Byline: Georgia Lee

ATLANTA — Shoppers just want to have fun. And feel good. Creating fun and tapping into emotions are now musts for manufacturers as well as retailers.
Entertainment and emotional response to products were big themes at the International Apparel Research Conference here last week, ranking right up there with value, technology and globalization as keys to success, according to conference speakers. Such approaches are needed to solidify brand image and value in the face of growing competition on a global scale, speakers pointed out.
“Businesses that play on desires for fun and entertainment, as Disney and Nike do today, will be big winners in the future,” said David Cole, chairman and chief executive officer of Kurt Salmon Associates, an Atlanta-based management consulting firm. He labeled the strategy “shopper-tainment.”
Moderating a “Visionary Exchange” panel on the future of the apparel industry, Cole added that “non-store” electronic retailers, and “solution providers” — those offering convenience — would also emerge as successful players.
Panelist Joel Horowitz, ceo of Tommy Hilfiger Corp., said the launch of Tommy TV in 100 stores next fall is the integration of entertainment with in-store electronic commerce. Television monitors in department stores will feature continuous programming, such as fashion videos, and on occasion feature Tommy Hilfiger broadcasting live from studios, able to interact with customers.
Tommy TV is a natural extension of the designer’s personal appearances, which have been integral to the growth of the line, said Horowitz.
“Entertainment is now an important element in apparel,” said Horowitz. “With Tommy’s personal appeal, if he wasn’t in apparel, he’d probably be a rock star.”
Robert Mettler, president of merchandising at Sears, Roebuck & Co., pointed to Sears’ Kidvantage program promoting children’s wear as an example of an in-store technology that encourages relationships between customer and store.
The program, which has grown from 7 million to 14 million customers in two years, tracks a specific customer’s sales at the cash register and offers frequent shopper incentives and guarantees.
“The idea is to encourage trust, then loyalty, then frequency of shopping in Sears,” said Mettler.
Establishing an emotional connection with the consumer is essential for U.S. producers, said Homi Patel, president and chief operating officer of Hartmarx.
“We have to concentrate on the emotive aspects of product, in addition to price,” he said. “We need to invest in information, marketing and tracking customers, rather than so much brick and mortar.”
The research conference, sponsored by the American Apparel Manufacturers Association, took place Nov. 12 and 13 at Atlanta Stouffer’s Airport Hotel.
The idea of “fun” was underscored by Nicholas Graham, ceo of Joe Boxer, and a master of the brand-as-entertainment philosophy. Graham, who has staged such attention-getting promotions as shooting underwear-filled rockets into space and a Joe Boxer wedding in New York’s Times Square, said the next big promotion would be to “take over a small country for a weekend.”
Although he didn’t name the country, he located it in the North Atlantic, and said the event would be held in April.
“We are an entertainment company,” he said. “Where Disney makes the movie, then the underwear, we make the underwear, then the movie, or in our case, a situation comedy that we’re working on now.”
His firm’s Joe Boxer Girlfriend line of women’s sleepwear and underwear, launched last year, has sold 5 million units in its first year and will expand to swimwear, accessories and activewear next year, said Graham, who added, “Brands create an emotional value.”
Clyde Fessler, vice president of motor clothes marketing for Harley-Davidson, attributed the company’s turnaround to brand positioning reinforced with promotion and advertising that emphasize entertainment and humor.
Women, who accounted for 12 percent of new motorcycle purchases in 1996, up from 5 percent five years ago, are a growing target for the company’s clothing line, which includes denim apparel and boots, socks and cologne.
Advertising messages, such as “Return to the hormone levels of your youth,” and “When was the last time you felt this strongly about anything?” over a photo of an arm tattooed with the Harley-Davidson logo, are highly emotional, said Fessler.