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Valentine Sales Have Heart

NEW YORK -- As winter storms put an icy chill on retail sales generally over the past weekend, sexy-looking lingerie steamed up business for Valentine's Day, according to a spot check of stores here and around the country.<BR><BR>Several reported that...

NEW YORK — As winter storms put an icy chill on retail sales generally over the past weekend, sexy-looking lingerie steamed up business for Valentine’s Day, according to a spot check of stores here and around the country.

Several reported that business topped last year’s results.

Key items, according to retailers, included two-piece baby-doll sets, coordinating camisoles and tap pants, slinky slip gowns, teddies and chemises, bodystockings and panties with printed heart and lip motifs. Novelty items like G-strings, garters and thigh-high stockings also pulled in additional business, said innerwear retailers.

Silk, or anything that had a silk-like hand such as polyester charmeuse, and all-over sheer looks were in demand. Red, black and white were the top colors.

Marcia Haimbach, vice president of intimates at Federated Merchandising Corp., commented, “We had a lot of last-minute gift purchases for Valentine’s Day. We had a large increase in the corporation in stretch lace teddies — which is considered a sexy-looking classification.”

“We sold lots of silk items, and had some very exciting selling of sexy bra, garter and panties sets,” said Marty Nealon, senior vice president of fashion accessories and intimate apparel at Bloomingdale’s. “We did very well with Vogue Dessous, Valentino, Natori and Donna Karan Intimates.”

“Sex sells,” said Lauren Bogen, owner of the intimate apparel shop here that bears her name, “and I certainly sold more sexy-looking lingerie this Valentine’s Day than I have in a long time.”

Despite horrendous weather that put a blanket on weekend business in the Northeast, retailers at specialty boutiques and major stores said a lot of walk-in traffic — mostly men looking for gifts — was generated through advertising, mailers and in-store promotions such as a “Men’s Night” at Macy’s Herald Square Thursday, the evening before the city’s fiercest snowstorm of the winter.

The promotion, which was advertised in the New York Times, pulled in over 150 men and featured informal modeling, refreshments, an appearance by local sportscaster Carl White and jazz.

“Items that had a more sensual look sold well during this Valentine’s Day promotion,” said Benny Lin, fashion director of Macy’s East.

Bestsellers last week at the Macy’s flagship included four items by Josie: a black and pink rose printed chemise of polyester charmeuse, retailing for $45, and a matching wrap for $59, and a ruffled polyester chiffon chemise selling for $29 with a coordinating kimono for $49.

Reportedly, sleepwear business was about 16 percent ahead over the same week a year ago. Some 500 units of each Josie sleepwear style were reportedly sold during the one-week period.

Lavelle Olexa, senior vice president of fashion merchandising at Lord & Taylor, said the big hit for gift-giving was a gray chambray underwire push-up bra and coordinating bikini panty with white eyelet trim and embroidered red hearts by Eileen West. The bra retails for $27, and the panties are $14.

“It wasn’t advertised, but it sold out immediately,” said Olexa.

Lauren Bogen said the number one items at her shop for Valentine’s Day were a lace garter, retailing for $20, and sheer stockings for $12. The items were featured in an ad in the New York Times.

“I sold 500 garters and about 500 pairs of hose over the past 1 1/2 weeks, and I’ve got an additional 200 on back order, mostly garters,” said Bogen on Monday. She added that she expects a 12 percent sales increase this month over 1993 figures, primarily reflecting Valentine’s Day business.

“The sexy-looking items that people are buying for a little thrill have been incredibly successful for us this year,” said Susan Kerner, buyer of intimate apparel and legwear at Leg Room, a six-door specialty chain here.

She said the number one item — 125 units sold in two weeks — was a two-piece baby-doll by Dream Girl of red polyester chiffon with a matching G-string. The baby-doll is $25.

Other key items at Leg Room included silk thongs and G-strings by Hanky Panky, from $10 to $12, and unisex silk boxers at $19 by Briefly Stated, which feature printed red lips on white.

At Montenapoleone, an upscale lingerie boutique here, Maria Scotto, president, said, “The bad weather certainly didn’t keep the men away. I had the busiest Valentine’s Day business yet.”

Scotto said 800 mailers were sent to a mailing list of men at the beginning of February. This is the first year the mailer featured a photo of a model wearing lingerie. Scotto said response was well over the 10 percent she’s received in the past.

A spokeswoman for Frederick’s of Hollywood, based in Los Angeles, said the two hottest items for Valentine’s Day in the firm’s retail stores were a satin baby-doll and panties with lace ruffles and pearl trim, and a chemise with a heart-printed satin bodice and sheer skirt. The styles retailed for $30 each.

Printed red string bikini panties of polyester satin with motifs of lips, hearts or flowers were the top lingerie items at Kmart for Valentine’s Day, said a spokeswoman. The panties retail for $2.99 each, or two for $5.

“Kmart doesn’t buy a lot of sexy-looking lingerie, so we adapted a best-selling panty style and gave it a Valentine’s look,” she said.