Abercrombie's Naked Ambition

Abercrombie & Fitch (NYSE: ANF  ) has never shied away from titillation, pushing its fashion sense on young shoppers with attractive, barely dressed models in slick catalogs. Now the trendy apparel retailer has a reason to undress; it's rolling out a line of lingerie stores.

Gilly Hicks is the company's new concept. Hitting up the GillyHicks.com website is enough to let you know that A&F will relish its role pitching undies.

"Are you old enough?" asks the site's landing page. "Our site shows a lot of skin. Therefore, you must be at least 18 years old to enter this site."

An age verification screen later -- following the same easily defeated mold of beer sites (if only club bouncers were that easy in my youth!) -- A&F delivers on its fleshy promise. An introductory video clip features buffed coeds in various stages of undress, frolicking on the beach.

The site also lists five stateside locations where the racy concept will debut later this year.

On the one hand, mall landlords should be stoked to see a retailer actually introducing a new concept. Earlier this month, PacSun (Nasdaq: PSUN  ) and Talbots (NYSE: TLB  ) shuttered underperforming concepts. Gap (NYSE: GPS  ) killed off Forth & Towne last year.

The only worry here may come from Limited Brands (NYSE: LTD  ) . The parent of Victoria's Secret now has a hip rival looking to siphon off some of its younger shoppers. It's no a coincidence that Victoria's Secret is bankrolling a Super Bowl ad next month -- the first time that the chain has paid for one of those pricey ads since 1999.

Whether it's American Eagle Outfitters (Nasdaq: AEO  ) rolling out aerie as a stand-alone concept for nightwear and casual underwear, or lululemon athletica (Nasdaq: LULU  ) wooing fit soccer moms with all-inclusive yoga apparel, dressing down is starting to pay off for retailers. Anyone hoping for a catfight will surely be disappointed, but the competition is definitely heating up.


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