By RACHEL BROWN
LOS ANGELES – ABC Family fans will soon be able to dress like characters from their favorite shows with the Crush by ABC Family apparel and accessories collection launching at Wet Seal in late October.
Manufactured by Van Nuys, Calif.-based Jerry Leigh, the initial Crush by ABC Family collection with 35 stockkeeping units priced from $9.99 to $34.90 follows the wardrobe choices of the characters Callie Foster, Bay Kennish and Lacey Porter on the programs "The Fosters," "Switched at Birth" and "Twisted," respectively. Other ABC Family characters could get the apparel and accessories treatment later on, and Crush by ABC Family is already scheduled for at least six deliveries through August 2014. There will be three collections per delivery with 15 to 30 sku's in each collection.
"We have done a lot of research on this. We had focus groups and receipt surveys. We have a panel that we use for Wet Seal that gives us information about our product, our marketing and what trends are happening every single month. One of the channels that inspires them [Wet Seal shoppers] and that they watch is ABC Family. It is relevant to who they are and what is interesting to them," said John D. Goodman, chief executive officer of The Wet Seal Inc.Goodman also has a pretty good focus group at home, where he has 15-, 13- and 12-year-old daughters who are ABC Family viewers. "I do see what's happening out there," he noted.
ABC Family is cable television's number-one network in prime time for women aged 18 to 34 years old, and the number-two cable TV network for females 12 to 34 years old. "Twisted," "The Fosters" and "Switched at Birth" are the network's three top-rated shows. Soo Koo, vice president of product development, softlines division, at Disney Consumer Products, specified that females aged 16 to 20 or a tad older or younger are in the demographic target for the Crush by ABC Family brand.
"This is definitely a junior consumer. It is a Millennial, lifestyle brand. That age group and the type of girls that shop at Wet Seal are perfect for this concept," said Koo, adding that the target consumers "like the story lines and start appreciating the characters on the shows. I think that's one of the main reasons they gravitate toward them. They relate to the characters' experiences in their real lives and see how those translate in the shows."
Koo explained that the first group of characters chosen for representation in Crush by ABC Family encapsulates different aesthetics. Pieces influenced by Callie Foster, played by Maia Mitchell, have a boho flair and reflect her casual, easy style. They feature earthy colors and classic silhouettes. Pieces influenced by Bay Kennish, played by Vanessa Marano, are meant to bring to life her eclectic tastes and independent spirit. They have edgy silhouettes and dark, romantic prints and graphics, and include moto jackets meant to be worn with brocade print dresses and maxiskirts. Pieces influenced by the popular fashionista Lacey Porter, played by Kylie Bunbury, contain embellishment to spice up a feminine look. Key items are graphic tops to pair with sleek pencil skirts.
Koo emphasized that Crush by ABC Family merchandise will try to incorporate trends that Wet Seal shoppers want to work into their closets and is not merely a bulletin board for ABC Family shows. "It is not about a T-shirt that has characters all over it. Once girls branch into those older-tween, early-teen years, they are moving away from the heavy graphic Ts." Goodman elaborated that Wet Seal would promptly pick up on hot trends to bring into the assortment. "We are very, very fast, and what is exciting about it is we turn our goods seven times a year. Our longest lead time is four months, our shortest is a week. We can work with ABC Family on product that can be in the stores very, very quickly," he said.
Timed to launch before the holiday season, Wet Seal will showcase the Crush by ABC Family merchandise in its windows. Print and digital media campaigns will get the word out about the merchandise as well, with social networks and text promotions being particularly important. On television, ABC Family will run 15-second spots to promote Crush by ABC Family. It's possible characters from ABC Family shows will wear the merchandise on those shows and participate in Crush by ABC Family events.
ABC Family is partnering with Wet Seal at a time when the retailer, which has 464 Wet Seal stores and 61 Arden B. units, is showing positive signs. Wet Seal's net sales in the second quarter ended Aug. 3 rose 1.5 percent to $137 million. Wet Seal's same-store sales were up 3.9 percent, and Arden B.'s climbed 2 percent. E-commerce sales were flat for the period.
Talking about Wet Seal customers, Goodman said, "We are really starting to get her loyalty back. We know she goes to multiple stores, but we are giving her the right product with the right price, and it is resonating."
He continued, "We are at the beginning of a transformation here. We did see improvement in the first quarter, and that continued in the second quarter and we are going to keep building. We feel good about our inventory levels, and our margins are increasing from last year as well."
Avalon Net Worth's CEO, Lynda Davey, was appointed the Chairman of the Board for Wet Seal in October 2012.