NEW YORK — Figleaves.com is looking to be the biggest and boldest retailer of lingerie on the Internet.
Paul Cohen, a consultant for the U.K.-based e-tailer and former president of Ralph Lauren Intimates at Sara Lee Intimate Apparel, said plans are in the works to be the “category killer of intimate apparel online.” Figleaves.com claims to be the third-most-visited lingerie site after Victoria’s Secret and Frederick’s of Hollywood.
The four-year-old e-commerce company launched its U.S. operation in 2002 and is poised to generate overall retail sales of $24.7 million in 2004, said Ed Bussey, senior vice president and sales director. Bussey is looking for revenues to exceed $50 million by 2005. U.S. sales currently account for 12 percent of sales and Bussey projects U.S. sales will hit $40 million by 2008.
All of this may appear to be a tall order to industry skeptics, but the lingerie Web site that originally started as easyshop.co.uk in 1998 as a marketer of lingerie and perfume has expanded as a global home-shopping retailer featuring hosiery, activewear, sleepwear, swimwear and underwear for women and men.
“We receive three to four million hits per month,” said Bussey, saying the premise for the site was: “If the Internet were going to replace stores, there would be a lot more women buying intimate apparel, hosiery and swimwear online.”
The company was renamed figleaves.com in 2001 when it bought out an Atlanta-based operation and has since expanded its stable of brands to 170, with 2,400 products. It services 500,000 customers in 66 countries, said Bussey. The domino effect is enhanced through 5,000 marketing affiliates, including AOL, MSN and Amazon.com, where figleaves launched a concession at Amazon.com/figleaves in August.
The Amazon-Figleaves partnership was consummated with an exclusive U.S. launch of active label Shock Absorber at a tennis match at Grand Central Terminal featuring Amazon chief executive officer Jeff Bezos and tennis star Anna Kournikova. The event generated $450,000 of Shock Absorber sales in one month and won the Confederation of British Industry’s Growing Business Award.
Aside from a strong marketing and sales campaign — as well as a staff in the U.K. of 140 and plans to build its U.S. operation with 20 to 25 buyers, merchandisers and sales associates — fashion and a constant search for new names and product keep the e-tailer clicking.
Jo Jeffrey, vice president of communications, described the vision behind figleaves.com as threefold: a 95 percent in-stock selection of moderate-to-designer brands in bra cup sizes AA to JJ and band sizes 30 to 54; customer satisfaction encompassing free delivery worldwide and “no-quibble” returns, and a menu that allows consumers to shop by brand, category, color and size.
Jeffrey pointed out that one of the fastest-growing segments of business is new designer or lesser-known designer labels.
“We are doing exclusives and promotions with little-known designer brands like Sarah Fisk,” Jeffrey said. “We’ll be introducing Damaris to the U.S. next season and help them build their profile. Beau Bra is one of our top-five selling brands and we do a lot of p.r. campaigns with them.”
Among the lingerie brands new to the Figleaves family are Marlies Dekkers, Selena, Sugar & Betty, Voo Doo Dolls, Pink Piranha and Cosmopolitan. Other fashion-forward brands include Love Kylie, Dolly, Bas Bleu, Verdissima, Moschino, Andres Sarda, Ted Baker, Fleur T and Pureda. Full-figure favorites include Ballet, Charnos, Fantasie-Freya and Renaissance.
“We believe we’ll be very successful in the U.S market because of our huge assortments and right marketing of brands,” said Cohen, adding that the Web site features “branded sales and price promotions that one would see in a better store environment.”