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Lingerie store looks for uplifting sales

23 July 2010 No Comment

By Helen Kaiao Chang

See original story on SDNN

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Despite San Diego’s sagging retail market, one lingerie store hopes to lift sales, while helping women lift their assets.

Intimacy, an Atlanta-based lingerie chain, opened its first West Coast store in the Fashion Valley shopping mall on Tuesday. The 3,300-square-foot boutique features luxury European brands, offered with personalized service.

“We felt that San Diego would be a really nice place for us to enter the West coast market – a little less formidable than L.A., a little more lifestyle oriented,” said Susan Nethero, company founder, who is also known as “the bra whisperer” in the Lifetime series “How to Look Good Naked.”

Nethero, who trained under the Queen of England’s Royal Bra Fitter, is helping women tuck in, lift their chests and reshape their figures, in the new store this week. The company’s main selling point is personalized service, with 30-minute consultations, 95 bra sizes, A to K cups – and no measuring tapes. The San Diego store alone has 12 staff who only do fittings with customers.

On the first day in San Diego, sales were the “highest of any store opening,” said Nethero. Intimacy stores typically do $3 million in annual revenue, or $2,500 per square foot, she said.

The retail sector is among the weakest in San Diego’s economy, but Nethero said her company is filling an unmet need in the market. When working with each customer, “We help her get the right bra for her body frame and size, then we work the cup depth to make sure she has sufficient cup depth and the underwire lays below the rib cage, so she doesn’t overflow or underfill the cup,” explained Nethero. A bra is “the most private product that you wear and the most technical product that you buy,” she said.

“Because of the economic environment, people are looking for basics and fashion,” said Jean Luc Tienturier, president, Curvexpo, a leading lingerie and swimwear trade show. “Lingerie is not a very high-end price point in the fashion world – it’s an affordable luxury accessory.”

People are buying fewer items or more basic colors – such as white, black and beige – said Tienturier, “but they still buy.”

The women’s underwear market was more than $14 billion in 2008, up nearly 15 percent since 2006, although growth rates are expected to slow in 2009, according to a report released by Mintel, a market research group. “Women’s underwear is big business and will grow despite (a) tough economy,” stated the report’s analysts.

Bras comprised $8.2 million or 59 percent of the market, while panties were $3.5 million, or 25 percent in 2008, the December 2008 report stated.

High-end lingerie particularly appeals to younger women, according to Mintel’s report. In addition, bra fit is a “top priority” for manufacturers, “because of the large percentage of women who say they have difficulty finding a bra that fits properly. ”

Victoria’s Secret is the nation’s biggest lingerie chain, with more than $4 billion in annual sales, 20 percent of the U.S. lingerie market and 1,000 stores nationwide, said Tienturier.

Curvexpo’s Tienturier believed that Intimacy will do well in San Diego, because the company is “very professional,” he said. “Before launching a new store, they study a market very carefully.”

San Diego is Intimacy’s seventh store location.

Follow Helen on Twitter @HelenChang.

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