||This article contains content that is written like an advertisement. (September 2010)|
|Founded||January 21, 2008|
|Defunct||(Retail Stores Q1 2014)Online Retailer|
|Headquarters||New Albany, Ohio, U.S.|
Number of locations
|Mike Jeffries (CEO)|
|Revenue||US$ 40.283 million (2010)|
|Owner||Abercrombie & Fitch|
Gilly Hicks is a lifestyle brand, from American company Abercrombie & Fitch, specializing in women's underwear. Marketed for the female consumers of its parent brand, Gilly Hicks is officially labeled as "the Cheeky cousin of Abercrombie & Fitch." All 28 Gilly Hicks stores worldwide are closed by the end of Q1 2014. Gilly Hicks branded intimates will continue to be sold via Hollister Co stores.
The brand was the fifth from A&F, and was initially known as Concept 5. The Australian theme of Gilly Hicks was originally inspired by the phrase "Down Under". In saying, it is the only brand from Abercrombie & Fitch with a non-American image. Gilly Hicks is primarily set to compete with large lingerie chains Victoria's Secret, Frederick's of Hollywood and Aerie.
Like his other Abercrombie & Fitch brands, Michael Jeffries created a story to give more depth and meaning to the image of Gilly Hicks, wrapping together all the elements of the concept in an enticing manner.
The story centers around a fictional English woman, the eponymous Gilly Hicks. Jeffries has his female character, supposedly "born and raised" in England, moving to Paris to study fashion design in her 20's. The fictional Hicks family later emigrates to Sydney, Australia. From France, Gilly follows suit and arrives in Sydney where "she [feels] an instant connection with the culture [and]...her spirited nature [thrives]." In 1932, Gilly opens an underwear shop within her family's 'British colonial-style manor house' in Sydney's Rose Bay neighborhood. The story states that she found success making "comfortable bras" while helping women feel "confident and sexy", and that women flocked from all over Australia to be fitted into and to purchase Gilly's bras and spend time in her house hearing her jokes and stories of travel. After two generations, Gilly's granddaughter returns in modern day to reopen the "renovated" original store in the Hicks' home.
The story is not meant to be taken seriously, but to be enjoyed and to give the shopper a fantasy to live in store. A&F markets the Gilly Hicks brand as "Australian" and being "established" in 1932, and the year is found on GH goods. The stores are designed as a home with multiple rooms, and an idealized "portrait" of the fictitious Gilly hangs in the stores.
Critics argue that the story merely makes the brand fake. There is nothing Australian about it at all, just like its creator Mike Jeffries who prides in American casual fashion. A&F Careers calls the brand American with "Sydney sensibility." Nevertheless, the fabricated Australian image is being used as a factor to attract customers and it is working. The first location outside of the United States opened at Westfield London in Autumn 2010. A second Store opened in the Shopping Center CentrO of Oberhausen in Germany.
The idea for Gilly Hicks was inspired by the phrase "Down Under." Development phase began in 2005. By 2006 reports of a "Concept Five" from Abercrombie & Fitch began to circulate on the Internet. However A&F remained tight-lipped on their future brand. Furthermore A&F began to trademark the Gilly Hicks name and sea-related logos in the United States and in the United Kingdom. The August Trademarks Journal reported that the UK trade marking was under four 'classes' including footgear, headgear, intimate apparel and imitate apparel accessories, athletic wear and athletic wear accessories, swimwear and swimwear accessories, fashion accessories, bags, fragrances and jewelry. Furthermore, the names "Gilly Hicks" and "Gilly Hicks: Sydney" were filed for protection by A&F, including prototype logos encompassing conch shells, nautilus, scallops, and sand dollars (with the sea shell seen as the potential final logo). By October 2, 2007, select Hollister Co. stores began to promote Gilly Hicks through beauty products.
In the end of 2007, the brand's official homepage was launched as a promotional website, featuring a sepia toned promotional image of five men and one woman, all in underwear. By December 26, 2007, the site was made restricted to underage visitors because of its only feature, a racy promotional film.
When it came to store locations, Tom Lennox from A&F stated that "having a 'portfolio' of strong brands strengthens Abercrombie's hand when negotiating with mall landlords for space." During the expansion of the upscale wing of Natick Mall, A&F's Concept Five was the first to be arranged an opening on the newly revamped level. Employees for the future opening location were required under company policy not to divulge any information they had on the brand to the press or any other entity. They were not even allowed to view the merchandise until two weeks before opening. An employee mentioned before the opening that "Abercrombie & Fitch has done jeans and sweatshirts... The Abercrombie girl needs something for underneath."
