Retailer Spotlight on Sparklia
“A Spark of good luck for the Bajan bra industry”
I had the good pleasure of perusing the Internet late last year and discovering a recently established lingerie company called Sparklia in my past home country – Barbados. Imagine my delight to see some of the best international brands being touted by a Bajan (slang for Barbadian) company.
On the flipside, I was also a bit disappointed that such a company had only emerged since I have migrated to London. This could have saved me the heartache and embarrassment of trying to find lingerie to fit my plus size figure all those years ago.
It may come as a surprise to many of you but, a long time ago before I moved to London, I hated bra shopping. I used to get upset at squeezing my girls into bras that were ill-fitting and at times felt quite cheated that once again I’d got home and my purchase was literally a let-down.
Even if there was something better on the market I was too embarrassed to go into a shop and ask for it for fear of being laughed at by the shop assistants. My solution was to buy online from overseas shops but even that had the drawback of being too expensive to return items that didn’t fit well enough.
I now imagine that a shop like Sparklia would have played a vital role in my early lingerie quest in Barbados.
Sparklia is an online retail lingerie company, specializing in plus size underwear. The company has been trading for about a year to date and is under the management of founder Lianda Chapman from the parish of St. Michael.
Chapman, in her interview, quenched my thirst for more information about Sparklia and also gave me a glimpse of the lingerie horizon in my old stomping ground.
Interview with Lianda of Sparklia
Above: Sparklia’s Facebook page.
Why did you choose the name Sparklia for your lingerie company? Does it have a special meaning for you?
For a while I have liked the name “Sparkles” as a business name. I did not have a business venture in mind, I just liked the name. It seemed like a positive, encouraging and lively name. However unfortunately website addresses such as www.sparkles.com and www.sparkles.net, .biz etc. were all taken. I started to look at alternatives such as “Sparkelle”, “Sparkella”, and eventually came up with Sparklia. I asked some people what they thought of a couple of the names including some others like Plus Lingerie and Li’s Lingerie but the winner was Sparklia.
What inspired you to start a plus size lingerie company in Barbados?
I saw there was a market as many women in Barbados have ample bosoms. And many women in Barbados, myself included, have come to appreciate the good form a proper bra and underwear can have on general appearance.
“Barbadian women are totally receptive of quality plus sized bras.” – Lianda Chapman
I see that Sparklia is an online shop, why did you choose to set up an online business as opposed to having an actual shop that people can visit?
Convenience has become more important and Sparklia offers that. Some people don’t enjoy or have time to walk from store to store to find out if any store has what they want in the size, colour and preferred style. They can simply go to Sparklia on Facebook and see what’s available at any time of day or night.
It’s true that having Sparklia online is not what people are accustomed to and the ever present online scams present today don’t help in building confidence. But with increasing customers, word of mouth and general increase in confidence in Sparklia, the business is growing. All in all, no set-up will be perfect but how I try to counteract this drawback is by offering specials such as free delivery [and] fittings, competitions etc. to boost awareness and consumer confidence in Sparklia.
Sparklia has reached the significant age of one year old. How hard or easy was it to get this business started? Why do you think this was so?
Sparklia is growing but it started off slow for what I attribute to consumer caution as can be expected with online ventures. Also, some customers did not realise Sparklia was a local business and that the items were already in Barbados. The perception was — is — that if it’s online, then it’s probably not Bajan as most lingerie businesses in Barbados are brick-and-mortar. This perception is still a challenge today but one that is being eradicated by making it clearer in ads, including the telephone number with the local area code and encouraging customers to spread the word. One thing that has worked well is that I very often have repeat customers.
Above: Sparklia Contest Winner, Chetara Tempro.
At the moment your dedicated website for Sparklia is not live yet and you currently use Facebook to do business activities like advertise and accept orders. Barbados has had a strong tradition of face-to-face trading so how effective have you found using Facebook for doing business? What has been the general response from local customers to shopping through this social medium?
You are correct. There is definitely a strong history of face-to-face trading in Barbados but I decided to take a risk. Also, I recognized that more and more people around me had become more comfortable with ordering online and less tolerant to going to traditional businesses. Added to that there were other small businesses trading on Facebook.
Above: Sparklia leverages Facebook features to promote, connect and service its customers as it builds its stand-alone eCommerce site.
People are in general intrigued and excited about being able to browse online. However most prefer to browse at home but pay upon delivery or to collect the items and pay in person. So right now, the transition to totally online has not occurred yet. It’s in a transient stage where visitors want the convenience to be able to look online at a time that suits them but aren’t ready yet to whip out the credit card.
