Charming Shoppes Inc.’s Lane Bryant division hasn’t generated as much controversy with its use of five topless plus-size mo dels to promote its new T3 — Tighter Tummy Technology — offering of jeans and slacks as it did with last year’s “red bra” TV spot, but it seems to be doing its job at the company’s cash registers.
This story first appeared in the September 28, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“I would say our jeans business has been good because of the launch,” said Debbie Martin, senior vice president of design and development for Lane Bryant. “The blue denim business in general has been a bit softer because color has been so hot, but we’ve had good response in all the channels we do business in. These days, if the customer has something similar in her closet, she’s not stepping out to buy. It’s got to be emotional or new.”
T3 — supported by a marketing campaign asserting that “technology just got sexy” — actually is the second step in Lane Bryant’s ongoing effort to upgrade its plus-size denim assortment. The first was Right Fit, an effort that included body scans of thousands of women to explore their body types and where extra weight accumulated and resulted in the development of three silhouettes. The most prominent, addressing the profiles of more than 40 percent of its customers, was the Red model, described as “curvy, with a bit of waist suppression.”
The new assortment works off the Red model and enhances it with a nylon-spandex mesh insert inside the front panel of the jeans, flattening the tummy, and a two-inch-wide elastic strip that wraps around the entire waistband to prevent “gapping.” Those construction details are also available in slacks, and Martin and her team are exploring expanding the jeans offerings into colors and more washes and adding skirts and dresses for 2012. The denim is a blend of cotton, polyester and spandex, with the polyester providing improved retention characteristics.
“We had some on the floor this spring and the reactions were really positive,” Martin said. “Customers are telling us this makes them look a size or two smaller.”
The jeans, some available in petite and tall sizes, are available in sizes 14 to 28, with strength in the 16 to 20 range. Both the boot and flare-leg versions sell for $69.95, while the slacks, initially available at the same price, were promoted at $49.99.
Lane Bryant is based in Columbus, Ohio, the home of its former parent, Limited Brands Inc., and is the largest division of Bensalem, Pa.-based Charming Shoppes. In the first six months of the current fiscal year, the 800-plus unit chain was responsible for $514.3 million of the company’s $1 billion in revenues, a 3.8 percent increase over the prior-year period, as same-store sales rose 5 percent. Lanebryant.com’s sales rose 20 percent in the second quarter.
“Our customers don’t have as many places to go,” noted Martin. “We have a huge online community that’s given us a very positive response.”
The online community has also shown strong, but not unanimous, support for the provocative marketing campaign put together for T3, the centerpiece of which is an image of five models, including LB favorite Ashley Graham, clad in jeans, shoes and smiles but nothing else. It’s appeared on the cover of the store’s recent magalogue, in in-store and online promotion and in its current TV ad but has failed to ignite the firestorm that accompanied Graham’s appearance in a TV ad last year in which she headed out for a date wearing nothing but Lane Bryant innerwear under her trenchcoat. Last year’s ad was suggestive enough to earn rejection from censors at ABC and Fox.
“Lane Bryant continues to shatter the long-held societal notion that plus size can’t be fashionable,” the company said. “Our new ad campaign…underscores our view that fuller-figured women are beautiful and confidently curvy.”