Opening and reception
On January 21, 2008, the first Gilly Hicks store opened (measuring 10,000 sq ft (930 m2)) in the upscale wing of Natick Mall with high anticipation. Abercrombie & Fitch analysts were exclusively invited to the event, where Mike Jeffries introduced the brand. He called GH "the Cheeky cousin of Abercrombie & Fitch".
After the event, analysts came out very impressed with the brand's image and merchandise. Analyst Kimberly C. Greenberger enjoyed the "warm and inviting store entrance," the GH bras collection, and called Gilly Hicks's image "cute and sweetly sexy." She further said that Gilly Hicks is a more "wholesome" alternative to Victoria's Secret and that "mothers would not mind taking their 15 year-olds to Gilly Hicks to shop."
After the event, the store became the target of interest for many shoppers. Anticipation that was built before the opening was displayed as the store became full of customers. Center officials of Natick reported an extensive line of customers outside the GH doors that went well into the afternoon.
A retail analyst named Chris Boring warns that Abercrombie & Fitch's brands are a "little more susceptible" should recession hit, because their specialties are premium-priced goods rather than necessities.
Four days after the opening, the Australian newspaper, The Sydney Morning Herald published that GH coincidentally opened three months before the opening of Just Group's Peter Alexander (an underwear store). However, its CEO stated that GH will not be a competition, as both brands offer underwear to a completely different consumer group. The CEO was also curious on A&F's interpretation of Australia as a theme for an underwear store.
A total of 5 locations were open by the end of February. In months Gilly Hicks proved to very successful, gaining a great follow-up of customers from the Northeast and Midwest of the United States. The brand began expansion in the West coast on July 19, 2008, with the opening of an 11,000sqft store in Glendale, California's Americana at Brand. Although 16 stores were planned to open in 2008, only 13 did.
Website and marketing
Gillyhicks.com first launched as a promotional website. This marketing technique was first implemented on RUEHL No.925 from 2004-2007. The brand launched its online store on January 28, 2009.
The same sexual marketing tactics used for the Abercrombie & Fitch brand are also implied on Gilly Hicks marketing. It is considered a "fine line between sexy and soft-core porn." Mike Jeffries has stated that A&F is all about sex, and Gilly Hicks is the perfect concept to embody this aspect through exposing "a lot of skin" in its advertising. Photography is shot by Bruce Weber who does all other A&F brands' photography. Weber has a history of sexually provocative imagery, most notably for Calvin Klein underwear. Unlike most marketing for female-exclusive brands, men also are included to appeal to heterosexual women. The marketing photos are rendered to Sepia tone.
The catchphrase "Down Undie(s)", which is a play on "Down Under", also plays a key role in advertisement. GH sent out emails to its subscribers titled Welcome Down Undie and saying "[...] check back [...] to [...] see what we're working on Down Undie."
Gilly Hicks's first marketing film was restricted to over-age viewers. The film featured a large assortment of topless women parading around the beach and home, as well as swimming, in panties. Scenes of naked men, interacting with the women, were scattered around the video as well. The video made a splash on the internet and received much publicity. Ohio State University marketing professor H. Rao Unnava said that "it was like watching a Playboy movie."
The second marketing film made its debut in late July 2008. It focuses on a young woman who goes horseback riding, attends a Sydney café, enjoys the beach in panties (and bra this time), and sketches a nude male with whom she also flirts around. The only explicit imagery is an instance with her silhouetted/shadowed breasts and a see-through bra.
Both films are directed by John Urbano, who also does the films for all other Abercrombie & Fitch brands. In early 2009, a third film debuted which is a somewhat return to the raciness of the first film.
In store, Gilly Hicks brand representatives mention a lot about a "boy-girl tension" with the clothing (and other elements). The character of the merchandise is casual with boyish hints (hence the "boy-girl tension"). Indeed, A&F Careers sums up the merchandise as "classic and vibrant with a little tomboy sexiness." The mix of masculine and feminine design touches extends the store's theme of 'boy-girl tension' which carries over to the design of some of the 'boy style' cotton panties and tank tops," mentioned Vice President of GH. Gilly Hicks merchandise is priced to be affordable to Abercrombie & Fitch shoppers. Cotton underwear sells for $11.50 USD while lace bras are priced at $49.50 USD.
|Look up Appendix:Australian English terms for clothing in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
Similar to how Hollister Co. apparel is named after SoCal beaches, GH clothing and fragrance is named after Sydney-neighboring beaches and neighborhoods. All clothing is tagged with a GH label reading "Gilly Hicks / Sydney."
Items were categorized into six areas:
- The Bra Library
- Hundreds of bras of 40 different styles were placed on display on dark cherry wood shelves in the "Bra Library."
