FOUNDATIONS: STRATEGY TIME
Byline: Karyn Monget
NEW YORK — There’ll be a lot of talk at this week’s foundations market, on topics ranging from retail inventory problems to special-value programs and the growing trend to comfort in bras.
The giant brands — including Warner’s, Vanity Fair and Bali — and some other prominent companies as well won’t be showing their fall collections until March, but with the key retail groups that do come into market this week, they’ll be sitting down to hammer out possible budgets for the season and preview the big ideas, perhaps with a sample here and there. There will be some late-breaking offerings, however, for late spring and Mother’s Day selling.
Nevertheless, this week is considered important by smaller manufacturers who, for the most part, haven’t yet finalized spring bookings with the bulk of their specialty store accounts and some department stores. They are ready to get buyer attention with promotional programs or niche groupings, such as bridal collections built from established bestsellers.
What will the big companies be talking about? Nancy Brennick, director of merchandising for the Bali and Wonderbra brands at Bali, outlined several ideas the foundations giant will continue to focus on this year: value-price merchandise; updated, contemporary shapewear; the growing popularity of cotton bras, especially underwire styles with a look of fashion, and the ongoing demand for cleavage — but bras that give softer, gentler definition.
Brennick further noted that the issue of comfort also is expected to grow in importance, particularly in full-figure bra sizes that feature Bali’s Comfort Cushion Strap.
Regarding the general mood of the market, Kathy Reynolds, executive vice president of Lovable Co., Buford, Ga., said, “It’s a quiet time, and we traditionally don’t show anything new in January.
“But our regular sales force comes into New York for market week. It’s a market where we stay close to our accounts for planning purposes, for fine-tuning business plans for ’96.”
Reynolds added that this week also is a crucial time to “react to current business trends. We think that everyone is concerned with inventory levels right now. It will be a time for trouble shooting in some cases.”
Tobie Garfinkle, vice president of sales and merchandising for the Lily of France and licensed Natori, Josie and Christian Dior foundations at Bestform Foundations Inc., noted, “We’ll be discussing ideas with retailers, and we’ll go forward based on their response.”
Garfinkle also singled out a second-quarter strategy for the Lily of France line of bras and panties: a group of 10 styles of basic and fashion bras that can be used as a “promotional vehicle.”
“These products will give retailers the opportunity for gross margin, and stores can use this program at their own discretion,” said Garfinkle.
Fall collections for the Josie, Natori and Christian Dior lines will be shown in March, she said.
“The biggest thing for us this year will be our Body Concepts launch,” said Jay Greenblatt, senior vice president of Trueform Foundations Inc., a part of Maidenform Worldwide Inc.
The new line of shapers under the Body Concepts by Subtract label was introduced in August and will be in stores in late February. The “aggressive” program will be supported by print advertising, in-store promotions, point-of-sale materials, and fixturing and packaging, said Greenblatt.
Reflective of the selling efforts that will be made at the market by specialty firms, Susan Colman, president and chairman of Jezebel/Renee of Hollywood, Los Angeles, said, “We’re doing a real big push on bridal with existing product.”
Colman said many of the best-selling styles to be incorporated in bridal programs for spring and summer as well as fall will include: Merry Widows, bustiers and long-line bras, and a variety of novelty bras.
Colors in seamless and allover lace styles of bras and shapewear will include black, white and ivory.
Jennifer Buckley, designer of French Jenny bras, panties and daywear at Richard Leeds International, a 1 1/2-year-old young designer line, said fashion items will be “very important” for late spring. “We bought a lot of beautiful fabrics from Europe, including flocked meshes from France and Belgium, and printed cotton Lycra blends from Spain.”