Byline: Teena Hammond

LOS ANGELES — Knowing the customer and keeping the floor lively are key strategies of Macy’s West as it fortifies its position in the intimate apparel business.
The store generally is recognized in the industry as doing one of the strongest innerwear jobs among the big West Coast stores. Its intimate apparel sales have been growing by 7 to 10 percent during each of the past two years, said Gary Schettino, divisional merchandise manager.
A visit to two of the chain’s Southern California units — in contrasting areas — shows the retailer has not hesitated to spotlight top brands. At Sherman Oaks Fashion Square and Westwood, both Calvin Klein Underwear and Joe Boxer Girlfriend are in high-profile spots.
Other lines popular at Macy’s West are Natori, Oscar de la Renta and Felina. Little floor space is now given to private label lingerie. However, this will change in July, once parent Federated Department Stores launches a line of underwear with its private Inc. label, said Schettino. Inc. is already on the floor in sleepwear.
Among all lines, Macy’s West “does extremely well with thongs, and high cuts are popular silhouettes also,” he noted.
The stores are set up so that designer wares get the most attention, and in-store shops carry a collection of merchandise from sleepwear to daywear.
At the Sherman Oaks store in the San Fernando Valley, the sedate Calvin Klein/CK display is the first thing customers see as they step off the escalator to the third-floor intimate apparel department. Brightly colored Joe Boxer merchandise is in a nearby “highlight pad” the store installed earlier this month.
In Westwood, which depends heavily on the junior market — UCLA is just a block away — Joe Boxer has the favored spot at the entrance to the intimate apparel department. Calvin Klein is only a few yards away, and there is more sports-related intimate apparel than at the Sherman Oaks store.
The Westwood intimate apparel department rings in at just 8,200 square feet, compared with Sherman Oaks’ vast 14,000-square-foot department. Some of the items available in the smaller Westwood store but not at Sherman Oaks are Calvin Klein’s waffle-weave tank tops, short nightgowns and boxers in pastels such as lavender, pink, yellow and green, and Calvin Klein’s $29 athletic bra with waffle-weave side vents and $24 spandex blend shorts to match.
Popular Joe Boxer items available at both stores are $15 pink and gray seersucker boxer shorts and $25 plaid drawstring pajama bottoms. The line also includes bright yellow and green bras, thongs and briefs decorated with the Seventies retro smiley-face graphic. One reason for the prominence of Calvin Klein is the popularity of its CK line of sheer bras, thongs, briefs, tank tops and other intimate apparel, Schettino said. “Sheer is very big and will be bigger. There will be a ton of sheer out in about three months,” he said. “Sheer is a huge element of the fall collection. What we sell in sheer for fall will be based on how well we sell the sheer market bras for Calvin Klein.”
Although Macy’s doesn’t stock any sheer merchandise in Joe Boxer, the line is popular with a younger crowd, he said. CK appeals to a 20-to-35-year-old woman, while Joe Boxer targets a slightly younger demographic, he said.
“Junior business is a big business opportunity for us. It becomes a challenge how you merchandise that on the floor. Our challenge is to be able to offer products to the baby boomer and the baby boomer’s child,” Schettino said.
One way to attract customers is by frequently updating the appearance of the department, he said. Joe Boxer at Sherman Oaks is in what Schettino calls a “highlight pad” that will rotate with other lines “so our customer doesn’t see the same thing over and over.” Another highlight pad at Sherman Oaks contains athletic wear such as sports bras, thongs, boxers and spandex shorts. Speedo and Champion are the two main lines in this area.
Designer intimate apparel such as that from Calvin Klein, Donna Karan and Ralph Lauren’s soon-to-premiere line keeps customers coming to Macy’s instead of competitors such as Victoria’s Secret, Schettino said. Ralph Lauren’s new line will appear in Macy’s during the week of June 10, he said.
“Our designer business is growing, and it’s a little more fashion-forward. It’s not as promotionally driven” as nondesigner business, he said. Designer items top off at $55 at Macy’s, while most sales in designer lines are in items at $30 to $35. The $55 price tags hang on a sheer line of Donna Karan bras.
Another key business is the expanding market for control garments. Macy’s is the largest Olga Secret Shaper retailer in the country, Schettino said. “We’ve tried to jump on the bandwagon because we think it’s state of the art,” he said.
“Women 40 to 45 years old might not be working out as much as they used to, so control garments have grown,” said Schettino. Nancy Ganz Bodyslimmers and Smoothies are both popular, while Flexees is the largest control-garment vendor at Macy’s, he said.
Sleepwear is also in demand, and private label Inc. is pulling in top sales because many Inc. pieces can be used as outerwear, Schettino explained. Examples are a $28 ankle-length ribbed cotton tank dress and a $16 cropped T-shirt.

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