No timetable has been revealed for the expansion, but the retailer is talking to ad agencies and other marketing communications shops, and staffing up its in-house marketing department. Currently, The Limited only has on its roster one outside ad agency, Tarlow Advertising, New York. The retail giant handles the rest of its advertising in-house.
VICTORIA'S SECRET A MODEL
Edward G. Razek, credited with shifting The Limited's Victoria's Secret stores from a promotion-driven marketing strategy to one focused on brand image, was recently named president of the newly created Limited Brand & Creative Services operation. In that role, Mr. Razek said he will pump up marketing spending to develop each of The Limited's specialty retail chains into a unique brand.
"There is not a brand in our portfolio that cannot be as vivid as Victoria's Secret," Mr. Razek said. The Limited will develop "a significant presence on an ongoing basis," spending on marketing as much as 2% by division based on sales, he said.
The Limited Inc. had revenue of $8.6 billion last year. The retailer operates more than 3,800 stores, primarily in malls. In addition to The Limited and Victoria's Secret, its brands include Bath & Body Works; Structure, a men's clothing store; Express, a fashion shop targeting women in their 20s; Limited Too, a clothing chain for girls ages 8 to 12; tony New York retailer Henri Bendel; Lerner New York, being repositioned to offer affordable designer knock-off clothing for women; Lane Bryant; and Galyan's, a sporting goods chain. The company also has an 84% interest in Abercrombie & Fitch.
A MAJOR TURNAROUND
The planned growth in ad spending marks a major turnaround for The Limited, which spent only $20.6 million in advertising last year-$13 million of that on Victoria's Secret. Most of its chains got little ad support. Spending on The Limited and Express combined was less than $400,000, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
Ad budgets were so tiny, in fact, that one holiday ad for Express was filmed on the lawn of Limited Chairman Leslie Wexner, who likes to call himself the Walt Disney of specialty retailing.
"I've always suspected Les Wexner hated advertising as much as he hated [rival retailer] The Gap," said Alan Millstein, editor, Fashion Network Report. "Elimination of the Neanderthal thinking about advertising is a major change in marketing strategy."
Mr. Razek, 49, who started in marketing as a copywriter for a small Ohio ad agency, said The Limited will continue to work with Victoria's Secret's agency, Tarlow. But the company will also be seeking other marketing specialists to build each chain's brand image and apply that positioning to everything from garment hang tags to media plans.