Is the lingerie market recession-busting?
The recession saw consumers tightening their belts and cutting back on spending. But kinky shoppers did not stop splashing the cash on sexy underwear as the luxury lingerie market proved recession-busting, the CEO of a luxury British lingerie store told CNBC.
As Agent Provocateur plans to open another five to seven stores this year, CEO Garry Hogarth said the company was well positioned as a global luxury brand to remain strong.
"I think we are pretty protected being in the luxury sector. Sales this year were 12 percent up like-for-like as we were last year. So it seems that it's working. I think the fact that we are a global brand…really makes a difference," Hogarth told CNBC.
But the financial success of Agent Provocateur is not an isolated case. U.K. lingerie specialist Figleaves made its first full-year profit and U.K. retailer Ann Summers saw pre-tax profit climb last year.
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The lingerie market proved resilient during the recession with several countries showing growth since 2008. The U.K. underwear market has grown by 1.5 percent to almost £2.7 billion ($4.4 billion) in 2012, increasing by 6 percent over the last five years, according to figures from market research firm Mintel.
The U.S. market also showed steady growth while the Chinese market is booming, expecting to post growth of 23 percent this year.
Hogarth said the popularity of racy novel Fifty Shades of Grey has helped his business and the industry as a whole.
"Years ago when it came out I was actually in Madison Avenue in our shop there and some women came in asking about Fifty Shades of Grey and I hadn't heard of it at the time. We're actually mentioned in the book…so we had these people coming in that had never heard of us…so it definitely has had an effect," he said.
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The U.K. market in particular has seen the entry of new players. U.S. lingerie giant Victoria's Secret opened in London this summer while Gilly Hicks and Boux Avenue have been on the expansion trail.
These new brands have helped lingerie to gain "luxury status" and forced ordinary high street retailers to offer lingerie products to compete with the big players, according to Anusha Couttigane, fashion analyst at Conlumino.
The fashion appeal of lingerie has been a big driver a growth and will continue as the market continues to expand, one analyst said.
"Women are increasingly looking for lingerie that is more special, that looks and feels good, and this trend is reinforced by others like the trend to glamour and underwear as outerwear," Tamara Sender, senior fashion analyst at Mintel told CNBC.