meets: After Eight Lingerie

In a series of interviews, online showroom yourbrandspace asks retailers all about their businesses, from stock to sales, and everything in between. This month, the company sits down with Janie White, owner of After Eight Lingerie

When did After Eight Lingerie first open?
After Eight Lingerie opened in 1988. At that time it was run by my mother, Jennifer Kingwell. She grew the business very quickly and doubled the shop size to accommodate new products. We obviously sell lingerie, but we also sell hosiery, nightwear, dressing gowns and swimwear. We are often told that we have the best selection of swimwear in the Southwest. I bought the shop from the family when my mother died suddenly in 2004, a very sad day.

What is the ethos of your store?
We pride ourselves on giving every customer an excellent service, individually fitting every bra to make sure it’s perfect for them.

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Who is your core customer?
Our core customers are aged 35 years and up. They are ladies who want to be wearing the right size bra.

What brands do you stock and which are the most successful for you?
We stock Triumph, Sloggi, Fanastie, Freya, Elomi, PrimaDonna, Curvy Kate, Sans Complexe, Maidenform, Royce, Anita, Chantelle, Passionata, Bestform, Bravado, Playtex and Berlei. Wow, I didn’t realise I had so many! The most successful for us are Bestform and Royce on the soft bra side, and Triumph and Fantasie for underwired bras.

You stock up to a JJ cup . How have you seen the market change in terms of large- and small-cup trends?
In the 10 years I have been running the shop I have seen a real shift, with many more companies now producing D+ cup bras, and doing it well, but, somehow, the smaller cup sizes are being left behind. We are definitely seeing more larger cup sizes and larger back sizes coming through, but I think that’s because we are an independent shop. Larger ladies feel happier coming to us than going into a large store.

How does having a larger range of sizes affect what you have to put into the sales?
To be honest, I put mainly A, B and C cups in the sale. Above those cup sizes, there are oddments that haven’t sold or something that doesn’t fit well.

What do you look for when deciding which brands to stock?
There is only one thing I want to know about, and that’s fit, fit, fit. As we fit every bra, I only want to be selling bras that fit well. I can always tell when something isn’t quite right.

How many new collections will you take on in a year?
That varies depending on what’s available, maybe one or two.

Are you looking for anything new or different at the moment?
Yes, I am always looking for something different to sell. At the moment, a lot of ladies are asking for pretty, non-wired bras that come in different colours or patterns, hold a good shape, provide plenty of support and have a reasonable price point. There has definitely been an increase in ladies who are wearing non-wired bras.

How do you engage with your customers to keep them coming back to the store?
After 25 years of service, we are lucky enough to have many loyal customers, but we are now using social media to engage with our younger age groups, which is going very well.

You don’t have an online presence. Is this strategic move, or are you looking to develop a website in the future?
Yes, I am looking into having a website made, but I’m not planning to sell products online at the moment. We are always happy to post products to customers when they call us, but I do like to fit our bras first.

Are people as open to buying lingerie online as other items of clothing?
I think younger people order online, as they don’t worry about fit as much, but once they have experienced the service of an independent shop, they often come back. They get to try on bras they wouldn’t have normally tried, and they get the right size.

What is your biggest challenge?
Running two businesses [Janie also runs a country pub with her husband] is always going to be a challenge, but I love the shop. I love nothing more than helping my ladies and solving their problems. The one thing that annoys me is when ladies come in, they sometimes ask to get fitted and go elsewhere to buy their bras.

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