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Lee’s New Riders to Arrive In a Local Market Near You: Fallon McElligott Prepares TV, Print Blitz For Apparel Giant’s Move to Mass Merchandisers By Beth Heitzma

MERRIAM, KANSAS – Lee Apparel Co. is riding into mas

Lee has used ‘Rider’ as a product descriptor since the 1930s – as in Relaxed Rider, Easy Rider and Baggy Rider. Now, recognizing changes in retailing, the company is splitting the equity built into the ‘Lee Rider’ name to create two separate brands serving different distribution channels. The Lee brand will be sold only in department stores; the Riders brand was created specifically for regional mass merchandisers.
‘Lee was always a brand caught between distribution channels,’ said Peter Engel, group director for Lee and Riders at Fallon. ‘Lee experienced growth in the ’80s selling to regional discounters at the expense of some department stores. So we were challenged with figuring out a way to help Lee grow in both distribution channels.’
The agency suggested splitting Lee Rider in two, and Riders Apparel director of advertising Melanie Albert said it was an idea that seemed to make a lot of sense. Research confirmed it.
‘Research showed us that we would be starting with a 45% level of awareness for the ‘Riders’ name, which is amazing,’ said Albert.
It was important the regional mass merchandiers didn’t feel abandoned by Lee Co., she said. Mass merchandisers accounted for approximately 52% of all denim sales in 1992, approximately 426 million pairs of jeans, according to Albert. Apparel executives put total sales for the denim/jeanswear apparel industry at approcimately $6 billion.
‘When we initially told the regional retailers what we wanted to do, they were furious,’ Albert said. ‘In many cases the Lee brand would bring customers into their stores so they were very emotionally tied to the brand. We really created this brand with the retailers and their customers in mind and kept the retailers very involved in the process.’
The Riders products are almost identical to the Lee lines, Albert said. The fit is the same, she said, but the finishes, pockets and buttons are different. Packaging and labeling are designed differently, as well.
Fallon and Riders execs believed advertising had to be different from Lee brand advertising that promotes fit.
Three TV spots break July 19 in Midwest and Northeast markets where Riders is being launched. Print ads break in August regional editions of several national magazines. Riders Apparel is spending an estimated $5 million concentrated during back-to-school and holiday selling seasons.
The theme of the campaign is ‘Be yourself.’ Humorous before-and-after TV spots show men and women at first in uncomfortable getups such as a tacky bridesmaid’s dress, a stuffy suit or a trendy bell-bottom outfit. Midway through the spot, ‘How to be yourself,’ flashes on the screen, after which the characters rip off their outfits and don comfy Riders clothing.
The Riders brand clothing started appearing in regional discount stores in May alongside Lee brand apparel. Retailers are encouraged to link the two brands together at point of sale through the end of the year to aid consumer awareness. Chains carrying the brand include Missouri-based Venture; Wisconsin-based ShopKo; Connecticut-based Ames and Caldor; and Massachusetts-based Bradlees and Hills.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)