Big SpenderWho’s the biggest spender in lingerie advertising? Sara Lee Corp.

Last year, $291 million of Sara Lee’s annual ad budget of $425 million was spent promoting its stable of intimates brands for women, men and children, which include Hanes and Hanes Her Way, Playtex, Bali, Barely There, Wonderbra and W by Wonderbra, which was photographed by Richard Avedon on Nadja Auermann for fall. Media spending shot up 29 percent over the past 9 months and it’s expected to rise 5 to 10 percent more by 2004.

The newest campaign for the Barely There brand, which has been budgeted in excess of $5 million according to industry estimates, breaks Wednesday on prime time TV. Created by Shahid & Co. and shot by Richard Avedon on four top models, four different TV spots will focus on well-known figures: Shalom Harlow as Betsy Ross, Ivanna Milisevic as Susan B. Anthony, Daniella Van Graas as Joan of Arc and Rebecca Mader as Eve.

The ads are whimsical and entertaining with scripts such as: “My name is Betsy Ross. I’m a seamstress. What I want in my underwear is not what I want in a flag. No showy seams. No fancy stitchwork. I don’t want people to salute my undies, I want them to salute me. I want panties that don’t ride up so I can sign the Declaration of Independence and then go to the fireworks. I wasn’t invited to those events. I was home upholstering a chair. But if I was there, I’d be Barely There.”Second NatureThere’s a growing movement among innerwear manufacturers to help remedy a problem that has left major department stores and chains in a funk: a new generation of subbrands and secondary labels for foundations, daywear, sleepwear and at-homewear at value prices that have taken market share from established lines. These lines, generally priced at 20 to 50 percent less than primary brands, focus on two classifications: young contemporary and updated basics.Spinoff labels are nothing new. But over the past year, a number of these extended titles have entered the nearly $14 billion marketplace. Among the newest names on the scene — representing moderate, better and upscale brands — are:La Perla Black Label, a designer foundations, daywear and sleepwear collection aimed at younger consumers.Lisa’s Folly, an opening price point line of daywear and sleepwear by Lola C.The Girls, a licensed line of yoga looks at Charles Komar & Sons.Soul Sister Spa, a better line of spa-inspired separates, and Soul Baby babywear by Soul Sister #1 Inc.Live, Love, Lounge, a moderate line of at-homewear for J.C. Penney Co. and Fast Asleep sleepwear for Sears Roebuck & Co., both by St. Eve International.This fall, a new brand also will be launched by Fernando Sanchez.Neil Mossberg, president of Yala Inc., owner of Fernando Sanchez, said, “We want to create a secondary line that is aspirational for a new customer or perhaps the daughter of a customer who buys Fernando Sanchez but can’t afford the price point of $250 to $450. The new label, which has not yet been named, will need to maintain the integrity and quality of what Fernando Sanchez is known for. We’re not chasing after another Josie-type of business.”This is just a snapshot of more new labels to be introduced in late 2003 and 2004, said retailers and manufacturers. Other labels that have made their mark since 2002 include the licensed Oscar de la Renta pink label sleepwear at Carole Hochman Designs; daywear and sleepwear by Flash and Flora Nikrooz Intimates at Flora Nikrooz Lingerie; French Jenny Johns and French Jenny Girl sleepwear at Richard Leeds International; Je T’Adore daywear at Lady Ester Corp.; Cinema Etoile at-homewear and sleepwear and The Boudoir Collection at Movie Star Inc., and moderate sleepwear by Pillow Talk by St. Eve International.Industry executives generally credit four brands for pioneering the spinoff concept: the licensed DKNY Underwear line at Wacoal America; daywear and sleepwear by Josie and the Cruz line of sleepwear and at-homewear at Natori Co., and Malizia by La Perla.Gianluca Flore, chief executive officer of La Perla USA, said Malizia was introduced in the mid-Nineties because the company wanted to “reach a broader audience.”“Malizia is a line of lingerie geared to a bright, stylish woman with a playful attitude to seduction and style,” Flore said. “Malizia lingerie and sleepwear has grown immensely and has acquired its own personality.”Regarding the viability of secondary labels, Donna Wolff, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel and hosiery at Bloomingdale’s, said: “If the customer can identify a secondary brand with the primary brand, that’s a good thing. It’s kind of like Marc by Marc Jacobs ready-to-wear and handbags. But the bottom line is the quality of the product and is it in sync with brand recognition.”Wolff said the licensed yoga-inspired line called The Girls at Charles Komar & Sons has been a hit because of its success with handbags. “Consumers recognize the name,” she said.Retailers said the main reason for the push for new labels with fashion flair is the glut of generic-looking merchandise. However, vendors complain it’s a catch-22 situation in an uncertain economic climate with retailers taking fewer risks, instead relying on historical bestsellers. But sales of basic merchandise, which account for more than 75 percent of total intimates programs, have been stagnant for the past year, according to