Brands like Victoria's Secret, Hot Topic, Urban Outfitters and Justice are cashing in on the growing demand among middle school and high school girls for intimate apparel.
A decade ago girls had little choice in underwear; a training bra was often a plain garment bought at Target. No longer. “Sensuality and body image continues to be a message that young girls are seeing and are being exposed to in a much less controlled fashion perhaps than even 10, 12 years ago,” says Dan Stanek, executive vice president at consultancy Big Red Rooster. They’re aiming to imitate the lingerie styles worn by celebrities seen on the Web, he says.
Retailers are taking care to present the garments as cute vs. sexy, says Marcie Merriman, founder of consultancy PrimalGrowth. Still, the reality is that stores are “all going to say they’re targeting 18- to 22-year-olds, but the reality is you’re going to get the younger customer,” says Merriman.
Victoria’s Secret (part of Limited Brands) was among the first to tap the market, introducing Pink in 2004. The sub-brand is geared toward college girls, with logoed goods and brightly colored bras and panties. “When somebody’s 15 or 16 years old, what do they want to be?” Stuart Burgdoerfer, Limited Brands’ chief financial officer asked at a conference last month. “They want to be older, and they want to be cool like the girl in college, and that’s part of the magic of what we do at Pink.” Sales of lingerie for younger women are a $1.5 billion-a-year business for Victoria Secret's Pink line.