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Underwear Brand Unico Plans Expansion

The men's brand hopes to sharply increase sales by 2017 as it enters new markets in the U.S., Europe and Latin America.

Colombian men’s underwear brand Unico hopes to sharply increase sales by 2017 as it enters new markets in the U.S., Europe and Latin America.

Carolina Kligman, Unico’s marketing director, said the brand, known for making a range of colorful and fitted underwear, aims to raise sales to $15 million by 2017 from $6 million last year. It also hopes to open 20 standalone stores, up from seven now, both in Colombian and international locations, she added.

In its largest market outside Colombia, the U.S., the brand hopes to enter Chicago and other large cities this year to expand its footprint beyond Miami and San Francisco.

Kligman said the company hopes to sharply increase its U.S. market share in five years from less than 1 percent of the market now. To do this, it plans to boost its presence in multichannel retail as well as in department stores.

Unico will compete through “design, variety and innovation,” Kligman said, adding that the brand competes with CK Calvin Klein and 2(x)ist in the U.S., but its underwear is more colorful.

Unico targets men in their 20s to 40s, pricing its products in the mid-to-upper market segment with its most exclusive boxers selling as high as $30 each. The brand also makes swimwear, including fitted swimsuits and briefs, as well as Bermuda shorts, where it competes with Quiksilver.

Unico, with headquarters in Medellin, Colombia, also plans to expand in Europe to take advantage of Colombia’s recent free trade agreement with the European Union.

“We are going to strengthen our position in Europe, where we now we sell 15,000 to 20,000 units in some markets including Spain and England,” Kligman said, adding that the brand is keen to bolster its market share in Germany. Apart from CK Calvin Klein and 2(x)ist, Unico competes heavily with Gigo (another fast-growing Colombian brand) and Andrew in Europe, Kligman said, adding that competition is tough but that the FTA should help.

Regarding Latin America, Unico hopes to double its market share to 2 percent in Mexico in five years. It plans to open an undisclosed number of stores there after opening its first standalone unit last year.

Moreover, it is negotiating entering the Palacio de Hierro upmarket department-store chain in the first half. Brazil is also a target where the brand hopes to make a big push in São Paulo this year, through distributor Asdrumark. So far, Unico’s Brazilian expansion plans have been thwarted by the country’s high import duties, Kligman noted.

According to Kligman, roughly 60 percent of Unico’s overseas sales go to the U.S. and 15 percent to Europe. The rest go to Mexico and Central America and Ecuador and Venezuela in South America.