industry executives.Private Label DilemmaManufacturers of branded sleepwear are not pleased with the alarming increase of private label programs swamping stores this year. Vendors began complaining in March when it became widely known that Dillard’s Department Stores had upped its private label budget 65 percent for sleepwear compared with the prior year.In the 12 months ended April 30, total innerwear business at retail in the U.S. in all channels of distribution was $13.9 billion, according to Marshal Cohen, president of NPDFashionworld, a consumer research firm. Private label sleepwear, which accounts for 27 percent of overall innerwear sales, was up 30 percent against a year ago, while intimate apparel comprised 11 percent, reflecting a 10 percent increase.The next six months do not look any brighter as private label sleepwear is becoming a cash cow for big buying groups. The reason: Unlike foundations, which is a highly specialized business, sleepwear is a relatively simple apparel category to produce cheaply in volume programs. The exception is designer sleepwear for which the quality of fabric, embellishments and styling, as well as fashion colors and prints are at a premium. Private label sleepwear also offers retailers a built-in margin and markdown, the luxury of shipping early or late without a hassle, and it gives the edge on exclusive new product launches.This is not good news for manufacturers who are not on a store’s matrix of core brands.Josie Natori, chief executive officer of Natori Co., said, “With stores increasing their private label business, it is ever more important for designers and manufacturers to focus on the product and differentiate the line. It starts with the product and ends with the product.”“It is something we are very concerned about,” said Michelle Clark, vice president of merchandising at Movie Star Inc. “We have to keep reinventing ourselves, keep going to Europe for fresh ideas and new prints and embroideries that will keep the branded [sleepwear] market alive. I guess a lot of people won’t survive.”Judy Vella, owner and designer of Soul Sister, said, “Stores are in a survival mode right now. If a vendor is doing a lot of business with major stores, it’s a problem. But selling to a variety of specialty stores, catalogs and Web sites is key for a brand to remain strong.”One department store executive who did not want to be identified summed up the private label issue this way: “We have our margin and stock up front. When we want to promote it, we can do what we want when we want. And we can take a markdown at a certain time or speed up a delivery without waiting for a vendor to ship. We like that.”Mix It UpAmong the biggest emerging trends in innerwear this year is the cross-merchandising of categories by one major brand.The movement began in the early and mid-Nineties when status collections such as Calvin Klein Underwear were merchandised in huge shop environments. But collection concepts housed in a dedicated area became obsolete mainly because of the high overhead, limited space and a host of megabrands with look-alike styles.But now the idea is being resuscitated in the better and designer intimates arena on both sides of the Atlantic.The general idea is mixing different categories and lingerie labels in young contemporary areas, where younger consumers shop for a number of destination items. The idea also is taking shape in store displays where customers can visualize a total look, but still be able to shop for a product in a specific department.Among the newcomers are French label Aubade, which introduced a capsule collection in March of pull-on pants, hooded tops and related daywear items that can be mixed and matched in the same prints and color range as bras and panties, and NAP Inc., which features three status labels: the licensed Dockers brand of sleepwear and at-homewear which added daywear items in May, French foundations maker Princesse Tam Tam and Argentovivo, an Italian bra brand. Both European brands introduced coordinating “lifestyle pieces” such as drawstring pants, camis, tanks and jackets in early 2003, said Victor Lee, president of NAP.While the lifestyle concept is considered a creative way to generate multiple sales and broaden a brand’s exposure, retailers acknowledged a key challenge still remains: how to merchandise lifestyle collections in innerwear departments without confusing customers.Mary Krug, vice president and dmm of intimate apparel and hosiery at Neiman Marcus, said the concept is “showing up a lot in [intimates] collections, and the customer is definitely responding to it.”Krug said key lifestyle collections at Neiman’s include Hanro, Donna Karan Intimates and Zoe, a new resource from San Francisco.Ann Caetano, dmm of intimate apparel and hosiery at Saks Fifth Avenue, said, “I think it’s a growing trend. Oftentimes we create a look by keeping the products and styling on mannequins, but we keep the product separate on the selling floor. We look at a brand as a lifestyle but the customer still shops by category.Caetano said her top-performing lifestyle brands include Donna Karan Body Spa, La Perla, Marvel by La Perla, Princesse Tam Tam, Natori, Wacoal’s new line of daywear and sports bras and Hanro, which will be introducing a Style de Vie loungewear line this fall.

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