(Filed Under wholesale Lingerie News). The number of Intimacy lingerie stores in the U.S. has dropped to 15 after approaching 20 in 2012, but there are plans to open four new door in the years ahead.
Parent company Van de Velde admitted in its 2013 annual report “We were unable to reverse the decline of Intimacy and generate new growth in 2013” adding that the retail chain “had not moved into growth by late 2013/early 2014” and that “This has led to the closure of the shops in Dallas, Los Angeles and Detroit, and a stronger focus on New York.”
But Van de Velde, which controls other retail chains in Europe and owns the brands Marie Jo, PrimaDonna and Andres Sarda, has not given up on the U.S. It says it expects to open one new Intimacy store each year from 2014 through 2017. That would bring the total (assuming no more closings) to about where the number was at its peak. (A request from an Intimacy executive to clarify the exact number of Intimacy stores at peak had not be answered as we went to press).
As Van de Velde opned Intimacy stores here, it also dramatically increased the percentage of its own lingerie brands at Intimacy. For example, in the 2009 annual report it noted “The market share of the Van de Velde brands at Intimacy increased from 26% in 2007 to 35.5% in 2009.” And in early 2013 Van de Velde chairman Lucas Laureys said, during an explanation of the firm’s results, “The market share of the Van de Velde brands within Intimacy has doubled since the alliance was formed in early 2007.”
But as Intimacy’s problems persisted, the chairman repeatedly insisted that increasing the percentage of Van de Velde products (as well as tightening Van de Velde management over the chain) was part of the solution not the problem. In his introduction to the current annual report, Laureys declared that by 2009, well into the troubled expansion, “it had become apparent that the right product and the right concept were not enough and that there were serious shortcomings in the experience of individual consumers in store. Over recent years it has become clear that rectifying the situation will not be easy and we still have a long way to go. But we are gradually making progress and we are learning from our experience.”
Today, the Intimacy website lists 15 stores: two in Manhattan, one in Garden City on Long Island, two in Chicago, one in San Diego and one in Orange County in California, and one each in Atlanta, Washington, Boston, Houston, Miami, Scottsdale, New Jersey and Philadelphia.
Intimacy was founded by Susan Nethero in 1992 when she opened the first store in Atlanta’s Phipps Plaza. By the end of 2009, according to that year’s annual report, “Intimacy had nine stores (two in New York and one each in Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, Miami, Houston, Dallas and San Diego), which together generated annual turnover of 28 million dollars. The goal is to turn Intimacy into a 20- to 25-store business.” By the end of 2010 there were 13 stores and in the 2011 annual report the company predicted “18 or 19 stores will be open by the end of 2012.”
In the current annual report, Van de Velde detailed its plans for Intimacy. “We were unable to reverse the decline of Intimacy and generate new growth in 2013, although that was our intention in May 2012. If we are to gain the trust of consumers we need to create a welcoming, engaging environment in the shops and we do not currently do that well enough. It is very clear that we are not quite delivering the perfect consumer journey. With that in mind, in mid 2013 we launched the Consumer Board, an initiative in which over a hundred consumers continually give their views on the concept and suggest improvements. The resulting consumer journey is the central concept in training, work and recruitment. Our culture must be fully focused on the perfect consumer experience.” According to the company, things are beginning to improve. “ Turnover in the second half of the year was clearly better than in the first half of the year, but it remained below par. Intimacy is cash flow positive thanks to the large market share of the Van de Velde brands.”
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