Other than using Facebook how do you spread the word about Sparklia locally?
Currently, Facebook posts and paid Facebook ads are Sparklia’s main advertising avenues. Flyers at various locations have been done as well as encouraging word-of-mouth by satisfied customers.
What has been the overall local response to Sparklia? What do Barbadians think about a business selling larger cupped bras?
There are other businesses in Barbados that sell plus sized bras beyond the DD or DDD range. In general, Barbadian women are totally receptive of quality plus sized bras. In specific reference to Sparklia, there are many repeat customers and even customers that pre-order items. Also the amount of referrals is increasing.
Additionally, customers even suggest product lines that they would like. For example, Sparklia started selling shapewear because of the requests from customers. If all things go well Sparklia will soon start to sell nursing bras again due to other customer requests.
How many lingerie brands does Sparklia stock and can you tell us some of them?
Bras: Elomi, Fantasie, Elila, Freya, Playtex, Just My Size, Goddess, Exquisite Form/Fully, Q-T Intimates, Panache
Negligee: Dreamgirl, Seven Till Midnight
Shapewear: Under Where?
Possibly on the horizon/ brands being explored: Nursing bras (Q-T Intimates), Parfait by Affinitas, Hanes, Body Wrap, Rene Rofe among others.
Above: Sparklia best-seller: Q-T Intimates Molded Strapless Convertible Bra style number 1103.
What brands have been most popular with local women and why do you think this is so?
It’s really hard to say as the brands were not introduced at the same time, so some brands have been available for the entire year while some only two months. In general, the Eveden bras — Elomi, Freya, Fantasie and Goddess are popular brands due to range of sizes and robust construction. However, these were the brands Sparklia started with so it would be unfair to compare to brands that Sparklia stocked for significantly less time. For example, Elila was also only added less than two months ago and their front closing bra (1415), sports bra (1620) and strapless (4820) are very popular. Also the Q-T Intimates 1103 strapless which was introduced less than two months ago is very popular even though it’s limited in range (only up to DDD) but it fits well and is economically priced. I could go on about the other brands like Playtex, Just My Size, Exquisite Form but in general they all have their target market. Also the negligees and shapewear are popular but most persons buying these items are not generally as brand conscious.
How do you know what sizes to stock? Do you have a market strategy that helps you to know what sizes are needed in the local market?
I don’t have a defined strategy. Initially through research a suitable overall size range was determined as well as an estimate of the general popular sizes. This however is a continually improving process. Keeping good stock records and keeping up to date lists of out–of–stock sizes which are requested by customers are two factors that inform orders.
You sell up to a K cup in your bras, but can you tell us three of the most popular sizes that local women buy from your company?
36GG (UK size) is popular. There are no other clear popular sizes.
In the Barbadian lingerie market, who do you think is your biggest competition and why?
Brick-and-mortar businesses are what people are accustomed to. Changing consumer behaviour is not an easy task in any business. So I would say all of them are competitors. The most well-known ones are Cave Shepherd and Martindales.
What unique knowledge and/or skills do you think you think you add to the Barbadian lingerie market? What do you think sets you apart from other local businesses that sell lingerie as well?
Convenience, personalized attention, range of sizes.
In the year that Sparklia has been trading, how do you think you have affected local women’s attitudes towards lingerie?
Not sure. I know some women are more aware of their correct size or correct fit. However, many Barbadian women are familiar with the plus sized brands.
Barbados is geographically and socially a seaside nation, so I am curious to know if Sparklia will be stocking a range of plus size swimwear any time soon?
Swimwear is possible but not on the immediate radar.
What is your vision for Sparklia in the near future? Where do you want to steer the business?
Near future: A stand-alone website where women feel confident ordering totally online and feel comfortable with the entire process. Also a website that is the most popular and trusted lingerie retailer in Barbados.
All the best to you. Thank you, Lianda.
For more information check out Sparklia at https://www.facebook.com/Sparklia
About the Author
Name: Michelle Broomes aka Shelly
Bra size: bigger than you’d imagine!
Email address: email@example.com
Favourite lingerie brands: Panache, Bravissimo, Curvy Kate, Freya. These, in my opinion, are built to carry weight.
Bio: In my early years I was always known to be an “academic” because I was good at the books and always got really good grades in school. I’d never been really good at anything practical until I became a lingerie fitter. Now I talk about lingerie nearly all the time and -ask my hubby- I am a fierce critique of bras and the like. Throw in matching knickers, jewellery and heels and I’m in lingerie heaven.
Lingerie philosophy: Well fitting lingerie is always sexy even if it’s from the bargain bin!