Live From ACCM: LoRe of Frederick’s Brings the Sexy

New Orleans—“The Frederick’s story is really a good one,” said Linda LoRe president/CEO of legendary lingerie and apparel cataloger/retailer Frederick’s of Hollywood on Wednesday at ACCM.

Kicking off her keynote session “Bringing $exy Back: How Frederick’s of Hollywood Transformed And Thrived,”LoRe noted that Frederick’s “brought the glamour of Hollywood into intimate apparel.” But the brand has certainly had its ups and downs.

LoRe, who took to the stage dancing to Justin Timberlake’s “Sexy Back,” said that when she arrived at Frederick’s in July 1999 (from Giorgio Beverly Hills), “the company was broken.” Frederick’s of Hollywood had lost its way, and it needed to rebuild its brand.

“The real critical piece was to separate the operation of the business from restructuring the business,” LoRe said. “So we went back to our roots.”

Founded in 1946 by Frederick Mellinger, Frederick’s of Hollywood actually started out in New York as a mail order marketer of black undergarments; a year later the operation moved to Hollywood. The company, whose achievements include introducing American women to push-up bras, bikinis, and thong underwear, opened its first store in 1952 and went public in 1972.

But in 2000, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. LoRe said the turnaround involved completely repositioning the brand and “Webifying” the direct business. “We also improved the retail store profile,” she added. “We adopted the multichannel approach.”

Exactly how did Frederick’s do that?

When she arrived, LoRe noted, Frederick’s operated under siloed channels and completely different organizations for their stores, catalogs, and Website. “How do we achieve a one eye company?” LoRe said.

First, a new stylized logo was created and prominently displayed across all channels. “We wanted to be sexy, fun, and very tasteful. We really wanted to talk to the customer in the language she understands. Because we are of Hollywood and we have the chance to give people a piece of Hollywood.”

Under LoRe’s leadership, all of Frederick’s of Hollywood’s customer data was consolidated into one multichannel database. Her team began to understand the purchase behavior of customers.

As a result, the company can be more relevant to its customers by knowing and communicating what she wants, when she wants it, and what channel she prefers to shop in. Frederick’s has increased response rates 10%-25% through targeted campaigns.

LoRe said the company conducted a survey of 18,000 people to find out more about what its customers want. “If the consumer isn’t first, then you’re talking to yourself,” she said. Frederick’s of Hollywood’s target customer—“the sexy spender”—is age 18 to 35 and lingerie is “part of her everyday world.”

She is aspirational, LoRe added about the Frederick’s customer, “and loves to look hot and celebrate herself. We really looked into what she is interested in and consolidated the data into one multichannel database.”

What you do with your data is more important than collecting the data, LoRe said. “We married our channels and gave each a chance to speak to the customer.”

LoRe likens her company structure to a basketball team. “Everyone has their position,” she said. “But they all cover each other. Your own sales force is your biggest sale. Motivate yourself, your team, and your consumers.”

Frederick’s of Hollywood, which today has 130 stores and mails more than 20 million books per year, emerged from bankruptcy in January 2003. It seems to be weathering the current downturn just fine: Its net sales for fiscal 2008 rose 17.4%, to $182.2 million, from $155.2 million in fiscal 2007.

What’s more, Frederick’s has taken its brand to new heights. During the past four years, more than 100 celebrities have participated in the company’s Lingerie Art Auction and Fashion Show, making it one of Hollywood’s biggest annual events. “We’re intimately connected to Hollywood,” LoRe said. “Hollywood is where we shine.”

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