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Changes Looming for Lingerie Week

NEW YORK -- Even as some top retailers around the country are spotlighting the fifth annual Lingerie Week with special events and ads, the whole promotion may be up for grabs as far as next year goes.<BR><BR>Changes could come in format or timing....

NEW YORK — Even as some top retailers around the country are spotlighting the fifth annual Lingerie Week with special events and ads, the whole promotion may be up for grabs as far as next year goes.

Changes could come in format or timing. Some innerwear executives feel a lack of funding for co-op advertising and other types of promotions might put the event on the endangered species list.

Vendors are particularly concerned about a cutback in funding this year from DuPont — which sponsors the event with the Intimate Apparel Council, the organization of innerwear manufacturers. Industry sources say the DuPont funds have been slashed more than a third.

A DuPont spokesman confirmed the company reduced funding for Lingerie Week, but wouldn’t specify the amount. The spokesman said it’s part of an ongoing company effort to “take a close look at how our monies are being spent.”

“The industry can look for that support to continue, but we have not sat down with the IAC to talk about specifics and to what degree we’ll be involved in 1995,” the spokesman said.

Kathy Smith, intimate apparel marketing manager at DuPont, added: “I think Lingerie Week is a viable concept.”

When asked whether DuPont would support it next year, she said, “Absolutely. We do not foresee not participating in Lingerie Week next year.”

One aspect of the promotion that appears most subject to change is the IAC’s insistence that stores tying in with the event refrain from off-price promotions during Lingerie Week.

As reported, the IAC took a firm stance on the full-price issue for this year’s promotion, and in response, three major chains — J.C. Penney Co., Kmart and Wal-Mart — dropped out. Their absence cut the number of participating doors to about 1,000 from 3,500 last year, according to the IAC.

But the promotional climate, particularly in basic foundations, has become so deeply ingrained in everyday business that some key department and specialty stores, including the department store division of Dayton Hudson Corp. and Nordstrom, are conducting off-price business during the lingerie promotion, which ends Saturday.

Norman Katz — chairman of I. Appel Corp. and IAC chairman — said the organization, in planning for next year’s promotion, will most likely accept merchants’ decisions to sell off-price lingerie as a fact of life.

The topic will be officially discussed by IAC members at the May innerwear market, he said. “Some stores just didn’t listen to our requests,” said Katz. “We encourage full-price selling during Lingerie Week, but if it doesn’t fit into a store’s calendar, we’ll go along with it. You can’t tell department stores what to do.”

Regarding the chains, Katz added, “It’s not a double standard, but unfortunately, the chains only wanted the lingerie promotion to be a super promotional week.”

A spokeswoman for Kmart said the reason the mass merchandiser was not part of Lingerie Week promotions this year was because chainwide lingerie sales were being conducted all week. She added, however, that Kmart was advertising the sale, conducted from April 10-16, as its own rendition of an “intimate apparel week.”

Officials at Wal-Mart did not return telephone calls seeking comment. Innerwear executives at Penney’s declined to comment.

One vendor, who did not want to be identified, observed, “I think I would rather have those stores promoting Lingerie Week off-price, than not promoting lingerie at all. I know the Lingerie Week promotions held at the major chains in the past were successful.”

Meanwhile, some vendors are questioning the event’s timing, as well as its potential.

“Whether Lingerie Week will continue in its present format, or be revised, I just don’t know,” said Mary Kay Edwards, vice president of merchandising and design for Sara Lee Foundations.

“It’s not sure what the future will be for Lingerie Week,” said one innerwear executive who did not want to be named. “It hasn’t received the support it deserves from vendors and retailers.”

An IAC spokeswoman said the organization will consider moving back the timing to run through Mother’s Day next year, or perhaps later, when stores are promoting fall merchandise. Since it began, the promotion has been in mid-April, with the thought of building early momentum for Mother’s Day.

“Those are busier times of the year, and there are a lot more co-op dollars,” the spokeswoman said.

Edwards of Sara Lee Foundations, commented: “I think it’s too bad that more individual stores don’t use Lingerie Week as a vehicle. It’s a good hook to get customers in the department.”

This year, participating stores include the Macy’s Herald Square and the Saks Fifth Avenue flagships, several units of I. Magnin and Nordstrom, and all 27 Neiman Marcus stores. Dayton Hudson Corp., which has participated for five years, has expanded promotional events of lingerie to all of its 60 Dayton’s, Hudson’s and Marshall Field’s doors.

DH/Field’s has also incorporated off-price promotion into Lingerie Week for the first time, said Kari Peterson, associate buyer of bras and bodyshapers.

“This year, we are featuring 25 percent off on select classic styles from major vendors such as Bali, Maidenform, Lily of France and Warner’s,” said Peterson. “It’s an extra bonus, along with more specialized service.”

Peterson pointed out, though, that the Wacoal and Lilyette brands of bras are not part of the promotional activity.

At Nordstrom, Paula Marx, daywear and foundations buyer for the East Bay region of northern California, said Tuesday, “We are in the middle of a foundations sale right now, but we are definitely keying into full-price merchandise across the board.”

Marx noted that bras and panties on sale were not bridge or high-end labels. She further noted that full-price sleepwear was part of the store’s Lingerie Week promotion for the first time.

Marx added that the store participated in the lingerie promotion last year, and she intends to be part of it again in 1995.

Neiman Marcus is among the stores sticking with a full-price strategy for Lingerie Week, relying on a bevy of special events to draw traffic, said Leslie Freytag, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel.

“We’ve got tons of events going on at all 27 stores, and more events than ever before. Lingerie Week is great for us internally to get focused on lingerie — that’s what I go after — creating the hype at the store level,” said Freytag.

In New York, Bloomingdale’s, Saks and Macy’s have events on this week, including designer appearances, informal modeling, bra-fitting clinics, breast cancer awareness seminars and trend workshops.