MONTREAL — La Senza’s foray into the U.S. market is about to end less than two years after Canada’s largest independent lingerie retailer opened its first store south of the border.
The U.S. store opened in June 2003 at the Rockaway Mall in Rockaway, N.J., followed by four more stores in Roosevelt Field in Garden City, N.Y., and the Northshore Mall, Burlington Mall and South Shore Plaza, all in the Boston area.
“Although these test units were reasonably successful, the sales volumes generated in the test period did not reach an appropriate level to encourage us to invest additional capital to roll out the chain within the U.S.,” La Senza president Laurence Lewin said Wednesday.
Details and timing of the closings are yet to be finalized.
When La Senza opened in the U.S., Lewin said that, if the chain took off, there were 600 to 1,200 regional malls that would be ideally suited for one of its outlets.
Chairman and chief executive officer Irving Teitelbaum also said at the time that success in the world’s largest retail market was important to La Senza. But Lewin said Wednesday that, for the company to be successful, it had to open more stores, which it wasn’t prepared to do.
“Our sales volumes in the U.S. were not as high as Canada, or other countries, for that matter,” he said. “Our consultants told us we had nice stores and nice merchandise, which was priced competitively, but that we were unknown in the U.S. They said it would take another seven to 10 years to make a go of it and we were not prepared to make that kind of commitment.”
Lewin said he had no regrets taking on the U.S. market and that La Senza can always go back. He said the company was up against some powerful competition, notably Victoria’s Secret, which has been in the U.S. for some 20-plus years.
“We’re a successful business and successful businesses have to take risks,” he said. “Most of the time they’re justified, but sometimes we crap out. But we’re expanding internationally. We operate in 20 other countries and we expect to announce two new markets within the next six months.”
La Senza owns 298 Canadian stores that sell lingerie and sleepwear under the La Senza, Silk & Satin and La Senza Girl banners. It also operates 231 stores in 20 other countries under corporate license and had sales last year of $272 million in the U.S.