- Down Undies
- This encompassed bloomers, thongs, "skinny thongs", bikini, and boyshort panties.
- Traditional lace and vintage-looking silk bras, panties, and camis were separately provided in this area.
- Hang Out
- This category included casual wear. It spaned over tops (logo shirts, tanks, hoodies, knits, and sweaters), bottoms (fleeces pants and shorts), sleepwear, dresses, and flip-flops. The denim pocket designs were attributed from A&F's latter brand, RUEHL No.925
- Body Care
- "Scented body" (Body wash, body lotion, hand & body cream, and body mist), "Eucalyptus" make-up (bronzing powder, bronzing brush, body lotion, gradual tan lotion, lip balm, and lip butter), "Lip" (gloss, color, tint, butter, and balm).
- This carried five fragrances named Tamarama, Castlereagh, La Perouse, Kirrawee and Point Piper.
Design and concept
The Gilly Hicks store prototype was designed as a colonial-style manor house. However, the stores resembled more of a combination between that and a beach house. The interior was large with many varying-in-size rooms including fireplaces, chandeliers, and couches. Sofas were shabby-chic, the flooring was oak, and the merchandise tables were of mahogany. Dressing rooms were designed spacious with an antique-styled cabinet filled with an array of sizes of the five anticipated top selling bras. A sign near the cabinet read, "While your top is off, check out our drawers." Stores had unique "Bra Libraries." The bra library at Natick was 200 sq ft (19 m2). In regards to the display of the items, Senior Vice President of Gilly Hicks commented that "the bras [in the Library] are on pegs, not hangers, because it's more irreverent." The "Living Room", which features comfortable sofas, end tables, and other residential furniture, measured at 1,000 sq ft (93 m2). Fragrance, lotions, and bath & body products were kept in glass cases in the center of the "Living Room" Also, the "At Home" area of the store was made to look laid-back and was home to loungewear offerings. Gilly Hicks stores were dimly lit within and loud music was blasted instore (a mix of the genres that play in Abercrombie & Fitch and RUEHL No.925 with and an inclusion of classics from 60s, 70s, 80s such as Michael Jackson, The Carpenters, and The Bangles).
The first four stores opened measure at 10,000 sq ft (930 m2), encompassing a dozen rooms. However, an 11,000sqft location was opened in July 2008 at Americana at Brand. Analysts saw the expense of the stores as a drawback in the expanse of profitability.
Michael McNaughton stated that Abercrombie & Fitch had "created a store that inspires people to want to explore... people shopping for intimate apparel probably enjoy the discreet, closed setting. The lack of windows affords customers privacy, and that fact that the store isn't laid out in one giant room probably goes a long way in making a shopper feel comfortable." (See RUEHL No.925 for economical/customer issues involving no windows.)
In 2008, thirty-nine stores were expected to open by the end of 2010, but due to the economic recession, this did not happen. A&F roughly estimated a long-term potential for 800 Gilly Hicks stores in the United States. A&F CFO Michael W. Kramer said in a conference call with investors that "because our brands are not intended to appeal to everyone, an important characteristic of our business model is that we recognize its limits, how much we can grow each of our brands. We think we can open Gilly Hicks in every place Hollister does." Hollister also has a potential for 800 locations.
From the start (2008), analysts viewed international expansion for the brand as a possibility because all other A&F brands have embarked on that endeavor. The first GH international store opened in the United Kingdom on November 29, in the Westfield London Mall. Gilly Hicks opened their 2nd UK store in the capital city of Wales, Cardiff on the 8th of December 2011. In 2012 the first flagship Gilly Hicks location opened on Regent Street, with a Hollister EPIC store in May 2012. Also on the same date, Gilly Hicks stores opened in Westfield Stratford City, East London & GH Bluewater in Kent and GH Bentall Centre in the Kingston borough of London.
There were no plans for Gilly Hicks to open in Easton Town Center (close to A&F Headquarters) which houses all other A&F brands. It has also been reported by Abercrombie & Fitch employees that the reason Gilly Hicks didn't open a store in the Columbus Metropolitan Area is because former Victoria's Secret designers work for Gilly Hicks. Opening up a store in the region would have been "disrespectful" to the company because Victoria's Secret is a Columbus, OH-based brand and is very popular within the area.
In 2013, there were 28 Gilly Hicks stores, 18 in the US, 6 in the UK and 1 store in Germany.
On November 5, 2013, it was announced that all of the Gilly Hicks retail stores would be shut down by the end of first quarter of 2014. The decision followed declining sales in the U.S. and UK stores.
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