opinion

Intimate Apparel: Seasons of Change

Q. Boyer

As is the case with just about any manner or style of clothing, trends and fads are salesdrivers in the intimate apparel market, some regular and predictable, others sudden, unanticipated and highly time-sensitive. As Fall approaches, XBIZ has called on experts in lingerie distribution and retail to help decipher some of the market’s most important current trends.

“One of the fastest-growing trends we’re seeing is in men’s underwear where sexy, designer styles are really taking off,” Larry Garland, CEO of Eldorado Trading Company, tells XBIZ.

When marketed correctly, summer can be just as hot a market as the holidays. -Larry Garland, CEO of Eldorado Trading

“The rave market has taken a new twist that branches off 80s style. We’ve seen a huge increase in requests for neons and “black light” reactive wear from brands like Dreamgirl, Pink Lipstick, Elegant Moments and Vivace to name a few. Even shoe companies like Ellie Shoes are getting in on the craze by throwing items like LED and neon or black-lit shoes into the mix.”

Amy Lazzara, marketing coordinator for Nalpac, told XBIZ that Nalpac’s “big sellers range year round, from bedroom costumes to chic bondage.”

“Some Collections that do well for us are Magic Silk’s Hot Angel and Liquid Onyx, Rene Rofe’s Body Stockings, and their new Showgirl Panty Collection is a hot seller,” Lazzara adds.

“Selected Hustler items that are on-point for the season’s trends sell well, such as neon-colored footless stockings and leg warmers.”

For the Komar Company, “pothole dresses, tube dresses and bright color lace outfits are the hottest sellers right now,” Komar’s Mike Savage tells XBIZ, adding that “people are buying these outfits over traditional lingerie pieces in wide margins.”

Asked what might be driving sales of these particular items, Savage chalked it up to a combination of versatility and price.

“I think it’s the fact these styles are inexpensive, many can be worn outside of the bedroom as cover ups at the pool or beach, or for the girl in a wild mood can even be worn as club wear,” Savage says.

In many sub-sectors of the adult entertainment and adult products markets, summer can be a difficult time, a fact often attributed to college students going home between semesters, families heading out on vacation, and other related factors. It’s something of a different story in the intimate apparel space, according to the experts.

“Retailers selling to the general public experience a slower time (during summer), but as far as distribution is concerned, we are preparing our customers to buy for the upcoming busy season before popular items get sold out,” Nalpac Director of Operations Glenn P. Le Boeuf tells XBIZ, adding that if anything, the slow period for Nalpac comes “after Valentine’s Day, and gives us an opportunity to prepare for upcoming lingerie trends.”

Garland concurs with Le Boeuf, noting that certain items, like “sexy dresses and stripper attire seem to hold steady all year long and are widely popular with strip clubs around the country.”

“When marketed correctly, summer can be just as hot a market as the holidays,” Garland says. “Warm weather is an invitation for less clothing, and we typically see an increase in sales for items like corsets, sexy tops and rave wear during this time of year.”

The bottom line is that seasons, even during the doldrums of summer, are a big part of what drives intimate apparel trends, but depending on what any given store, retailer or distributor’s focus might be, their “money season” might vary greatly from one to the next. For Nalpac, Lazzara says, winter is the boom time.

“Magic Silk’s Kris Tingle costume and Rene Rofe’s Unwrap Me Satin Teddy are among our favorites for winter holidays,” Lazzara says. “Other specialty holiday bedroom costumes and accessories, such as candy cane thigh highs and Santa hats, are always a must for this particular season. Valentine’s Day demands red and pink anything! Collections such as Magic Silk’s Luv Lace, Precious Gems and Sequin Lace move well during this time.”

Garland echoes this point, noting that “Valentine’s Day and the holiday season are handsdown the best times of year for the seasonal item craze,” a fact that is driven in part by the marketing efforts of manufacturers and distributors.

“Companies like Screaming O have taken the extra step and packaged up some of their bestsellers into a holiday offering that flew off the shelves last year and are sure to do so the same this year with offerings like the Sweet & Sexy gift bag and the Nice & Naughty gift bag,” Garland says.

Of course, the difficult part of analyzing trends isn’t identifying them, it’s anticipating them and preparing a marketing strategy that is as much art as science. In the intimate apparel market, that process starts with spotting products that look like the next season’s winner, before they hit the shelves.

Asked what brands and lines retailers should be keeping a watchful eye on, Lazzara says “retailers can look for Nalpac to be launching collections from Magic Silk such as the Champagne Lace, New Fishnet items and new liquid Onyx,” adding that the company will also be carrying the latest items from Rene Rofe and Hustler, along with costume accessories like eyelashes and wigs.

Savage says that for its part, Komar is “really excited about some of the new Hustler styles coming out this fall,” while still enjoying outstanding success with “industry giants Elegant Moments, Fantasy Lingerie and the new O Sexy collection.”

Garland says that the brands on Eldorado’s “one-to-watch list” include Vivace, Pink Lipstick and Raveware, who Garland says is “taking the LED market by storm with LED petticoats and panties.”

“Retailers should also keep a close eye on Malebasics,” Garland adds.

“This manufacturer has truly taken a bold step with their sexy men’s lingerie line. This isn’t just men’s underwear but a wide selection of thongs, g-strings, boxers, and other underwear products created with high quality fabrics that include lace.”

With Fall upon us and the lucrative holiday season just around the corner, now is the time for retailers to put on their thinking caps and optimize their stock — and their marketing — to make the most of the consumer rush to follow. He who hesitates might not be “lost,” exactly…. but he very well could find himself at the back of the pack, wondering yet again what the post-Valentine’s Day view is like from the perspective of the winner’s circle.

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