(Filed Under wholesale Lingerie News). BODY publisher Nick Monjo asked Anita’s Steven Bernstein about the German company’s steady expansion in the U.S. market in recent years.
MONJO: Over the past few years, the impression is that sales of Anita in the USA have grown significantly. Can you describe the extent of this growth? Have sales risen 10%, 20% in the past four years? Expand on this.
BERNSTEIN: Clearly the reputation of Anita has grown within our industry over the past few years, along with sales volume. Due to the privately-held family business structure, protocol prohibits quoting detailed-stats, but I will say that our distribution AND turnover has increased steadily since my tenure began in 2009. The boutiques and key-accounts (department stores and internet groups) have taken notice and Anita is currently an integral part of their assortment across all our lines: Maternity, Active/Sport, Rosa Faia (Fashion full-cup), Comfort (Large band), and CARE (Post Surgical Bras and silicone breast forms). Our goals are measured-growth AND selective distribution, as we see our retailers as partners who identify with the value-proposition of selling the Anita Brand in the USA.
This growth is directly attributed to our commitment to FIT and QUALITY, as we own the entire process from design to manufacturing to distribution. As we are all aware, the above business model is rare in this era of out-sourcing, yet it allows Anita to control the crucial aspects of QC and timely-delivery.
MONJO: What kind of adjustments have you and the Anita team in Germany made that have helped in this expansion. Talk separately about both the design and fashion aspects as well as other business practices that have helped in this expansion.
BERNSTEIN: When I came-aboard in 2009, the line was viewed as traditional and basic, but I will say that the German design-team, with the support of our ownership, has added fashion to the mix, which has given us the “seasonality” that is more common in USA. For example, European boutiques can take-in new designs or colors in November as easily as August, whereby it becomes a challenge to obtain open-to-buy dollars at this time of year in the States. In other words, our rhythm of delivery has been contoured to the North American market schedule, making our line easier to buy in current years.
A prime example of this is swimwear. Anita now offers a full range of swimsuits and accessories mirroring our brands in the bra-assortment, available for delivery in September (Cruise) and maintaining stock through the Spring. We also offer year-round styles so that retailers in any month can offer swimwear that reflects proven silhouettes in basic color-palettes.
MONJO: It seems the Anita has really made a pro-active effort to make changes to fit better and sell better in the U.S. Please comment and expand on this. How different is the product line in Germany, for example, than what American consumers are offered?
BERNSTEIN: The fit and design of our line is consistent worldwide, I would say the only aspects truly unique to the U.S.A. market revolve around the strength of nude-tones versus white, as the dominant basic color in Europe. The stats are clear that our nude selling mirrors white in the EU countries, so I will again state that our Bavarian parent company has recognized our need for this basic element, and our current line reflects this focus in almost every group across the brand. In general, our line is so large that my task is to identify and stock the styles I believe will retail in U.S.A., as we have to LDP each item, and stand by our selection. In this way, we operate the U.S.A. distribution much like our retail partners, as once the gods are landed, we own them.
MONJO: What is your argument to those retailers who have not yet brought Anita into their stores in the U.S.? What sets Anita apart -- and why buy it?
BERNSTEIN: Great question! The successful groups in our domestic range compliment the retail-assortment already entrenched at the store-level. My career has always been niche-oriented, coming from medium-size private firms, so to duplicate or imitate does little, unless a company competes on price, and Anita uses the highest-quality fabrics, molding technology, components, and trim. Thereby the value-proposition is never the lowest-price, nor should it be when Anita’s primary focus is making the best bras in the world. Every retail-partner, from the smallest boutique to the largest department-stores, have all started judiciously with our brand, but quickly watched the selling showcase our brand’s viability to the consumer, the ultimate challenge.
MONJO: Where is the manufacturing done?
BERNSTEIN: Anita owns manufacturing facilities in Austria, Portugal, Czech Republic, Myanmar, and two factories in Thailand. With many fabrics the exclusive property of Anita across the many lines, it makes sense to control the quality from design to distribution.
MONJO: What is it about the Anita philosophy of production and design that makes it appealing to such a large number of American consumers.
BERNSTEIN: FIT FIT FIT!!! I can get into the current homogenous methodology of attempting to cookie-cutter the sizing-issues, but for decades I have been trained and believe the Anita team embraces the diversity AMONG companies, WITHIN companies, not to mention the various silhouettes that exist, i.e., seamless, cut-and-sewn, banded/bandless, etc., and if each company adhered to a single “standard”, how would we, as an industry, be able to fit the vast array of women throughout the planet???? I will finish my “soap-box” tangent with this phrase: EMBRACE THE DIVERSITY, IT’S WHAT MAKES OUR INDUSTRY GREAT.
Back to FIT…Anita’s benchmark of the last 127 years, all starts with fitting many sizes in prototype phase, unique-grading based on the style and silhouette involved, in order to maximize the amount of consumers who will achieve the optimal fit. Anita and I share the philosophy: FIT is immediate, recognizing many of the quality-aspects is longer-term with respect to durability, maintaining the proper-fit, even after many washings/wearings. Again, our customers typically are not rotating 10-15 bras, they tend to wear what fits, DAILY, and therefore quality is found in consistent fit over the life of the product.
MONJO: Comment about the Anita approach and design and the expansion in the plus size and large cup market in the USA.
BERNSTEIN: Another strength is our expanding cup-sizes, coupled with small band offerings. In many styles we start at 30 band and go to H cup, (Maternity to J-cup) so when we recognize (or are asked) to expand or change our sku’s, owning our own manufacturing allows us to react to market shifts and/or expansion in a timely manner. Anita is also one of the rare firms that design products for larger-band consumers needing smaller cups. This is as challenging as the full-cup aspect of bra-engineering.
MONJO: Looking ahead, what are some of the important things that we in the U.S. can expect from Anita in 2014 and 2015.
BERNSTEIN: One of our many innovative developments is to be able to mold a “spacer” fabric to H-cup moving forward. A strategic advantage to be sure, especially when we are told by outsourced spacer-suppliers that it cannot be done. This addition will represent another unique offering from Anita that every bra-retailer should stock…because it contours, shapes, breathes, AND showcases our commitment to innovation.
Additionally, our active business continues to grow, based on fit and design-attributes, along with proprietary fabrics that offer exclusivity to a generic-marketplace. At better price-points, Anita is always providing value, which justifies the price-level. Maternity is consistently an area where the consumer “finds” the Anita brand, and we will continue to provide the best nursing-experience, at any price.
MONJO: Please provide any other comments about Anita and the US market that you feel are important.
BERNSTEIN: Anita uniquely satisfies the needs of U.S. consumer by addressing fit as her priority, throughout all stages of life, from nursing to active to fashion to “everyday”, and if a post-surgical need arises, we also provide the pinnacle of bras and breast-forms for this category as well. Within the fashion-world where price drives a race-to-the-bottom, Anita stands for designing, manufacturing, and distributing the best bras and swimwear in the world.
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