JOCKEY AT 125: A LONG JOURNEY
Byline: Karyn Monget
NEW YORK — Jockey International has come a long way since it piqued consumers imaginations with products such as the Kenosha Klosed Krotch union suit and the Y-Front fly brief.
Since it was founded in 1876, the underwear specialist, with estimated annual volume in excess of $100 million, has kept pace with the changing times by offering an innovative array of men’s and women’s products. They include:
Cellophane packaging for undergarments in 1938.
The first men’s seamless boxer in 1958.
Marketing and advertising campaigns in the early Nineties featuring Olympic gold medal winners Bart Conner, Nancy Hogshead and Nadia Comenici, and baseball star Jim Palmer.
The most recent introductions include the No Panty Line collection of seamless microfiber briefs for women this year, the birth of the Baby Jockey line in 2000 and the licensed Liz Claiborne Intimates launch in 1999.
Newest on the drawing board will be Jockey’s first fragrance and body lotion for men and women, which will bow internationally in October, and in the U.S., in February for Valentine’s Day selling. The scents will be called Physical for Men by Jockey and Physical for Women by Jockey.
Debra Waller, chairman and chief executive officer of the Kenosha, Wis.-based firm, said she feels so bullish about Jockey’s future that the company will be celebrating it’s 125th anniversary by holding a bash July 9-10 with 700 retailers, suppliers, licensees, distributors and employees, who will represent the 120 locations worldwide where Jockey products are sold. The event will take place at the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa in Geneva Lake, Wis.
Asked how she is continuing the Jockey legacy at the family-owned company, Waller said: “The heritage of comfort, quality and fit, as well as taking care of our employees, will continue. But the company will continue with an updated twist.
“The dynamics are different now, more complicated than before. Globally, we are expanding licenses and distributorships, and we want the brand image to be more consistent, at the same level, in other countries as it is in the U.S.”
For example, Waller said, the Jockey brand in Germany is regarded as a designer label, while it is marketed as a moderate-to-better label in the U.S.
In January, Waller succeeded her mother, Donna Wolf Steigerwaldt, who died last December.
“Some things I will continue to do the same way as my mother, but others will be done differently,” she said. “I love to get my hands dirty and get involved in the business.
“I’ve had 19 years of training and have been very fortunate to have gone through the various departments of the company. One of the excitements for me is to see people grow and see that they have ownership and responsibility for their areas of business.”
Waller said she plans to keep growing the company, but not aggressively.
“That’s not where my bent is,” she said. “I like steady growth, and we plan to be here another 125 years.”
Regarding the difficult retail climate, Ed Emma, president and chief operating officer of Jockey, said: “It may seem trite, but I think there are some fundamental ways to cement relationships, regardless of difficulties in the retail environment. You have to give consumers different products, products they want, and you have to work harder on deliveries. You have to communicate with retailers and meet with them face-to-face and seek a win-win situation whenever possible.
“Fortunately, we’re doing pretty well, but we’re concerned about the soft retail environment like everybody else. You really have to work a lot harder in this environment.”
Emma further noted that fashion products are essential and that’s a part of the business that’s been expanding. He said the firm has had 10 percent growth in fashion areas, more in the women’s business.
Looking at the international marketplace, Bob Nolan, president of the Jockey brand, said: “In the U.K., we own our own company and use it as a base of distribution in Europe and the Mideast. Our company in Hong Kong distributes Jockey products to Hong Kong and Singapore, and we also have a network of distributors worldwide.”
Nolan said the newest venture will be Jockey’s entry into China in October, where Jockey products will be sold at a specialty-store chain called G2000, which is headquartered in Shanghai. Jockey will exhibit its combined Swiss, German and U.K. licensees for the second time at the Lyon, Mode City trade show in Lyon, France, in September, he said.
Regarding Jockey’s advertising campaigns, Nolan observed: “We are working on product and packaging, which will show the same imagery in marketing and advertising. We’ve transitioned from “Show ‘Em Your Jockey’s” — dropping your pants — because we felt it was time to move on and build on sophisticated comfort.”
Added Nolan: “We also are getting into event marketing like our Panasonic Jockey Core Tour. It targets a younger consumer and we’ll feature skateboarding and bicycling events. We’ll also have Comfort Zone booths, where we’ll give away Jockey logoed skateboards, boxers, licensed activewear by Jacques Moret and couponing for department stores.”
The events will take place in Santa Monica, Calif., Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh, N.Y., and the South Street Seaport in Manhattan.