LOS ANGELES — Frederick’s of Hollywood, which introduced sexy black lingerie to consumers after World War II, is seeking a return to glamour, and the makeover includes a new flagship and fresh merchandise.
The iconic retailer, which generates annual sales of $200 million through its 150 stores, catalogue and e-commerce business, plans to announce today that, after 60 years, it is moving its flagship near Hollywood and Cahuenga Boulevards to a building at Hollywood and Highland Avenue near Grauman’s Chinese Theater and the Kodak Theater, home of the Academy Awards. It is across from the Hollywood and Highland Mall.
The privately held company emerged from two-and-a-half years of bankruptcy in January 2003. The 4,500-square-foot flagship scheduled to open in September is Frederick’s latest effort to establish a more sophisticated and fashion-forward image for a public that has largely associated the brand with more tawdry ensembles.
“When we came out of Chapter 11, one of the first things we wanted to do was change the image,” said Linda LoRe, chief executive officer. “In the Forties, Fifties and Sixties, we were all about Hollywood. Now, it’s that, and sexy and modern.”
LoRe, a former president and ceo of Giorgio Beverly Hills, said she sees the new store and the new product as part of the “next evolution of the brand: sexy fashion with a great price and good fit.”
An analyst said it isn’t easy to turn around perception.
“It takes time to reposition a brand,” said Liz Pierce, senior analyst with the Sanders, Morris Harris investment firm. “I have always felt that there’s no viable reason for Victoria’s Secret” to dominate the category.
The key to repositioning is changing the mind-set of “people who think of Frederick’s in a certain one-dimensional way,” Pierce said. “You’ve got to change everything, from external marketing to store visuals and the merchandise.”
As part of that overhaul, the company has been slowly remodeling stores, relocating existing units and adding new ones that promote an intimate, boutique lingerie shopping experience. Four new stores are planned for the first half of 2006.
The flagship, which LoRe said she expects will do at least triple the sales of the existing space, is intended to take advantage of the almost 2 million tourists who visit Grauman’s each year. It will be filled with the store’s signature red, gold and leopard accents and will play on the drama of the 17-foot ceilings with Swarovski crystal sconces and an oversize chandelier.
Merchandise will be grouped in style shops, such as the recently launched “Seduction” and “White Hot” collections as well as the “Corset Suite.” For fall, the company is launching a fashion line of corsets, priced from $48 to $150, that are to be worn not only as lingerie, but as fashion pieces that work just as well with jeans or pants. The company also plans to offer special collections and limited-edition items that will be available only at the Hollywood location.
“I think we’ve broadened our base and are really bringing in a new customer,” said Frederick’s general manager John Schulman. He said merchandise had gotten “a bit costume-y,” but fun and whimsy are still key for the core customer.
While drawing from Old Hollywood for store design and lingerie, executives have their eyes more on today’s Hollywood-obsessed customer, whom the company has dubbed “the sexy spender”— a single, career woman who works full- or part-time, is about 31 years old, with a household income of $55,000. Her average purchase is about $50.
“Our sexy spender likes the Hollywood lifestyle and is aspirational,” said Yolanda Dunbar, senior vice president of marketing.
Schulman said Frederick’s needs to capitalize on being the first when it comes to selling sexiness.
“Our plan is to grow the store base significantly, but be very selective and deliberate,” LoRe said.
And mall operator Westfield, which has done 15 stores with Frederick’s, has embraced the company’s new efforts.
“If you look at the category they are in, they have a big market to climb,” said Joe Tagliola, senior executive vice president for Westfield. “It will be a challenge to make sure that they capture a niche that is different from Victoria’s Secret. But we’ve been bullish here at Westfield [about them] because it’s always good to see retailers reinvesting in themselves.”