(Filed Under wholesale Lingerie News). A conservative, slow-but-steady approach at Elegant Moments, one that focuses on keeping customers happy, has meant sales increases each and every year all through the last decade. Then came 2010. In a wide-ranging interview, president Gene Newton discussed company philosophy and history, and revealed how even this year has turned out to be a winner despite some early signs of disaster.
“All of 2000 to now we have had a little increase or a hefty increase or double digit increases every year," Newton said. “We were doing okay in the spring. Then we got clobbered in the summer. June was not good. July was not good. But it just so happens that August was the second best we ever had. Why?”
For one, the company’s line of costumes “finally” took off, “and we did ship a lot of customers. And we reached acceptance with a lot of costume retailers. We are slowly making some nice inroads in the costume business, and it proved itself in August.” (Newton admitted that the company has actually been making costumes for some time, but “we never marketed them to the costume people.” Now they are).
Another big help for the company this year was its relatively new line of Hearts boxed lingerie. Hearts was “a savior during the bad months we had. Hearts was up 60 percent while hanging lingerie was way down. It was selling like pop corn at a carnival.”
Completing the turnaround this year, was the success of the company’s latest catalog. “People have told us it was, by far, the best catalog we ever did.”
“We were a close out company back in the early nineties,” explained Newton, as he described the modest beginnings the company. “In 1991 we got call waiting. In ‘92 we added a second line. Then, as this evolved through the ‘90’s,” he continued, “we bought closeouts from everybody. Leg Avenue to Shirley and everyone in between. In the late ‘90’s we started manufacturing our own lingerie.” Shortly after 2000, the company “stopped buying closeouts totally. We decided to fly solo and see what happened.”
As sales steadily rose, the lingerie executive continued, the launch of their own legwear was a “watershed moment for the company, because we sell a lot of hose and it is all ours.” One interesting note is that the company recently re-designed their packaging, spending spent a lot of extra on photography so that it could show, on the outside of every package, not just the style of hose but also the color of the hose inside. “That cuts down on returns tremendously. That has been a big deal.”
Another dramatic moment in the company’s growth was “when we started making our own leather. We started to manufacture our own in 2004, and now we do considerably more than when we distributed” garments made by others. The increase in volume is “probably triple” what it had been in the past. The company’s new Hearts collection of boxed lingerie has proven to be another engine of growth.
The final two growth centers for the company have been the Internet and international business. “Our internet business went from 10 or 15 percent, to 40 percent” of the company’s volume said Newton. “Our international business is “growing by leaps and bounds, and we do not have an international distributor. Because they rape people.” In the past couple of years, he admitted, sales in the international market, which had peaked at about “18 percent of business, is now down to 14 percent of our business, because I think the rest of the world is more screwed up than we are!”
Overall, Newton credits his cautious approach. “We don’t go out on a limb a lot of times. Everything is paid for. We own the building. We have no outstanding debts. We refuse to take risks. We are going to grow the way we are going to grow.”
Looking ahead, Newton is optimistic about the rest of the year. “For some reason I have a gut feeling we are going to have a good third quarter and fourth quarter. If we had been talking in July, you would have to keep sharp objects from me.”
Costumes were particularly strong for the company this year, despite it’s recent emphasis on that sector. “Any time you are a Johnny-come-lately it will be a little more difficult. This year we have been making some nice inroads. We are looking forward to the December meetings. We are looking forward to Houston. Next year we are going to double our costume business. I can tell by the number of people we are shipping this year. I would be disappointed if we did not have a 50 percent increase, just because of the feedback we have had.”
As Halloween approached, Newton added, “We were flying in costumes. We made very little money,” on some costumes, as a result, he admitted. “But we felt obligated to the people. We don’t want to disappoint the people,” he said of his costume retailers. “Some people over-sold their products,” he added, and are disappointing customers this season.
“Customers are taking us to the mountaintop,” he summed up. “I am optimistic. At least in the short term, things will keep cracking. I the next six months we are going to be okay.” One new and noticeable aspect of the business is the number of players, he added. “We have a lot more competition now. But competition is the best thing for me. It stops you from getting complacent. I don’t care if there are another 50 companies here. If you treat them [your customers] right, they are going to buy from you.”
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