Lingerie stores: Up close and personal

Beyond the lace, satin, push-up cups and glamorous merchandising, the lingerie retail industry faces many challenges. Here, three retailers reveal what it’s really like.

Simon Pérèle

Tim Rosenfield,
CEO

Last year was the opening of Simone Pérèle’s first bricks-and-mortar stores in Australia and around the world. What’s that been like?

Our first flagship boutique opened late last year in Bondi, followed by Emporium Melbourne and Claremont Quarter just a few months ago. Each store has proven to be quite unique in their trade and what we are seeing in our customers, old and new.

Our core intention of this model is to introduce our brand to a new generation of customers, but inadvertently we have found that many who already love the brand have sought out these new locations for the unique and beautiful experience that they provide. Average basket size is universally higher than other channels, and customers spend more time in-store.

This was a welcome result – in this format, we have the space and range to really give a full service brand experience.

How is the relaunched e-commerce platform going and what digital plans are in store?

Great. E-commerce is a very strategic part of our future. We have built it to provide not just a sales channel but a basis for interacting with the brand.

The online platform was designed to present the customer with every opportunity to browse, engage and purchase at her convenience. However, core to our brand is the expert fitting and support service our corsetière provide, so our focus is split between creating a seamless customer journey driven by the individual, and providing the same level of fitting expertise and support both instore and online.

From virtual corsetières and detailed product descriptions heavily driven by customer testimonials, to our loyalty members reviewing products and generating content to share with our community, we’re excited to build upon our Simone Pérèle community, using that data and content to connect both on and offline.

What are a few of the key things retailers need to consider when offering an excellent customer experience in a lingerie store?

If I absolutely had to, I could boil this down to one point: service. Service is who we are as a brand and our reason to be. As a lingerie brand, we’ve always believed this and it is always amazing how many others who profess to sell this as their USP can get it so wrong. Naturally, for an excellent customer experience, you also need to follow this closely with the right inventory offer and build environment.

What are the unique challenges that lingerie retailers currently face?

I think lingerie as a category has been slow to respond to the web, given that it can be such a specialist product – some believe in a fitting every time, others think convenience wins. Our mission is to have the right mix – to meet the customer where she wants to go, not force her one way or another.

What are some key lingerie or retail trends that you have your eye on?

We know personalisation is a key driver of customer interest, as is the movement towards investment in quality over quantity. The luxury market is growing and with that, the interest in understanding the value of the product, the materials and craftsmanship that make it an item worth investing in.

This plays well for our brand because of the artistry and craftsmanship consistently delivered over 70 years. Every size in every style is trialled by French women before the final collection is locked in. Every embroidered motif is hand drawn and our t-shirt bra cups are hand-cut in Paris. So whilst the price point is slightly higher than your everyday brand, customers appreciate these details and value the quality.

Cotton On Body

Sally Phelan,
Brand Manager

What are some of Cotton On Body’s plans for the next financial year?

At Cotton on Body, we are completely focused on our customer and what she is doing in her life, every day. We know self-care is important to her so we will be expanding on our sleep recovery collection plus adding a Home Spa range so she has all she needs for that all-important ‘me time’.

We are also expanding Body into more regions globally this year, including Brazil and the USA and are thrilled to be taking our effortless Aussie style to the world.

We are really excited about where the brand is heading in terms of our true lifestyle offer. For example, we plan to reinvigorate our intimates offer to capture more of the ‘everyday fashion’ market through the introduction of new silhouettes, fits and fabrics as well as comfort fashion.

Sustainability is important to us as a wider business and also at a brand level. We understand there is an expectation from our customer that sustainable options are provided in not only the apparel we offer, but also in intimates and we want to make sure she feels great when wearing them.

We have reflected this in our hugely successful recycled activewear collection that launched this year with plans to expand across our intimates as well as swim next year.

As a brand, our values and ethos of being fun, fresh and promoting self-love filters through to not only how we promote our range but also the talent we collaborate with. We strive to work with strong women and share their stories across our channels to promote body positivity and empowerment. This was demonstrated recently by the collaboration we did with blogger The Bali Bible and the inspiring women we engaged with for our swim launch – we had an incredibly positive response from our customers via social.

In addition, we are always working on ways to support Cotton On Foundation’s efforts to empower the communities in which we operate to help make a positive difference in people’s lives around the world.

How would you describe Cotton On Body as a retailer and what it offers customers?

We are an Australian lifestyle brand that caters for our customer so she has all she needs from when she wakes up to when she goes to bed, from sleep to swim to active and all that goes underneath.

Cotton On Body’s range is fashion relevant, great value and functional while also delivering on style and comfort. Our intimates range specifically has grown in recent years with the introduction of new brief and bra styles to give our girl more to choose from, whatever her preference might be. We’ve taken into account that every girl fits two bra sizes (eg. the sister size for a 10C is a 12B), so we’ve created dual sizing, which features a fourth column in the hook and eye closure so as she goes up a band size, it allows her to go down a cup size.

How would you describe the Cotton On Body Customer?

Our customer is loyal, fun, fresh, youthful and optimistic. We love the fact that we are famous for our mother /daughter customers where there is something in-store for each of them to feel on-trend and amazing.

As our customer has grown, so have we, with the introduction of categories such as maternity and bridal as a result of her reaching these milestones in her life and therefore needing her apparel to reflect this.

Cotton On Body is an ageless brand being young at heart, delivering apparel that has a fashion twist and providing our customer with all she needs all day, every day.

How would you describe the current intimates industry in Australia and around the world at the moment?

Women are moving away from wanting their intimates to ‘do more’ and instead are looking for product that allows them to be their best selves, no matter what they are doing. Comfort is definitely top of mind, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to look great too.

With the variety of intimates that are now available locally and internationally in-store and online, it is now easier to shop different fashion and everyday product that offer innovation in fit, silhouette and fabrication, allowing the consumer to find the perfect fit and style for whatever her needs might be.

We are about to see one of the big US players enter the Aussie market (VS and PINK by VS) so there will be more choice than ever for the Australian consumer.

Honey Birdette

Eloise Monaghan,
Founder

What is the Honey Birdette customer looking for?

The only thing saucier and more sinister than Honey Birdette itself are our customers. We see anything from a powerful single woman looking for that kick of confidence, to curious couples wanting to inject some sensuality and fire into the bedroom.

What has Honey Birdette got planned in the next financial year?

We are ready to hit new markets! We have well and truly gone global and our focus is to continue leaving a trail of black and gold boutiques around the world, staying customer-focused always.

How are the business’ international plans going?

We always move fast and our international growth is no different. We opened three of our first international boutiques in the UK within one year and we are on track to crack at least 10 in the US.

What’s it been like entering the US market this year?

The US market was that untapped demographic we knew wanted to see more of us. Since launching our US online platform and digital strategy, we have seen our brand go from that underground word-of-mouth bar to a rooftop hotspot.

What are some of the most difficult challenges with working in the lingerie industry?

Honey Birdette is an easy target for those that don’t believe women should express and embrace their sexuality. Yes, our marketing and advertising can be provocative but that’s what we sell.

Tell me about the Sydney flagship store and what it’s like.

Our new Sydney City flagship is intimate and seriously good-looking. We’ve set the scene for a very loyal and elite customer, which is exactly what walks through our doors in that CBD boutique. Think gold tile archways and whiskey bar carts.

What are some interesting lingerie trends that you’ve got your eye on at the moment?

‘Trend’ is one of the words I don’t really believe in. I know our design team are inspired by fabrics, outerwear and accessories more than lingerie, so I like to think we set our own trends!

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