(Filed Under wholesale Lingerie News). Over the years, we at BODY, as well as the rest of the industry, watched the Tsai family grow Leg Avenue from a tiny brand to one of the very largest in the lingerie, hosiery and costume arena. Indeed, the Los Angels Times reported sales at the firm had risen to $87 million in 2010.
Recently, various events at the company have led to speculation about its future and direction. In the last couple of years, Leg Avenue changed its trade show schedule, sampling several different events, and most recently choosing not appear at the International Lingerie Show (ILS) the past two Septembers. In the early part of this year, Manuel Da Campo, vice president of sales, who had been at Leg Avenue for three years, departed. And, in mid year, so did Mike Tsai, who had been a leader for over a decade. In May the firm announced its plan to start selling, for the first time, direct to consumers on its own website.
Seeking answers, BODY publisher Nick Monjo interviewed Amy Tsai, the woman now heading the firm. Sister to Mike Tsai, she was at the company from the start and always a key figure.
MONJO: You have been at Leg Avenue from the beginning. How has the company evolved over the years, and what do you see going forward? Are the best years still ahead? And why?
TSAI: I am proud to have been part of the immense growth of Leg Avenue. Thinking back on our evolution from a small hosiery company to where we are today, it’s a testament to what you can achieve when you are willing to work hard and are open to change. I really believe we evolved not only out of necessity, but because we have always been willing to try new things and take chances. Don’t get me wrong, not everything worked, but we dust ourselves off and move on to the next new project.
I am absolutely positive the best has yet to come. There are big changes in the works here at Leg Avenue. From internal changes and restructuring, to the development of new retail strategies, I am looking forward to everything we have set out to accomplish for 2015.
MONJO: Yes, there have been some important changes at Leg Avenue this year; how have they positioned the company going forward?
TSAI: Let me first clear up the rumors. There has been no change in company ownership. The Tsai family continues to be the core that drives Leg Avenue. I have taken over day to day operational management and that has given me a better overall view of the potential Leg Avenue has and affirmed how strong and driven we really are. I am very fortunate to have an amazing team working with me to ensure that we have the structure in place that supports the future direction of Leg Avenue and I look forward to more exciting changes in upcoming year.
MONJO: There are a multitude of choices out there right now for buyers of costumes. What are the top three or four reasons to include Leg Avenue in a costume store? (I am wondering about your take on the importance of originality of aspects like design; long experience in the costume industry; quality of production; reliability of delivery and price.
TSAI: Our costumes are absolutely a must have in stores. Leg Avenue consistently has the best sell-through on adult female costumes. We are the only branded costume line that customers continue to seek out by name. And our design and quality are still among the best in the industry. Despite a few delivery hiccups this year, the feedback has been very good from retailers and customers alike.
MONJO: Can you remind us of some of the past “Bestsellers of All Time” from Leg Avenue? I ask this because each year costumes change, and no one knows what will be the best sellers beforehand. But they know that most suppliers are copiers and followers. But not Leg Avenue.
TSAI: We pride ourselves on being innovative and it’s certainly a challenge every year to try and design that next best seller with so many great costumes out there. Sometimes one just stands out and becomes what we like to call a “magic” costume. While some of our “fan favorites” are long gone, there are some that are still going strong. Our original vinyl cat suit comes to mind as our first big seller, followed by our bee and bug costumes. The Treasure Hunt Pirate with the pink panty was huge! More recently, our Vixen Pirate Wench and Gretchen Costumes have shown no signs of slowing down, but I’m thinking the 2015 line might give them a run for their money.
MONJO: Do you have any overall comments about the rise of private label costumes and their effect on the market. How, as a wholesalers with a major brand, do you compete?
TSAI: While this may be the direction of a few large chain stores, others in the industry-lingerie boutiques, costume stores and fans alike-recognize there is value in the brand. We make a huge effort to continually increase brand awareness and make Leg Avenue a name that customers ask for, so we move forward as we always have with innovative designs and a strong market presence.
MONJO: In the area of lingerie, what are the three or four main reasons to include Leg Avenue in a store?
TSAI: As with costumes, our design and quality continues to be among the best in the industry. We work tirelessly to develop new lines and provide the retailers and customers alike with new items throughout the year. Our line is by far one of the most versatile-from the glamorous and vintage inspired Vixen Collection to our jewel toned Fall & Holiday Catalog, we have a huge assortment of lingerie and hosiery items for customers to choose from. We also have two new lines debuting at the end of the 2014 and early 2015, giving retailers even more options. Keeping things fresh and new is the key and I think we do that very well.
MONJO: Over the past couple of years Leg Avenue has tried several different trade shows: Magic, ILS, Curve. Where so you stand right now as far as your possible show plans for 2015? Any comments, in general, about trade shows and their place in the market?
TSAI: Trade shows have become challenging over the last couple years. Due to the increasing advancements in technology, we are better able to communicate with retailers and reach out to them regularly, through video chat and such. Of course we will make an effort to exhibit at well attended shows, but we can put the money and effort we’d spend on a slow show into reaching out to our customers directly, which I feel is money better spent.
MONJO: What are the three or four most important new directions for Leg Avenue as we head into 2015?
TSAI: We’ve got some exciting projects lined up for 2015! We are working on retail development in Europe, as well as store-within-a-store concepts for the US. We’ll be focusing our efforts on cross marketing and really putting a lot of effort into strengthening the brand.
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