In a series of interviews, online showroom yourbandspace asks retailers all about their business, from stock to sales and everything in between. This month, the company sits down with Louise Brown owner of Louie Noir Lingerie, Leamington Spa.
When did you set up your boutique?
We launched our boutique in Leamington Spa in February this year following successful events and parties over he past three years. We offer a lovely boutique experience for our customers, with a range of everyday lingerie and nightwear garments alongside pretty, fun and sexy items at affordable prices. Ultimately, we aim to ensure our customers feel good about themselves by wearing well-fitting lingerie without breaking the bank. Our customers are women and men who are looking for a pleasant shopping experience, or a guilt-free treat.
How have you found the lingerie retail experience so far?
I love owning a boutique because it gives me the chance to help women feel great about themselves. I believe you can sell anything online (or try to), but it is the face-to-face customer contact that gives a physical store the advantage.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced this year?
The biggest challenge has been cash flow. A retail environment comes with many, many bills and lingerie has a huge stock burden, so it is essential to identify what styles and colours sell well as early as possible and to stick with them.
Which brands do you stock?
We stock some lesser-known brands in order to offer a point of difference to our customers. These include Affinitas & Parfait, Bassoni, Vanilla, Maybe Blu, Piha and Moontide. We also stock the more well-known brands like Lepel and Panache, which provide great everyday lingerie in a wide range of styles and sizes. I tend to buy continuity lines from these two lingerie brands as there is fierce competition from online stores, where items are discounted all too easily prior to the end of the season. This sadly has a detrimental effect on us independents. We also stock a wide variety of sizes: 28 to 40 backs and AA to G cups. Our customers are often pleasantly surprised that we cover such a broad range as many boutiques seem to have a reputation for only catering for smaller bra cup sizes.
Are you looking out for anything particular at the moment to take on?
I am very excited to have recently discovered Maybe Blu through yourbrandspace. I was looking for a quality cotton nightwear range that would appeal to a wider age range and doesn’t look frumpy, and this range is simply fabulous.
You also sell mens underwear – has this been a popular addition for you?
Our male customers tend to buy lingerie rather than boxer briefs and so men’s underwear is not yet popular for us. Hopefully it will be a fun gift during the upcoming festive season, but it is not an essential stock item for us.
Do you notice a difference in the types of lingerie that men and women buy?
Many of our male customers, when buying for their partners, tend to buy the sexier ranges, which is no surprise to us. We also offer a gift wrap and gift voucher service, which are both popular.
Are returns a big problem for the online side of your business?
Returns are to be expected from online sales, but our rate is fairly low. with less than 5% of items returned.
What marketing techniques do you use to drive customers online?
The ethos of our shop is to provide the customer an opportunity to buy something a bit different to what’s on offer in department stores and large lingerie sellers. We gift wrap all of our sales, both online and in store, in order to provide that extra personal touch. We try to promote our website through blogs, social media and general advertising, but the competition is vast, so our online sales will hopefully grow over time while we continue to promote and provide a good service. We ship across the world and have customers in Europe, Australia, South America and beyond. As our business grows I hope online does too, but it does require a lot of work to promote and compete with the larger companies who clearly have a bigger budget. I personally wouldn’t advise only having an online store, unless you have a large ongoing investment to keep it optimised. But why would you? Personally, I prefer the customer experience we can provide in store – that is the main reason why I started this business.
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