A Comfortable Fit for DRTV1 Mar, 2012 By: Nicole Urso Reed Response
How Hampton Direct’s PajamaJeans overcame an unusual category and an oddball price to become a retail smash hit.
Kathy Griffin owns wearing her PajamaJeans.
“I am in PajamaJeans, and I’m not a paid spokesperson, I’m just saying they’re pajamas and jeans in one. They have no zipper, you just lift them up and down,” she said as she demonstrated the elastic waistband during a segment of Griffin’s “Emmy’s Aftermath.”
Wendy Williams is also a fan. She bedazzled her famous catchphrase “How U Doin’?” onto the backside of a pair and gave them to guest Holly Madison. Then she surprised her studio audience and sent them home with a pair, too.
The famous As Seen On TV jeans have appeared on the “Today Show,” “Today with Kathie Lee & Hoda,” “Good Morning America,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Nightline,” MTV, “The Jimmy Kimmel Show” and “Conan O’Brien.”
“Once the PR took off, it took on its own life, and the pop culture appeal of the product was the big home run,” says Steve Heroux, CEO of Burlington, Vt.-based Hampton Direct.
The wildfire popularity of PajamaJeans draws obvious comparisons to the Snuggie, a loungewear novelty and celebration of comfort that debuted in 2008. The famous blanket with sleeves went on to major retail success, which is exactly what Heroux set out to achieve when he first took over the exclusive licensing and distribution of PajamaJeans in 2010.
The Perfect Pair
PajamaJeans are designed to have the look of jeans and the feel of pajamas. They are made of a stretchy blend of cotton and spandex with an interior lining of DormiSoft, a proprietary fabric that feels like the inside of sweatpants. They were developed and originally sold by PajamaGram, sister brand of The Vermont Teddy Bear Co., and just a 20-minute drive south from Hampton Direct.
PajamaGram sells “gifts of relaxation” including pajama gift sets and the Hoodie-Footie, a head-to-toe, zip-front onesie for adults and kids. It launched PajamaJeans in 2009 and sold them through its catalog and website for $59.95, but it was the first PajamaJeans TV commercial that caught Heroux’s attention.
“I think their business model was a little bit different than what I felt PajamaJeans needed, so I had a couple meetings with their CEO John Gilbert, and we went back and forth and signed an exclusive agreement to do all of their distribution in the summer of 2010. That is when we took over the project and the brand,” says Heroux, a member of the Response Advisory Board.
Heroux called in his right-hand direct marketing sage, Sonia Makurdsik, to help him develop the campaign. Makurdsik has been the exclusive marketing consultant for Hampton Direct since 2005 and helped bring products to retail including the Total Pillow and Wonder Hanger. The two met at QVC. Makurdsik was producing direct response spots while Heroux would pitch products from various vendors. Makurdsik joined Hampton Direct last month officially as the new executive vice president of marketing.
Her work on PajamaJeans started with the requisite market research where she identified a trend in comfort wear but a need for stylish options.
“You see college kids going to school in pajamas,” says Makurdsik. “You see the very expensive sweatsuits being worn in the airports. You see how Crocs became its own brand in itself, and doctors and nurses were wearing them. We saw Uggs, that style, that comfort wear, and the message was there.”
She worked with the creative team to re-shoot a new PajamaJeans commercial in a direct response format. With the help of Concepts TV Productions, they made 60- and 120-second short-form commercials explaining the features — the look of denim with pocket embroidery, brass details and flared bootcut — and the benefit of comfort with the elastic waistband and DormiSoft fabric technology.
Collette Liantonio, president of Concepts TV Productions, says, “Our challenge was to cast a variety of models with various body types who would look comfy, yet trendy. Fortunately, the jeans flatter almost every figure.”
The commercial also demonstrates various uses of PajamaJeans for today’s modern multitasking women, from traveling and working out to toting around the kids. They come in 8 sizes, ranging from extra small (size 4) to 3 XL (sizes 26-28), all with a 31-inch inseam. Styles include a blue bootcut and the new black skinny, which is sold exclusively online.
Makurdsik, a modern mom who travels frequently, owns two pairs of the blue bootcut. “Personally, because I travel so much, I love them because I can run around the airport and don’t need to deal with sitting so long and getting those marks. It feels like I have sweats, but yet I can go out to a client meeting after I arrive at the airport.”
