This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, February 27, 2002. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: The images were enough to stop traffic in Times Square today. Remember the Lane Bryant plus-size fashion show? Well, now, picture it in the jumbo-sized video monitor at the Nasdaq marketsite. Some of those bountiful beauties from Lane Bryant were on hand to help open up the Nasdaq stock market this morning.
Earlier, I spoke with Dorrit Bern, the CEO of Charming Shoppes (CHRS), and the parent company of Lane Bryant, by the way. And I asked if she got as warm a reception as I think she did.
DORRIT BERN, CEO, CHARMING SHOPPES: We got a fabulous reaction, you know, because one of the things that, with the acquisition of Lane Bryant that we were able to do is really get our hands on the No. 1 plus-sized brand in America. And Lane Bryant — I would love to take credit for what they have done over the last three or four years. However, I can't since I just bought the company six months ago. But they have really said that plus-sized women can look great, they can look beautiful, and they can be fashionable and we really wanted to demonstrate that today at Nasdaq.
CAVUTO: Well, they were beautiful women. I'm just wondering whether the traders, they were hitting on them.
BERN: Well, that was later.
Because we are going to take them to the Bears Stearns conference.
CAVUTO: The day is still young.
BERN: Yes, the day is still young.
CAVUTO: Are you surprised at the success of a Lane Bryant fashion show and everything else? It seems to have produced a ground swell interest, not only from women, who arguably, that is a large part of the female part of the population, but among men.
BERN: Well, you know, honestly I am not surprised. You know, our society is so caught up in, you have to be a size 2 and you do not have a body. And quite honestly, I think men look at many of the images that are out there of women and say, you know, these are not good looking, attractive women. I mean, I want the woman I married to or the woman I am dating to look like a woman. And the Lane Bryant fashion show really talked about that.
It initially started off as an intimate apparel show. But, you know, we have segued now into sportswear, and we're talking about the fact that you can be fashionable, you can show off those curves. There is nothing wrong with that. I mean, curves, my God, that is what women are all about.
CAVUTO: But having said that, you look pretty slender yourself. Are you the only svelte person in the company or what?
BERN: Well, thank you for that. However, I too am an aging baby boomer, about ten pounds heavier than I was in my 40s. So it is a dynamic that's happening to all of us.
CAVUTO: Now, what are the statistics on that, Dorrit? I heard something that the fastest growth is in the plus-size market and that most women in this country are a size 14. I find that hard to believe.
BERN: Yes, Neil, they are size 14. Actually, when I started in the industry a few years ago, the average size was a size 8 and there is a lot of reasons for that. You know, granted what I just talked about a minute ago, the aging baby boomers of which I am a part. You know, we get a little older and a little slower and we do not exercise the way we used to.
But, also we have the phenomena of the young ladies in America who are in the weight room. They're on those softball teams. They're on those volleyball teams, and they are starting out bigger. You know, they have muscle mass and they are starting out bigger. So it's across all age groups and it is across everywhere in our society.
CAVUTO: Well, I know, Dorrit, you've dealt with this question again and again from a lot of health enthusiasts who say that it is not right to glamorize bigger women and to say that it is an acceptable way to be. I do not concur with that, by the way, but I am just wondering about the size 2 and 3 and 4 crowd who tell you that it is healthy to be thinner than it is to be bigger, and that by advocating the opposite, you are sending mixed signals. What do you say?
BERN: Well, I think what I am saying, Neil, and actually, I had sent out a letter to about 6 or 7 million of our customers and talked about health. When I work out in the morning, I have many gals that are working out with me that are much bigger than I am, but they are healthy, they have good diets and they are taking care of themselves, whereas on the other end of the spectrum, when you have women that are not eating and aren't taking care of themselves, I really think that is just as great a health issue in America.
CAVUTO: It's a very good point. I know when I am on, you know, a treadmill or something, if I can hold a hoagie while I'm on it, I am getting two things done at once.
But are you, finally, surprised by the success that this is engendered? Now, you are getting all these copycats coming out. Some of the major department stores, Federated and others, are now featuring full- sizes and that this is going to rain on your parade?
BERN: Well, we have a unique position because we are specialists. And the beauty of being a specialist rather than a generalist is that we really focus on this customer. We love this customer. We know her. We live with her. We live and breathe with her. We understand the fit issue and how garments, when we size up what we need to do with the arm holes and the waist bands, et cetera, et cetera. So, it is our business.
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