AVON INTIMATES CALLING
Byline: Karyn Monget
NEW YORK — The Avon lady will have more than beauty products in mind the next time she comes knocking.
After a four-year hiatus, Avon Products has relaunched its foundations business in a big way, with four national brands: Bali, Playtex, Hanes Her Way and Vassarette.
Avon also has introduced its first group of cotton panties, under the Danskin label, and two light-control briefs of nylon and Lycra spandex from Noticeably Smooth by Bali — one a panel version, the other a tailored brief.
The intimate apparel is featured in a 24-page brochure entitled “Avon Intimate Style & Legwear Guidebook.” The mailer, which was sent to 450,000 Avon representatives in late May, focuses primarily on full-figure bras and some average-figure styles, as well as private label loungewear. Also showcased are private label control-top hosiery, shoes, tights and socks.
Avon has distributed a video to its representatives outlining the do’s and don’ts of bra fitting. The video shows several models wearing foundations at a fashion shoot for the intimate apparel brochure.
Cheryl Frazier, vice president of the U.S. operation of Avon Style Apparel, noted Avon’s relaunch of intimates, which began in January, “has gone well beyond our expectations.”
“The launch has been terrific,” she said. “Intimate apparel rounds out our offerings to customers.”
Frazier noted Avon conducted “extensive” surveys with consumer focus groups as well as Avon representatives to “determine the needs of the Avon customer.”
“They told us what they like and what they didn’t like. And they expressed distinct displeasure with the idea of bra shopping. Complaints included fixtures, a lack of knowledge from salespeople and not being able to find their sizes,” Frazier said.
Frazier would not gives sales estimates. But a look at Avon’s intimate apparel business in 1994 indicates it could be substantial. The business was then made up of bras by Warner’s and the licensed Fruit of the Loom label by The Warnaco Group, as well as private label foundations and at-homewear by Scaasi, a former licensee at Warnaco. Fashion looks were a good part of the mix.
When Avon began selling intimate apparel in 1994, initial sales projections were estimated at $65 million to $75 million, according to Andrea Jung, then president of Avon’s product marketing group. Later that year, Jung, who has since been promoted to president of Avon Products, said the segment targeted annual sales of $120 million.
It is unclear why Avon dropped the category after a year. Frazier would only say the agreement with Warnaco expired, but would not elaborate.
The thrust of Avon’s intimate apparel in 1998 is on basic assortments, especially in the full-figure range, with cup sizes up to 50DDD, said Frazier. Suggested retail for soft-cup and underwire styles is $9.99 to $19.99.
Frazier noted Avon selected best-selling bra styles — all of which are top brands at department stores and discounters — that have an established consumer following. The Playtex 18 Hour bra by Sara Lee, for example, has been a top brand for more than 20 years at all channels of distribution; a stretch satin underwire bra by Vassarette is a top seller at mass outlets. Vassarette is produced by Vanity Fair Intimates, a unit of VF Corp.
“Full-figure bras are critical as part of the mix for Avon,” said Frazier, noting the classification accounts for 35 percent of bra sales.