Hampton Direct repriced PajamaJeans at $39.95 plus $7.95 shipping and handling. DR products are typically priced around $9.99 or $19.99 and often include free shipping incentives, but in order to maintain the quality of the product and be successful at retail, this would be the lowest possible price. PajamaJeans are fulfilled through Hampton Direct’s existing DR and retail fulfillment channels. The $7.95 processing fee works well and remains unchanged.
“We were thrilled that Hampton included a free T-shirt,” Liantonio says. “It really created great value in the sense that you received a full outfit for only $39.95.”
Heroux adds, “The idea for the commercial and the marketing was always to take it to retail, and we felt that at retail the product needed to be at $39.95 given the economic times.”
They also wanted to make sure that they delivered a quality product so that customers would come back for more. According to their research, women own 11 pairs of jeans on average, so they focused the initial product offering on women only. However, they are discussing PajamaJeans for men, plus more colors and styles in the coming months. Since launching the first PajamaJeans DR spot in October 2010, more than 1.5 million pairs have been sold.
“We’re in 80,000 stores across the United States. We now started to launch some international markets as well,” says Makurdsik. “We created our packaging, which lends itself to being able to feel the product because it has a cutout. That also was, no pun intended, out-of-the-box packaging.”
In the fourth quarter, the company wanted to do a stronger retail push, so it created 30- and 60-second commercials, removed the 800 number, and displayed a list of retailers that carried PajamaJeans.
“The expectations (of major retailers) are super high, and we have to make sure that, once we do hit the shelves, a big portion of the population is aware of the product and have seen it on TV,” says Heroux. “It really helps the sell-through and making a product a success at retail.”
Denim designers are reacting to the popularity of the trend and launching their own lines of comfort jeans. In March 2010, Genetic Denim introduced the Benji and the Val sweatpant jeans for men and women, priced at around $176. In July 2011, Diesel’s Jogg-Jeans debuted for men and women. They are denim on the outside with a sweatpant-like material on the inside, with an elastic, drawstring waistband, available for about $140 to $160. Then in October 2011, Joe’s Jeans launched its Jeans Sweats in skinny, cropped and bootcut styles for women, priced at $158. Men’s Jean Sweats are $198. They are made with a special “fabric technology” that consists of a blend of 6 3/4 terry with indigo yarn.
On the other end of the retail spectrum, Lakeside Collection, an online catalog that offers various clothing and housewares items, tries to fill a market gap for men’s PajamaJeans with its $12.95 Knit Jean Lounge Pants featuring a fabricated button fly and even “realistic designs of patches, rips and what looks like your favorite pair of boxers peeking out the top.”
If PajamaJeans started the denim loungewear revolution, high-end denim designers would be hard pressed to admit it. However, a true DR product is in the midst of high fashion and undeniably part of the phenomenon that popular shopping website ShopBop.com calls the pajama dressing trend.
“People always tie it back to PajamaJeans,” says Heroux. “Whenever there’s a blog or an article, it’s always tied back to PajamaJeans. Being compared to a $200 pair of jeans can be flattering I guess.”
All the press and social media buzz continues to propel the PajamaJeans brand and retail success. Its Facebook page is not very active, and the Twitter account @PajamaJean has about 300 followers. The Snuggie, by comparison, has 1,300 Twitter followers and about 360,000 fans on Facebook with frequent updates and special promotions.
But the social media strategy for PajamaJeans was different. Major press hits like the daytime talk shows, celebrity endorsements and kudos from mommy bloggers were posted on the PajamaJeans.com blog, and Makurdsik listened in to the customer feedback as a test market and focus group.
“That is very important for a marketing strategy, that you listen to the customers, because they’re able to talk to you directly,” says Makurdsik. “They don’t have to write a letter to the CEO to be heard anymore.”
She knew from the beginning that the product was resonating well with consumers and that PajamaJeans would be more than a novelty product. Like all great DR products, they solve a problem and satisfy a need, and she believes that the product will have longevity at retail.
“We hit a sweet spot,” says Heroux. “People don’t relate jeans with comfort. But the special fabric in PajamaJeans that makes it so much more comfortable than a regular pair of jeans, I think that’s what people really wanted and we delivered it. And obviously other companies are going to try to do the same, but I feel really strong about what we accomplished and the strength of our brand.”