Is ecommerce essential to lingerie retailers?

This month, Lingerie Insight asked industry experts to answer the burning question: How essential is E-commerce to lingerie retailers in today’s market?

On the panel

– Deborah Fleming, creative director, Pistol Panties
– Xavier Martin, international director, Simone Pérèle
– Leonie O’Conner, online merchandiser, F&F
– Michele Poynter, founder, Mish

Deborah Fleming
“Ecommerce is hugely important to my business in terms of reaching a wider customer network. Many people outside large cities cannot travel to my stores, so buying online is their only option. Also, many customers like to try on lingerie or swimwear in the privacy of their own room. Ecommerce has provided me with a platform to market the brand to a wider audience, on a global scale. When we launched 10 years ago, our largest orders were with traditional bricks and mortar stores, whereas our main client base today is high-end ecommerce sites, both in the UK and abroad. There was an initial feeling in the industry that fashion was something that customers preferred to see and touch in person, rather than buy online. I have seen attitudes change over the last few years , with improved technology and ‘delivery and return’ terms giving customers confidence to buy even their most intimate apparel online, so I can only see the ecommerce market in swimwear growing. The disadvantage of ecommerce is that there can be a lot of returns (and sometimes returns in unacceptable states).”

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Xavier Martin
“Ecommerce is key for our future development as this network is used more and more by our clients. Retailers should consider this as a complementary tool for their business, but only if they are in a position to be fully ready and able to do so, as the constraints are always higher than expected. For example, around 15% of lingerie orders made online are returned and this is very expensive to handle. Another constraint is stock availability: the stock offered on the site must be truly ‘available’ as it is so inconvenient for a client to hear that their order was processed but is no longer in stock. We look into ecommerce very seriously, but also very carefully, as we need to protect the brand.”

Leonie O’Conner
“With the changes in the way customers shop, our online store is imperative to the growth of the F&F business – the customer wants to shop when they want in a way that fits their lifestyle. The online store complements our bricks and mortar stores; its a shop window that draws customers in. And while shopping online is convenient for our customers, it benefits F&F as a retailer too. We can communicate product features effectively online – the F&F Active Run Bra video is a great example – and with the increased availability of sizes and styles, online means that we never miss a sale.”

Michele Poynter
“As a multichannel retailer, I’ve found that ecommerce has had a positive impact on my business. It’s allowed me to offer more choice and a wider range of products, increase turnaround time, and take my business and services to customers outside of the geographic reach of my physical shop in Cornwall. I think ecommerce is the lifeblood of being an independent lingerie retailer. However, it doesn’t in any way replace the high street, or the experience of underwear shopping and having a fitting in store.”

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