Lingerie lines hook younger customers

Growing demand for women's intimates keeps the tills ringing at clothing retailers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 15 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 15 February, 2013, 5:20am

When Kathleen Jordan stopped at a Victoria's Secret a year ago to buy something for herself, the visit had an unintended consequence: her 13-year-old daughter got hooked on Pink, the lingerie brand's young collegiate line.

"Now she has more bras than I do, in every colour under the sun," said Jordan, a principal at design and architecture firm Gensler in New York.

"She's not alone. All her girlfriends are into Pink, too. I recently overheard one of her girlfriends excitedly sharing the details of her favourite Christmas gift from Pink."

Limited Brands' Victoria's Secret is not the only retailer generating sales as it becomes more acceptable for middle- and high-school girls to show off bras under clothing and buy intimates. Teen chains are, too.

Hot Topic is testing an edgy lingerie line called Blackheart, and Urban Outfitters, which has said intimates could eventually make up 10 per cent of sales, has bolstered such offerings across its brands. Even Justice, the store for seven to 12-year-olds owned by Tween Brands, is selling US$21.90 tie-dye bras and US$9 flowered panties online.

Retailers were taking care to present the garments as cute as opposed to sexy, said Marcie Merriman, founder of retail and brand strategy consultancy PrimalGrowth.

"Stores are all going to say they're targeting 18 to 22-year-olds, but the reality is you're going to get the younger customer," she said.

Retail sales growth in the United States slowed last month, according to the Commerce Department, climbing 0.1 per cent amid stubborn joblessness and higher taxes. Clothing stores eager to boost sales see a goldmine in women's intimates. The category now generates more than US$11.1 billion in annual sales, according to NPD Group, a market research firm.

Limited Brands has said its approximately US$1.5 billion Pink brand might be a US$3 billion business in a few years.

Limited Brands, American Eagle Outfitters and Hot Topic were among the top-performing retail stocks last year. Limited Brands gained 17 per cent, Hot Topic rallied 46 per cent and American Eagle rose 34 per cent, against a 13 per cent increase for the S&P 500 Index.