The lingerie industry is growing, but this is no time to be stacking rails with unimaginative brands and hoping they will sell like they did in the 1980s.
The high street has been transformed, and retailers that haven’t moved with the times are now facing extinction.
There are two key business trends to embrace. The first is that the internet has changed everything. The second is that the high street is now a place of leisure and entertainment more than it is a place for shopping.
Lingerie entrepreneurs need to be clear about what service they are going to provide, and then decide how they will present and promote that service online and in store.
Women will always want to buy lingerie, but if they are looking for it simply as everyday underwear, they will likely buy it online – searching for a brand they trust or a retailer they admire.
This will inevitably send them into the grateful arms of Asos, Debenhams or House of Fraser, which have the scale to dominate search engines and the infrastructure to guarantee a reliable service.
If they simply want the cheapest pants on the market, they can even go down to Aldi.
What these giants do less well is cater to a mood or an occasion. A wedding is the most obvious example of a moment when a bride will be shopping for a clutch of products including the dress, jewellery, lingerie and flowers.
Lingerie retailers could create concessions within wedding dress shops, and promote the service online so that searches for wedding / dresses / local town come to you.
I have always admired the business model of Strip, which offers bikini line waxing, laser treatments, and a carefully selected line up of lingerie from Heidi Klum, Stella McCartney, Falke and Cosabella. Search for “bikini wax and lingerie” and you will find them online. In just a couple of years they have also grown from one high street outlet to seven, and created a solid brand in the process.
The burgeoning tattoo business could be another opportunity to combine a service with product sales. People getting inked all over their bodies, and want the best underwear to show off their art. The online search for tattoos and lingerie is a whole lot less crowded.
Then there is tanning – the perfect opportunity to talk about upgrading a customer’s swimwear.
There is, of course, a place for traditional lingerie boutiques, but the focus has to be on selling an amazing experience. That experience might include professional fitting and style advice over a glass of Prosecco, and it will be vital that shop staff are trained and willing to engage in this way, and that your online and high street presence focuses on the experience as much as the product lines.
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