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February 15, 2013

Teen lingerie luring ever-younger girls

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NEW YORK —

Victoria's Secret was among the first to tap the market, introducing Pink in 2004. The sub-brand is geared toward college girls, with sweatshirts emblazoned with university sports team logos and brightly-colored bras and panties. Limited Brands is opening freestanding Pink stores and adding more of the merchandise to Victoria's Secret locations.

The brand, while shopped by a variety of ages, is a hit with younger customers and working to lure more. At the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show in November, the company hired teen heartthrob Justin Bieber to perform during a segment showcasing Pink merchandise.

"When somebody's 15- or 16-years-old, what do they want to be?" Stuart Burgdoerfer, chief financial officer of the Columbus, Ohio-based company, said at a conference in Miami 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."

Teen retailer American Eagle, which introduced its $250 million Aerie intimates brand in 2006, is also betting on the category, opening more stores alongside namesake locations and expanding online. It's leveraging pop culture as a marketing tool, as well. Last month, the Pittsburgh-based company said it hired Jenn Rogien, the costume designer for HBO's "Girls," as Aerie's style and fit expert for six months.

American Eagle, which had 154 Aerie stores as of Oct. 27, started carrying more bras, underwear and loungewear in the past couple of years while cutting back on broader apparel.

"It has been timely because you do see this as a growing category in the industry for sure," Jennifer Foyle, Aerie's senior vice president of global merchandising, said in a telephone interview from Hong Kong, where she was traveling for business.

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