Specialty stores have been stealing customers from department stores for years. But as they begin to branch out, these boutiques are going after each other.
Two divisions of Limited Inc. are rapidly expanding into bath products. Last year the Victoria's Secret lingerie chain opened 127 free-standing and in-store Bath Shops. They have the same romantic image as the lingerie stores. Now Limited chief executive Les Wexner says he will push to have 300 shops, with sales of $300 million, by the mid1990S.
Express, a clothing chain, already has 116 Bath & Body Works shops. They are positioned to compete with The Body Shop, a British chain known for its green image. Bath & Body Works stores sell products that are environmentally friendly and do not involve animal testing. The stores also have a recycling program for empty containers. Wexner says he plans to open 500 of these units, with $200 million in sales, by mid-decade.
Department stores largely have ignored the booming bath business, leaving the $12 billion market to boutiques like The Body Shop. In fiscal 1990 the chain had sales of $143 million worldwide.
The Limited, meanwhile, is not expected to stop its expansion at toiletries. Industry observers say the company plans to open accessory shops as well.