Shop Talk

Retailers, consumers and prices

Chico’s sexes it up a little

November 18, 2009

phelpsWho says people have to dress frumpy or dowdy in a recession?

Apparently not Chico’s FAS.  The mature women’s chain, which operates Chico’s, White House/Black Market and Soma Intimates chains, has made major strides in making its merchandise more fashionable in the past year, and has been rewarded with stellar results in the third quarter and shares that are up eightfold in the last year.

The move towards trendier– dare we say, sexier – clothes helped sales this autumn  rise 13.3 percent and allowed the chain to win market share while rivals such as Talbots and Clearwater Coldwater Creek continued to struggle. (A year and a half ago, U.S. gold medalist Michael Phelps’ mother Debbie boasted that her Olympics’ wardrobe at the Beijing Games came from Chico’s.)

Chico’s took advantage of Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s glamorous “Fashion Night Out” this fall to open a store in Manhattan’s SoHo district. And last year, the chain won national attention in 2008 when First Lady Michelle Obama wore a dress from a White House/Black Market store during on an appearance on the talk show “The View.”

The firm is apparently not done with its makeover: it is planning to open about 40 new locations of its lingerie chain Soma Intimates in 2010 and offer more risqué items,  Chief Executive Officer David Dyer hinted on a call to analysts on Wednesday.

“We’re making great strides in our merchandise assortment for Soma, not only through our Soma touch and Soma solutions, but we’re also adding a layer of sensual, sexy merchandise that will infuse emotion and excitement back in the brand,” Dyer said.

But he left what, exactly, those new sexy products are to our imagination.

(PHOTO: Michael Phelps and his mother Debbie in Los Angeles July 15, 2009. REUTERS/Danny Moloshok )

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