Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — Creating an expanding range of product, shapewear pioneer Nancy Ganz says the acquisition of her company by The Warnaco Group has turned out to be “a perfect fit.”
Ganz started her Bodyslimmers company in 1989 with a product she called the Hipslip, a short control slip with built-in panties. It ignited a host of imitators while giving birth to a new breed of innerwear — the modern shaper. The company also grew into a multiline operation that last year racked up a volume of more than $30 million, spotlighting a variety of control items that flatten tummies, lift rear ends, compress waistlines and downsize thighs.
In July, the operation was acquired by Warnaco for $15 million, and Ganz was named president of the Nancy Ganz/Bodyslimmers division. Despite “concerns about a corporate culture,” Ganz says she likes what she sees happening.
“I’m a creative, product-driven person, and Warnaco is always happy to see product that’s innovative,” Ganz said. “Your volume leads you to create your budget. Warnaco is very big on planning, and that’s very good — it gives you a goal.”
Ganz said Warnaco’s financial clout has doubled the division’s yearly advertising budget to $4 million this year. (In its latest third quarter, which ended Oct. 29, Warnaco’s intimate apparel revenues climbed to $215.8 million from $177.1 million a year ago.) Ganz projected a 35 percent sales increase for 1997. She based the gain on Warnaco’s substantial merchandising and production strengths, which are expected to triple penetration into major department store channels next year.
“Now, instead of just three or four doors, my shapers are starting to be ordered for 10 or 11 doors by major store groups,” Ganz said. “I believe it’s because the big buying groups know we have the financial backing and production muscle with Warnaco.”
Department and specialty stores are the main avenues of distribution for Bodyslimmers, with two labels — Bodyslimmers by Nancy Ganz and a more expensive line known simply as Nancy Ganz. The firm also targets chains with its moderate-price line, Nip Tuck + Boost.
The Bodyslimmers acquisition was spearheaded by Warnaco’s president, chairman and chief executive officer, Linda J. Wachner. The shapewear company provided another building block to Wachner’s fast-expanding storehouse of brands and product categories.
Wachner said she targeted Bodyslimmers because of its successful track record of cultivating aging baby boomers, as well as women who simply want to “look and feel slim and trim.”
“Some people are afraid of making decisions and going with it — Ms. Wachner isn’t,” said Ganz. “I’m very content to be with a company that has an entrepreneurial spirit, and that’s certainly because of Ms. Wachner.”
While aimed at the graying boomers, Ganz’s products also have a “younger edge,” which was reflected in the items introduced at the innerwear market here this month. They include stretch lace and matte-finish control full slips to wear under sheer apparel; low-cut, tush-lifting briefs that go with hip-hugger pants, and a variety of one-shoulder styles of full slips and tops for special occasion dressing.
“My products are attracting younger consumers into the stores, and I’m addressing that with pretty stretch laces and firm-control nylon and Lycra [spandex] products, because there’s a lot of sheer looks still going on in ready-to-wear,” Ganz said. “I’m also going into bodysuits for the first time.”
Ganz said she plans to create in-store shop concepts for shapers with signage and visuals in early 1997, and feels her name will be of some value in attracting customers. Ganz has done a number of segments for QVC over the past couple of years and on Oct. 3, she had an hour-long feature to herself for the first time. She promoted a package called the Bodyslimming System, which focuses on control items for six problem areas: the hips, the seat, the midriff, the abdomen, the thighs and the torso. A second one-hour spot is scheduled in January. An air time, though, has not been set, she said.
“It was interesting, because they usually watch the screen to see how many calls come in per minute. Calls didn’t come in until about a third of the segment was over,” Ganz said. “Then, loads of calls came in. People actually listened and watched — then they bought.”
Ganz would not give figures, but some sources say that once viewers start calling in during a segment sales can reach as much $8,000 to $10,000 for the hottest selling items.
Ganz said she plans to do a full-fledged collection of bras in the near future. So far, she has incorporated an item called a Bust-Boosting Bra as part of her shapewear assortments, and has featured built-in, underwire bras in full, control slips.