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FREDERICK’S UNDERGOES MAKEOVER

Byline: Kristin Young

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Bid goodbye to the curved pink awnings, the cartoonish shooting-star logo and dated purple and chrome decor.
Frederick’s of Hollywood, the lingerie brand more famous these days for its two-year Chapter 11 reorganization travails than its marabou slippers, last week unveiled a new store design and new logo that the company hopes will mark its next era.
It’s high time, according to Linda LoRe, president and chief executive officer, who was tapped in 1999 to head the 175-store chain, catalog and online operation. “I came in to wake the sleeping giant,” she said, noting that the retailer hadn’t undergone a makeover since the early Eighties.
“There was no clear-cut vision of what a store should look like,” she continued. For example, there were five different logos floating around. “When I arrived, we had a talented group of people, but they were aimless. We were the ones introducing thongs, push-up bras and bikinis and we weren’t claiming our birthright.”
Although one of the most recognizable brands in the U.S., the 57-year-old company has been soundly trounced by Victoria’s Secret for the last 15 years.
To compete, LoRe said stores have to look more “upscale, cleaner in style and not so fussy.”
The rebuilt 1,000-square-foot Glendale Galleria store in Glendale, Calif., which bowed on March 26 with a grand opening, now resembles a jewel box with a boudoir-style interior decorated in cherry wood paneling, red velvet drapes and leopard carpeting. Walls look as though they’ve been sponge-painted gold but are, in fact, wallpapered.
Outside, the red lacquer facade showcases the new logo. It borrows from its predecessor — a star still dots the “i,” in what LoRe noted is an ode to its birthplace and headquarters. But the logo is noticeably more restrained, even elegant. An “f” carved into the store’s cherry wood paneling is also a key visual in Frederick’s promotions and new packaging.
LoRe has identified 22 stores, mostly in California, that will undergo the new design as money is made available. Future plans are still contingent upon what potential investors are willing to put up, as well as current creditors and courts giving the OK.
Frederick’s retained Imperial Capital in Beverly Hills nine months ago to search for investment capital. About a dozen proposals have been submitted to date. But no decision will be made until early summer, when Frederick’s is expected to emerge from bankruptcy protection. Frederick’s went private in 1997 and is currently owned by a Newport Beach, Calif.-based investment firm, Wilshire Partners. According to an analyst familiar with the company, the firm is close to reaching $200 million in revenues this fiscal year, which ends in August. Profits are in the range of 3 to 4 percent ahead of last year’s figures, said the source.
Ideally, LoRe would like to open some 200 stores in the next four years. For now, she said, “all stores are going to get touched one way or another.”
Among LoRe’s toughest battles is countering the sleazy image that’s been associated with Frederick’s over the years. “They were thinking of us as ‘Boogie Nights,”‘ she said. “How many strippers are there in the U.S.? Not enough to do the volume we do. So I knew it wasn’t just strippers we were selling to.”
Frederick’s is not marketing to the stripper market — but isn’t exactly ignoring it either. The clear Lucite platform stilettos and tasseled pasties remain in the product line. Yet the company’s primary target is a more mainstream consumer, age 18 to 35, newly married, single or newly divorced. She has at least some college education and makes about $45,000 a year.
“Fun, flirty and fearless” is the chord LoRe wants to strike with consumers.
“Get cheeky” is the company’s new fall campaign. The phrase is a play on the illustrations and messages screened across hip-hugger boy-style briefs, including messages such as “You’re the bomb” and “Sexy.” Four pairs will be priced at $12.
Also for fall is a new daywear collection of boy-leg cut bottoms and halter tops in plumb, red, purple and black lace (the price had not been set at press time). The company also will launch a small collection of eveningwear, such as plunging black sheaths, all for under $70.
Frederick’s will continue its full-figure category expansion, which it started in spring, with a greater assortment of lingerie styles. “We all know women are getting larger,” said LoRe.
Packaging also has a new look. Gone are the white plastic bags with the pink star. In its place are red cardboard totes with a stencil-cut “f.”
The company began to address its new image last October when it launched its body-care line, Boudoir Cafe. The pink, lavender and red faux Parisian patisserie boxes feature a retro-inspired bombshell and curvy lettering. The line includes Bed Sheet Mist with pheromones for $7, Kiss of Fire massage oil for $7 and edible undies for $7.
But among the most significant image-changing moves was the company’s decision to advertise during the 2001 holiday season. The $3 million campaign continues on transit car cards, bus shelters, radio, limited print and direct mail. Here the message is more minimal, with three-quarter body shots of bra-wearing models against solid-colored backgrounds.
Television advertising could become a reality during holiday 2003, said LoRe. Still, catalogs are the company’s main way of reaching the public. About 27 million catalogs will be sent out this year, up from 23 million last year. The mailing list comprises 600,000 names.
New public relations campaigns are also in the works. For the first time, Frederick’s will help kick off Los Angeles Fashion Week on April 11 with a fashion show and party at Hollywood nightclub Star Shoes.
And it’s not surprising that LoRe, considering the fragrance-buying skills she took away from her 11-year tenure as ceo of Giorgio Beverly Hills, is dreaming of a Frederick’s fragrance. She’d also like to expand the company’s reach worldwide.
“We are doing a real turnaround,” she said. “Not just a financial turnaround, but an image, marketing and internal organizational turnaround. We’ve literally had to turn over every rock.”

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