(Filed Under wholesale Lingerie News). With Abercrombie & Fitch particularly hard hit by the recession and considering dropping it’s worst performing brand, Ruehl, which dropped 34 percent during the recent 1st quarter, the question remains: what is the fate of the company’s newest brand, the lingerie label, Gilly Hicks?
The Aussie-themed Gilly Hicks opened its first store in January 2008 in Natick, Massachusetts at 10,000-square-feet. Now, the brand operates 16 stores nationwide in locations including Glendale, California; Aventura, Florida; Seattle, Washington; and the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota (the Natick flagship store remains open as well).
In Abercrombie’s first quarter report the company stated that it plans to open two Gilly Hicks stores in 2009. This is a far cry from the company’s original plan for Gilly Hicks, which in fall 2008 said it was planning to open 39 Gilly Hicks stores by the end of 2010, and 800 over a 10-year period. As recently as January 2009, BODY reported that Abercrombie’s expansion plan included opening 10 new Gilly Hicks stores in 2009 at a cost of approximately $375 per square foot of retail space.
Gilly Hicks merchandise, which like the Abercrombie & Fitch brand is geared toward the junior market, is primarily made up of casual women’s bras in sizes 32A to 38D and bottoms ranging from approximately $10 to $50. The “bra library” includes about 40 bras in demi, classic, balconette, strapless, soft, racerback, and convertible styles, among others. Bottoms include thongs, knickers, boyshorts and panties made from cotton and lace fabrics. The Gilly Hicks brand also includes camis, dresses, bodycare and fragrances.
When Abercrombie launched Gilly Hicks, founder Mike Jeffries created a fictional story for the brand and dubbed it an “Aussie” brand, unlike the company’s preexisting brands, which all have an “American Classic” theme. The basis of the Gilly Hicks “story” is that an English Girl named Gilly Hicks immigrated to Sydney, Australia, where she opened a lingerie store in a manor house. It is not, of course, a true Australian brand. Some speculate that the Australian slant may have been inspired by the success of the competing lingerie label bearing the name of a true Australian, Elle MacPherson.
In early June the website opened with a startling photo of seven naked young men, all with their backsides to the camera, flanking a single young girl in lingerie. In each outstretched hand the Gilly Hicks girl caresses a naked male buttock. The site is at: www.GillyHicks.com.
Abercrombie & Fitch declined to comment on the company’s plan for Gilly Hicks, but released the following statement:
“Gilly Hicks is the cheeky cousin of Abercrombie & Fitch, inspired by the free spirit of Sydney, Australia. Gilly makes cute bras and underwear for the young, naturally beautiful and always confident girl. Classic and vibrant with a little tomboy sexiness, Gilly never takes herself too seriously. It’s the wholesome, All-American brand with a Sydney sensibility.”
During Abercrombie & Fitch’s recent first quarter ended May 2nd, 2009, the company reported a worse-than-expected sales decline of 30 percent. The company includes the Gilly Hicks, Abercrombie, Abercrombie & Fitch, Hollister and Ruehl brands with 1,125 stores throughout the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
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