(Filed Under wholesale Lingerie News). BODY publisher Nick Monjo discussed new directions with Leg Avenue COO Mike Tsai, as that company explores a variety of new directions and readies itself for its first Magic show in years.
MONJO: Leg Avenue has grown rapidly over the past several years. Looking ahead, in terms of product categories, where will the new growth for the company come from? Mainstream costumes (as opposed to sexy)? Kids costumes? Mainstream lingerie?
TSAI: Innovation has always been and will remain a top priority within Leg Avenue. We don’t like to look at specific product categories to drive our growth, but prefer to think that innovation is the catalyst that will drive growth in every category we choose to be in. Since the beginning we have built our business on the idea that we can deliver a very high quality product with innovative design that truly resonates with our female consumers. Growth in our industry comes from understanding the trends and being able to deliver on those ideas consistently and efficiently. Every category that you have mentioned (mainstream costumes, kids costumes and mainstream lingerie) all offer opportunities for growth for those companies that can consistently deliver innovative design that people love.
MONJO: Are you considering other areas of apparel, outside of costumes, hosiery and lingerie?
TSAI: We have looked at other areas of apparel likes shoes and accessories but only in the context of how it fits in with our current brand. Leg Avenue has engaged an outside agency to look holistically at the brand and we are currently reviewing all of our options including additional areas of apparel and opportunities for growth. We need to establish the Leg Avenue brand story in the minds of our consumers and see how additional opportunities fit in with that story.
MONJO: Your team has talked about the great potential of international growth. Where does that stand right now? What percentage of Leg’s business is outside the U.S.? In three years what will the percentage be?
TSAI: Leg Avenue is excited by the opportunities for international growth. We have always considered ourselves a multinational company and see tremendous potential in markets outside of the U.S.
MONJO: What are the main areas for international growth? Europe? Mideast? What about South America, Africa, China?
TSAI: All of these markets are potential markets for growth. Each one of them has a unique set of opportunities as well as challenges. Again, innovation and establishing a clear message of what the Leg Avenue brand story and communicating that message clearly is my top priority for any market that we choose to be in.
MONJO: Leg Avenue recently has been trying different U.S. trade shows. You have now moved out of both Curve and ILS and are trying Magic. What is the reasoning behind these moves?
TSAI: Leg Avenue is first and foremost a fashion brand. More than “moving out” of any particular show, we felt that our brand has evolved to the point where we could now utilize a new forum such as the Magic Show to communicate the Leg Avenue story to an entirely new set of customers that don’t know who we really are and what we do.
MONJO: The ‘sexy’ costume business, especially on the East Coast, has been tough for the past couple of years. Does that mean the category has lost its momentum forever? Do you expect it to bounce back in future years? If so when? And what do you see as the various forces that are guiding the future of sexy costumes?
TSAI: The economy has taken its toll on everyone. The challenges that all of us face in the apparel industry has been felt as a whole and has created a new world in which we need to continuously innovate and reinvent the way that we approach old business models. Our costume business is one of our most important business lines and I foresee future growth in the very near future. Our brand and costume business go beyond “sexy”- we’ve always been about delivering innovative design that women love. Only those companies that understand and embrace the importance of establishing a “true brand” will survive in the future “sexy” costume business.
MONJO: What do you say about the moves by some retailers to “go direct” to overseas suppliers for costumes and lingerie? What impact does that have on business today? And where is it going?
TSAI: This is a slippery slope for retailers. While “going directly” to overseas suppliers for costumes and lingerie can provide some short-term savings in the minds of certain retailers, it is not a sustainable business model in the long run. Ultimately, the costume and lingerie business is not a “commodity” business that is driven by price. Fresh design, innovation and the ability to know what trends matter is at the heart of our business, it is after all a “Fashion business”. At Leg Avenue we pride ourselves on the ability to lead, we create beautiful things that resonate with women on various levels. Retailers that choose to “go direct” to suppliers don’t understand that women relate to brands and what they stand for versus looking at specific products at a lower price points. We know that Leg Avenue is a brand that women know and relate to and they have certain expectations in terms of quality, fashion and how our products make them feel that can’t be “copied” and delivered by a supplier that is just providing a basic commodity.
MONJO: Will Leg Avenue be licensing more brands, movies and characters for its costume business in the future? Or less?
TSAI: Yes, we are spearheading our efforts to expand and broaden the Leg Avenue portfolio of brand partnerships as well as grow our current licensing program. In doing so, one initiative is keeping a close eye on the lifestyle and fashion category. Our focus has and will be on securing global licensing partnerships with high-growth capabilities for motion pictures (live-action/animation), gaming, music, classic properties, television/cable, comics, pop culture and more.
The key licensing factor for Leg Avenue is to grow our business by maximizing our current and future properties, identifying their unique points of interest and connecting with fans and consumers. Our Creative Design Team always seems to amaze me with the creative ways to differentiate our line of costumes ensuring they are represented with our retail partners and customers.
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