Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Spanking the recession blues

February 4, 2009

thisone1Not even the winds of recession can keep women from spending money on Spanx, says Sara Blakely, the designer who dreamed up the slimming shapewear that counts Oprah among its loyal fans.  

“In a tough economy, Spanx sales go up,” Blakely told Reuters at the FEMMY Gala at Cipriani on Tuesday night, where she received the Innovation of the Year award from the Underfashion Club. 

“It’s a relatively inexpensive item and it makes women feel better.  Any ‘feel good’ items for women in a recession” will sell, said Blakely, whose products are found in major department stores and online for about $28 to $72 each.

U.S. consumers have cut back dramatically on apparel purchases in the bleak economy, though many retail watchers acknowledge that women aren’t willing to sacrifice some key items — lipstick comes to mind – as they trim higher-priced merchandise off their shopping lists.

Spanx Inc — owned 100 percent by Blakely — rang up about $350 million in retail sales in 2008. That’s not bad for a company she started in 2000 in her apartment with $5,000 in savings and no fashion or retail experience. Her inspiration?

“I didn’t like the way my own butt looked in white pants and that started it all,” said Blakely, who may be her own best walking and talking advertisement.

Looking svelte in a little black dress, she let slip her secret: “I’m five months pregnant and I’m wearing my Mama Spanx” control panties. “And of course, I’ve got on my Bra-llelujah! It’s molded cups with underwire and the straps, the rest, all pantyhose, so you don’t get ‘back fat.’”

Hallelujah indeed. Cue up the Handel on your iPods, girls.

(Photo courtesy of Spanx)

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