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With sales of basic and value-driven intimates leading small gains at retail in December and January, manufacturers anticipate the momentum will continue to grow over the next several months as they book the fall and holiday seasons.

This story first appeared in the February 1, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Bestsellers at stores have included incentives such as pajama sets with a third piece like boxers, whimsical packaging, a broader range of fashion colors and prints and soft, feel-good fabrics such as Modal, jersey knits, lightweight brushed cotton flannel and Lycra spandex-blend microfibers.

Merchandise that conveys an enhanced perceived value that helps entice the consumer to buy will be key to this week’s market, vendors said.

Among the items that could meet that goal are:

• Dual-purpose shapewear with a ready-to-wear flavor, such as lingerie-looking briefs and full slips with built-in control.

• Upscale heritage brand bras that now offer embellished styles below $50.

• A gift-with-purchase like garters or stockings.

• Programs that mix and match five pairs of basic and fashion undies for $25, $26 or $27.

Bob Nolan, president of Jockey International’s North America wholesale and licensing operations, said a need for replenishment is starting to energize business activity.

“We actually had a pretty good December, it continued into January, and our shipments are looking good because retailers’ inventories are down,” he said. “This is an interesting market for us because we showed new product in November, and this week will be a combination of business and fashion meetings. We’ll be showing new colors for the fourth quarter. The businesses that retailers feel very comfortable with are those they’ve already laid out the money for. But retailers are most likely to leave some money for discretionary spending.”

Lida Orzeck, chief executive officer of Hanky Panky, said she expects sales of intimates to pick up.

“While the economy has been challenging, we have been experiencing an upswing in sales since the beginning of the holiday season,” Orzeck said. “There has been a very good response to our fashion prints and colors, as well as new business to be found with our camisoles, tops and soft bras. We fully expect buyers to come into the market pleased with how we finished the season, ready to see new fashion for fall and open to last-minute opportunities for immediate shipments. We expect the upswing we experienced at holiday in sales of fashion and basics to continue.”

Orzeck said retailers want to keep their basic business strong and are looking for value and key fashion trends that can be translated into intimate apparel.

“Our holiday ’09 packaging was a success so they’re eager to see what we have for this year,” she said.

Hanky Panky’s holiday packaging featured whimsical mini gift boxes for undies and related items.

“Retailers want a compelling reason to buy,” said Jon E. Lewis, president of the D2 Brands division of Delta Galil Ltd. “As always, it’s about product first and price and value second. For new introductions, both factors are essential. With current programs, retailers are pushing hard for innovation and challenging brands to stay relevant.”

Lewis said this is an important market for the company, which will show holiday deliveries for its Lucky Lounge and Tommy Hilfiger lines.

“Lucky Lounge continues to receive strong feedback on our new introductions,” he said. “There is also opportunity to expand doors at Macy’s with Tommy Hilfiger.”

Bob Vitale, executive vice president of marketing and sales at Wacoal America, said, “We are expecting an upbeat mood as business of late has been pretty good. Business certainly is improving with each month [at retail] being better than the last. We broke even in December and have had single-digit increases in January.”

Wacoal will present new product for late fall for department stores, as well as a review of the “entire fall season” for specialty boutiques, Vital said.

“For late fall, Wacoal will be introducing three new bra collections, which will center on beautiful laces and lots of trims that build more value into the product,” he said. “We’ll also have a new contour bra with a lace back called Classic Charms, which will retail for $48 and goes up to 36DDD.”

Vitale added that Wacoal will present two new full-figure styles that will be sized up to a 40G cup: a lace number retailing for $58 and a jacquard style priced at $55. He added the younger, more contemporary b.Tempted line will feature two new styles, an allover floral-printed mesh bra called New Romance that will sell for $34, and The Vamp, a cut-and-sew lace bra, for $37.

“This is one of our biggest markets because we do a huge business for holiday with our red Santa baby dolls with white marabou trim and gift sets by Cinema Etoile,” said Mark Ryan, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Movie Star Inc.

Ryan said the company will offer a gwp with a red velvet group of sleepwear items: candy cane-printed thigh-highs or garters attached to the garments.

“We’ll also be showing packaged, three-piece pajama sets in seven different colors, such as a rib-knit top, a jersey bottom and shorts,” Ryan said. “Even though retail was tough for the holidays, the pajama set retails well.”

Greg Holland, vice president of sales at the Komar Co. and president of its licensed Donna Karan and DKNY sleepwear collections, said retail results “turned out as planned for the fall-holiday season.”

“Sales were planned down slightly and most stores made their numbers,” Holland said. “We are optimistic about this market and feel we have strong, innovative product. All of our major customers will be in…but specialty store appointments seem to be divided between market week and the [Feb. 21 to 23] Curve show in New York.”


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