DEBATE: How online deals impact bricks and mortar

This month, Lingerie Insight asked industry experts to answer the following question: Is heavy discounting online having a negative impact on bricks and mortar stores?

On the panel:
Lucy Osborne, Co Director, Philippa Bradley Agencies
Sarah Connelly, Owner, Odyssey Boutique
Gary Watson, Partner, AWG Brands
Georgina Willis, Owner, Guilt Lingerie
Juliet McLeod, Founder, Ayla Rose

Lucy Osborne
“Our clients often ask us if we are supplying large scale discount e-tailers, as it is becoming a deterrent. Having the full benefit of economies of scale, less overheads than bricks and mortar stores and a worldwide audience allow discount e-tailers to pass on the savings to their customers. This is undoubtedly cannibalizing sales from offline channels. As an agent, the volumes that we are doing with large discount e-tailers is very interesting, however one has to be mindful not to devalue the brand. Ultimately, it comes down to the end consumers decision: does the cost saving justify the delay between purchase and consumption, the time/cost it takes to return unwanted goods and not having the enjoyment of trying on and handling the products before purchasing?”

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Sarah Connelly
“Black Friday/Cyber Monday- style discounting definitely applies pressure directly onto main-stream high-street stores – and pulls essential trade away from off-the-beaten-track independents who are generally not geographically placed to take advantage of the passing footfall. However, I feel it’s really important as business owners and consumers that we understand bricks and mortar and e-tailers as very different business models. Like everything in life; you get what you pay for – and a quality product and an exceptional professional service to match are always worth paying for.”

Gary Watson
“In a word: yes. It is very apparent in the UK that online means cheaper. In the past, when manufacturers needed to clear old stocks, there were always the outlets, mill shops and the like where the product could be placed with little or no impact on the retailers as people still had to travel to visit these. Online has changed all that. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t used the internet to find a bargain or used the words ‘I’ll see if I can get it cheaper online.’ However, there seems to be a very clear trend appearing with independents selecting brands that are not easily available for mass markdown or will not sell to internet-only traders, thus still creating the need for a visit to a specialist store.”

Georgina Willis
“The answer is yes, but there is a way that they can complement each other. There are no fittings online. Currently this can only be done in a bricks and mortar shop and is an undervalued free service. This needs to change. A skilled bra fitter is a true specialist and sadly this is not recognised. The lingerie industry needs to raise its game by creating a national body with a recognisable benchmark of excellence for fitting – rather like an electrician or dentist. This would make fitting an aspirational ‘Savile Row’ experience for the customer from an accredited specialist. Margins are very tight, and the industry must decide if it needs shops or not.”

Juliet McLeod
“I personally feel that shoppers are more wise to sales and/or discounts, and whether or not they are getting a true bargain, as quite often the offers aren’t quite as good as they appear. Because of this, some customers are more sceptical and would rather support an in-store offer, where they can physically see a difference in prices and know that only on rare occasions might a discount be applied.”



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