Selling Lingerie in the South
Genevieve Intimate Apparel’s Leigh Arnold & Arielynn Rollins with Emily Lau founder of the Little Bra Company (center) at CURVENY.
“Despite the challenges that lingerie retailers may face in the south and other more conservative social climate, it’s important to remember that there is still a market for quality delicates regardless of where you are in the world.”
by Arielynn Rollins, Social Media Manager for Genevieve Intimate Apparel.
When Genevieve Intimate Apparel was founded in 2013, it was with the intent of serving those who either can’t find their size in department stores, or are looking for something a bit more unique and luxurious than what can normally be found at the mall. Since we’re the only retailer in the state of Kentucky that carries the brands we offer, we initially thought that carving out a niche for ourselves and launching a successful lingerie business would be easier than it’s turned out to be.
Unfortunately, we discovered that the conservative social climate of our region makes selling lingerie challenging (unless you’re already an established mega-retailer, such as the ubiquitous Victoria’s Secret). Discussing lingerie in public is considered faux pas and somewhat risqué, since the word itself — in the minds of many southerners — is indelibly tied to ideas of racy little numbers only meant for one’s wedding night or other rare special occasions. The fact that the word ‘lingerie’ tends to conjure images of poorly made, trashy garments rather than well-made, quality delicates is one of the many reasons this business environment is so challenging.
“My bra doesn’t fit!” is a common complaint that transcends cultural and regional boundaries…”
Our goal is to provide our client with beautiful, high-quality delicates that make them feel comfortable, confident, and sexy. We’re always mindful of the products we offer, so customers will never feel surprised or embarrassed when shopping on our website (most of our items are no more revealing than a bikini). We also make a point to try to educate our customers on the benefits of well-fitted undergarments, since we believe that education is one avenue to success in this industry. However, despite our best efforts, we’ve inevitably encounter several of the same challenges over and over. Many mature women consider themselves ‘too old’ for luxuries, while many married women think quality lingerie is too costly and a waste of money. As for the younger women who are engaged? They’ve already planned a shopping trip to Victoria’s Secret with their bridesmaids.
So, what’s an independent lingerie retailer to do? Relocating to a more hospitable market isn’t an option, so instead we’ve focused on continuing to refine our business plan and customize our approach.
Here are some of our top tips for other lingerie retailers in the south to boost sales and increase visibility!
You can’t please everyone—so don’t even try!
We’re too small to compete with department stores, so having a huge variety of stock and ‘something for everyone’ isn’t the way to go. Instead, focus on creating a niche to excel in. We chose a ‘vintage-inspired’ theme for our business and are continuing to refine it by deciding which products to reorder and which to discontinue as well and bringing in new brands to help shape the overall feel and direction of our store. We’ve also discovered that it’s more cost effective to order products such as robes and soft bralettes that come in sizes such small, medium, and large rather than order many different band/cup sizes.
Provide exceptional customer service
Listen to your clients and find out what they want. Their tastes in lingerie might be completely different than yours! Ultimately, you want to gain loyal lifetime customers that will help grow your business in the proper direction, and if you listen to them and make them feel valued, they will come back time after time to support your business—which translates to more money in the long run than multiple clients who only shop at your business once and never come back.
Above: the Genevieve Intimate Apparel home page.
Talk to your friends and people in community about the importance of supporting local businesses
You may also consider joining your local Chamber of Commerce, partnering with other local businesses for events and/or giveaways, and donating leftover merchandise to local charities (such as Dress for Success, or your local women’s shelter) in order to open up networking opportunities for your business.
Don’t neglect e-commerce
For us, e-commerce has become our main way of doing business due to its ability to reach billions of people worldwide outside of our somewhat stifled physical location. Invest in a good web designer and make sure you have the best product photos possible to create an atmosphere that encourages sales.
Closing thoughts on Selling Lingerie in the South
Despite the challenges that lingerie retailers may face in the south and other more conservative social climate, it’s important to remember that there is still a market for quality delicates regardless of where you are in the world. “My bra doesn’t fit!” is a common complaint that transcends cultural and regional boundaries, and even if you struggle to become established in one particular physical location, e-commerce is always available to help you grow your business and reach billions of clients outside your area.
If you have any thoughts to share on selling lingerie in the south, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below!