No Pantywaists: Kohl's, Victoria's Secret In Battle Of Undies

The women's lingerie business isn't for the faint-hearted. Just as Kohl's announces three new lingerie lines, The Limited says its Victoria's Secret will cut back marketing spending for the remainder of the year, due to the first-quarter hammering it took in bras and panties.

That follows Target Corp.'s news that undie sales were a first-quarter disappointment, and J.C. Penney's recent announcement that Ambrielle intimates, the chain's biggest private label launch to date, are selling briskly.

Kohl's says it will launch Moments, its first private-brand intimate collection, next month in more than 200 stores and that it will be available chainwide within a year. It also unveiled two new, exclusive intimate-brand collections, daisy fuentes--available in June--and Simply Vera Vera Wang, available in September.

Theoretically, there should be plenty of room for new lines and brands. After all, American women spent $10.8 billion on lingerie in the 12-month period between April 2006 and March 2007, according to NPD Group. That represents a 10.6% increase, with bra sales gaining 11.6% and panties up 4.9%.



But market leader Limited Brands is struggling. It says it expects sales at its Victoria's Secret division to continue to struggle in the months ahead.

Starting with a weak Valentine's Day holiday performance and mall traffic declining 6%, the company cut prices on its bras, panties in its PINK line for young women, and sleepwear. Still, "we missed sales expectations across all segments of the business, including, bras, panties, PINK and Beauty," company executives said in a conference call. "In hindsight, our bra launches lacked enough differentiation and newness."

The company also said it "will reduce our marketing spend in the remainder of the year" and focus on "growing market share through critical bra launches" such as its new Very Sexy 100-way bra, a strapless convertible bra.

"It's off to a good start," the company says, but added that it now expects May comparable-store sales to be "in the negative low single-digit range, versus previous guidance for positive low single-digit comps."

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