As part of a wider industry review, we interviewed top lingerie buyers to discover their take on the biggest trends of 2016, the key milestones they faced over the last 12 months and their predictions for 2017.
Over the coming days, we’ll publish a Q&A with a different retailer, from UK Tights to House of Fraser.
Figleaves head of buying Jenni Burt was first up, and now it’s the turn of Coco de Mer managing director Lucy Litwack.
What were the biggest lingerie retail trends of 2016?
What I have found very exciting in 2016 is being able to communicate with our customers so directly on channels like Twitter and particularly Instagram. We have built up 55,800 followers on Instagram because we are able to share the most beautiful products, lingerie and general erotica. It is enormously exciting to be interacting with the consumer in this way and it has been great for sales. It has refreshed our whole online offering and enabled us to
increase sales online by 39% in the last six months.
What do these trends tell us about the future retail landscape in the UK?
It tells us that this is an enormously exciting time to be in retail, but you need to be quick and very adaptable to prosper. Technology is liberating the market in so many ways and enabling retailers to sell their wares in a variety of ways. I think there will also continue to be more of an emphasis on personal service, bespoke products and a return to the independent high street.
What role has the intimate apparel industry played in shifting the landscape?
It has been a year of enormous political upheaval and profound social change, but some things remain constant – women love the body confidence that great lingerie instills. In terms of the landscape shifting, I think intimate apparel has been at the forefront of recognising the shift to social media as a tool for marketing and brands are tailoring their offering accordingly.
What were the biggest challenges you faced in the last 12 months?
The biggest challenge has been in monetising the enormous shifts in retail behaviour. The landscape seems profoundly different at the end of 2016 to how it seemed at the beginning, and that is before you throw in Brexit and the most tumultuous American election we have ever faced. My job is so much more multi-faceted than it was five years ago – you can add another ten vital tasks to my job description.
How did you overcome these challenges?
By listening and learning and always being ready to adapt and change and do things differently.
What were your proudest moments of 2016?
There have been lots of highlights, but, for a retailer, sales are everything and that surge in online sales meant a lot. It is always nice to be recognised by your peers, so to be awarded Independent Retailer of the Year for the second year running at the 2015 UK Lingerie Awards and to receive three nominations for this year’s awards was particularly gratifying. The successful launch of wholesale was also very exciting this year. It was amazing to see our lingerie in so many key stores.
What are your plans for the New Year?
Accelerating 2016’s wholesaling success to ensure that more retailers like Selfridges, ASOS.com, Harrods, Matchesfashion.com and House of Fraser (all new to Coco de Mer in 2016) are selling us in 2017. I want Coco de Mer to be readily available in every iconic city in the world.
What trends do you predict for AW17?
Underwear as outerwear will continue to be a big trend, with a lot of day to night dressing. I expect to see dark, wintery florals in intense colours, lots of inspiration from nature and dazzling