N.Y.C.’S KMART: AN INTIMATE SUCCESS

Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — Innerwear has proven to be a top-selling category at Kmart’s first Manhattan unit, adjacent to Penn Station.
Since its Oct. 1 opening, best-selling categories have included shapewear items that give spot control, and three bra classifications — seamless, full-figure and sports styles — said Terri Meichner, divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel at Kmart Corp.
“We are doing extremely well with this store, and sales are much higher than our expectations,” Meichner said in a telephone interview from Kmart’s Troy, Mich., headquarters. “We are selling shapers like crazy, and we are constantly having to replenish key items.”
Meichner would not divulge sales figures, but said, “We are selling more fashion looks and better goods there in higher quantities than in the [rest of the] chain. Consumers are looking for great values, and I think that our assortments are working out very well.”
Meichner said sports bras are popular again “because they are really comfortable.”
For the first time, Kmart had trained bra fitters assist customers at the unit here. Several major vendors participated — Vassarette by Vanity Fair and Self-Expressions by Maidenform.
When asked if Kmart planned bra-fitting weeks at other outlets, Meichner replied, “Ideally, we would want to train our staff to do the bra fittings. It’s something we are considering.”
National brand bras generally retailed for $6.99 for Bestform’s seamless The Invisibra to $12.99 for Just My Size by Sara Lee. Bras under Kmart’s Kathy Ireland label were $8.99 to $9.99, and Kmart’s Jaclyn Smith bras were tagged at $9.99.
Shapers were listed from $4.99 for Hanes Her Way’s “Overall Results” control briefs to $18.99 for a firm control body briefer by Hanes Her Way.
Meichner said novelty flannels and sleep shirts were key areas in sleepwear. Prints were hot, she said, especially those with little bears and Looney Toons characters. Private label sleepwear sold for $14.99 for a cotton flannel red plaid and Teddy bear-printed boxer and sleep shirt set to $25.99 for pastel polyester satin long pajama sets.
The innerwear department at the new store is about 1,200 square feet at the center of the main floor. Signs clearly define Shapewear, Lingerie, Sleepwear and Maternity.
Many fixtures were promoting national brands such as Bestform, Hanes Her Way, Vassarette, Playtex and Maidenform’s Self-Expressions. Three fixtures housing bras for full-figure, average-figure and smaller-than-average figures each featured a sign that read: “Choosing the Right Bra…a properly fitted bra complements your style.” An informational poster featured visuals of six bra styles on models.
The department was set up by classification: colorful, novelty sleepwear by Ashley Taylor lined the front to attract impulse shoppers; a good deal of shapewear featured hangtags with Lycra logos; and bras — from Kmart’s seamless, molded The Under-Bra by Kathy Ireland to its Something Special allover lace bras by Jaclyn Smith — were neatly displayed by color, styles and size.
At midmorning, the department, which is alongside sportswear, was filled with shoppers asking questions on bra sizes and styles. Two sales associates were constantly on the selling floor, primping bras and panties on hangers, restocking boxed merchandise, arranging control briefs by size and color, and approaching customers with a smile.
“What kind of bra are you looking for?” a salesperson asked a woman who had been in the department only a couple of minutes. Full-figure was the answer. The salesperson led the way to a fixture filled with lots of private label full-figure styles, all retailing for $7.99.
Interestingly enough, several men were buying fashion bras for wives or girlfriends. One told a salesclerk he wanted to “buy some pretty lingerie as a gift on my way to the airport.”
Another man said he wanted to buy “several bras in pretty colors” as a gift. He bought two unconstructed bras from Inni’s by Hanes Her Way in shiny bright stretch satin, at $4.99 each. They were part of a “Buy 2, Get 1 Free” promotion.

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