SAKS GETS A LIFT FROM THE ULTIMO BRA

Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — The Ultimo Bra took Saks Fifth Avenue flagship by storm last week.
Barbara Lipton, vice president and divisional merchandise manager of intimate apparel, said, “It’s really been amazing. We have over 2,000 Saks customers on a waiting list for the Ultimo Bra. I’ve been getting between 15 to 20 e-mails a day requesting the bra. We ran a full-page ad in the New York Times because of the intense demand.
“It wasn’t that difficult to get the marketing together because this is a great item. We literally have bought up the production for our 61 stores, with 9,000 units on hold. An additional 5,000 seamless styles will be sold in July,” said Lipton.
Suggested retail for the gel-filled, cleavage-enhancing bra is $58. Bra cup sizes are 32A to 38D.
Michelle Mone, designer of the Ultimo Bra, said, “It may be the time of year for Mother’s Day gift giving, but the Ultimo Bra is proving to be a wonderful gift for any occasion. We’ve done a lot of consumer tests in London, and the response has been tremendous. A line of Ultimo swimwear will be launched in London this week, and we’ll be doing a full launch in Europe before Christmas.”
Mone, who founded Ultimo’s manufacturer, MJM International Ltd., in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1996, with her husband, Michael, projects wholesale sales of Ultimo products will reach $160 million by 2001. Product expansions will include shapewear and men’s underwear.
Overall at Saks, Christine Johnson, president and chief executive officer, said, “Intimate apparel is a very important and a very large business for us. It’s been growing about 10 percent every year for the past three to four years. It’s a very high-margin business, not something we look at lightly.”
Johnson singled out foundations and private label sleepwear that has a contemporary look as key categories.
Gail Paisano, executive vice president of merchandising at Saks, noted, “Over the last few years, we have been much more upscale, and we have been able to move in on a more upscale [foundations] market, with the average price at $68 and $70.”