’s doors.Participants in the Express Access Only program include DJ Hut Records, mie n yu restaurant, Visions Cinema/Bistro lounge, and Washington Project for the Arts/Corcoran in Washington; Loring Pasta Bar, The Kitty Kat Club, No Name Exhibitions@The Soap Factory and Vital Vinyl in Minneapolis, and cue records and DENIM lounge in Philadelphia.

Promotional weekends for the Access Pass program will begin at the Express store at The Fashion Center at Pentagon City in Washington, July 12-13, followed by the Express stores at Mall of America in Minneapolis, July 19-20; Liberty Place in Philadelphia, Aug. 2-3, and at the one-year-old Express at Somerset in Detroit, Aug. 23-24.

With the five dual-gender store openings, Express will operate 49 dual-gender sites, in addition to its 623 women’s units and 355 men’s locations. Another 31 dual-gender Express stores are slated to bow in 2004.

Sales at Express totaled $2.1 billion in 2002.

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