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Drugstore Cowgirl: Cheap and Chic Lingerie

Recessionistas should take a closer look at the bras, panties and shapewear found on their drugstore shelves.

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Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD Intimates issue 01/25/2009

With the recession showing no signs of ending, some consumers are looking for more innovative ways to spend and save on all purchases, even intimates. With this in mind, recessionistas should take a closer look at the bras, panties, and shapewear found on their drugstore shelves while filling up on their Crest and Clorox. Rite Aid, which sells Hanes and No Nonsense, for instance, has seen slight growth in this category in the last six months, according to Tom O’Brien, assistant category manager of general merchandise. “The story of the day is how to save money, and drugstores offer the convenience factor,” he says. And Rite Aid isn’t the only one. Walgreens spokesperson Tiffani Washington acknowledges a similar trade-down effect occurring at their stores since people are looking for more affordable options.

This story first appeared in the January 25, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

While it may seem that drugstore underwear purchasing for the fashion set should be reserved for in-case-of-emergency situations, there is no denying the reputable brands that are sold there. Of course, one is sure to find the tried-and-true Hanes three-pack of women’s white cotton briefs for a wallet-friendly $5.99, but the assortment is actually surprisingly rich with stylish choices. Duane Reade’s selection includes a Hanes two-pack of blue solid and striped opaque boyshorts for $6.99, which one sales associate in Midtown Manhattan calls the “best bang for your buck because of their comfort and coverage,” as well as a sleek black underwire bra for $9.99.

Linda Becker, expert bra fitter and owner of Linda’s Bra Salon, was skeptical upon hearing that you can find bras at the drugstore, saying, “Where could you try them on? It never pays off to buy a bra if it isn’t fitted.”

At Walgreens in Gramercy, bargain hunters can find a pair of Fruit of the Loom flirty, hot pink track shorts for $4.88 and L’eggs waist cinchers available in black and nude for $6.99. And Rite Aid in Grand Central Station offers No Nonsense panties in sets of two for $6.99 in pastel colors, animal print and polkadot.

“Customers tell us every day, ‘Really? You can get panties like this in drugstores? You’re kidding me,’ ” says Julia Townsend, executive vice president and general manager of the Kayser-Roth Corp., which owns No Nonsense. After years of providing reliable panty hose, the brand launched underwear in 2004. Although some retailers are having a trying time, No Nonsense’s intimates and sleepwear business is flat to last year and the company expects it to grow to be 10 percent of their brand by 2012. Townsend even sees the current economic climate as an opportunity: “Think about it: We’re in a recession right now. It’s nonsense to spend more than we have to.”

Indeed, Maricela Pena, a 25-year-old recruiting agency director who regularly buys panty hose and leggings at CVS agrees. “The economy has made me reconsider all of the items I used to think of as a necessity, like Victoria’s Secret underwear, which is now a luxury,” she says. But while some shoppers are new to the concept of buying their skivvies where they buy their Tylenol, others have been relying on their local convenience store for years. Jewelry designer Linda Krauss, 66, has been going to Duane Reade for Hanes briefs since her teens. “They are indestructible, comfortable and the price is right. If people had good horse sense, they would always buy their undies at the drugstore.”

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