FREDERICK’S LURES NEW BREED ONLINE
Byline: Karyn Monget
NEW YORK — The famed catalog with annual mailings of 24 million is the bait.
The newly remodeled 18-month-old Web site is the hook, and Frederick’s of Hollywood hopes to reel in a new breed of customer on the Internet: women and men in the 18-to-29 age bracket who earn more than $125,000 a year, way above the income profile of its mail-order customer.
Frederick’s officials said the new formula isn’t just about sexiness anymore. Since 1946, the purveyor of naughty lingerie has gained a reputation for fulfilling fantasies for mainstream Americans, with visuals and merchandise that could politely be called indiscreet.
For the past decade, Frederick’s has been on a quest to reinvent itself from its old-fashioned cheesecake image into one that is hip and contemporary. Now, the Los Angeles-based lingerie specialist is lacing its sultry persona with the sweetness and romance — as well as a “fashion edginess” — that Frederick’s officials believe will draw a new breed of Frederick’s customer: The savvy, young and hip woman who reads magazines such as Jane and Cosmopolitan, said Gary K. Landry, president and chief executive officer of fredericks.com.
The approach, particularly on the fredericks.com Web site, is now peppered with lifestyle links like Absolutely Amanda, a Dear Abby version of lingerie advice in which Frederick’s spokeswoman Amanda Diaz advises and consoles women on everything from bridal trousseau tips to what to wear after the Super Bowl to peak the interest of a boyfriend or husband.
The Frederick’s Web site also features a link called fredericksflowers, powered by proflowers.com, which ships long-stemmed roses, tulips or a “carnival of color” bouquet to a loved one in seven days.
“Flowers really are the ultimate gift of love, and eventually we plan to have gift shipments that will include flowers and lingerie, as well as other romantic items like videos, books, chocolates, gourmet food, wine and romantic getaways,” said Landry.
“A customer can get all of this on one site for one-stop shopping,” Landry said. “We are testing this idea for Valentine’s Day and will probably feature lingerie gift packages with flowers, wine and books next year.”
He further noted that a weekly, personalized e-mail service called Star Club targets a customer’s product preferences, such as Water Bras, thong-back panties or shoes. Clients are sent special offers, as well as a column by Absolutely Amanda.
Landry would not break down sales except to say that “Christmas 2000 was 80 percent over last year and January sales may be 100 percent ahead. We actually made money.”
A company spokesman interjected that overall, “the company is more than $200 million over plan as of Dec. 31. That’s a lot for a company that filed Chapter 11 six months ago.”
As reported, the company posted annual sales of approximately $140 million in the fiscal year ended July 31.
Regarding Internet sales overseas, Landry said the top five countries were Canada, England, Australia, Japan and Germany.
“We also get a lot of orders from the Army and Air Force,” he said. “Frederick’s is extraordinarily popular with the military.”
Meanwhile, Danielle Savin, vice president of direct marketing, said: “My goal has been to grow the house file of consumers. We’ve been renting names [marketing lists] from catalogs like Newport News and Spiegel, as well as Cosmo and Jane. Jane is showing us a lot of potential. We’ll also be doing tests at fraternities and sororities at colleges.”
Regarding Frederick’s mail-order business, Savin said that “lingerie is paying for itself and accounts for 30 percent of space, and foundations takes up 40 percent. Ready-to-wear is not as strong and is down to 20 percent.”
The ratio of women shoppers for the catalog is 60 percent and men account for 40 percent, she said, noting that the average annual household income of a catalog shopper is between $25,000 and $35,000. The average age range is 18- to 39-years-old.
“I’ve also been working on the differences between the catalog and Internet shoppers by overlaying Internet sales with mail-order files,” continued Savin. “Thirty-five percent were a match.”
As for the fantasy aspect of the business, Savin said the Masquerade section of the catalog is no longer relegated to Halloween and has become a seasonless business.
“Anytime is fantasy time,” Savin said. “Harem Girl is among the top 20 best-selling items in the entire catalog year-round — and she’s killing French Maid. In the past three months, we’ve sold 2,000 units of Harem Girl,” which has a suggested retail of $50.
Other bestsellers are trio sets of novelty heart-embroidered bras, thong and sheer ivory thigh-high stockings embellished with ribbons and lace, which retail for $54; a halter teddy of cross-dyed lace for $24; a deep-plunge slipgown of polyester charmeuse for $29, and a Satin Kiss Bra, which is being promoted at $19 for Valentine’s day. The top color for each item is red.