5th Annual Stats: Best-Selling Bra Sizes

Hello Everyone,

With the general band and cup size sales for the store reviewed, analyzing the specifics of the best-selling bra sizes often confirms trends I already observed and aids in finding which core sizes deserve not only more available styles but also multiple units to prevent stock outtages and minimize reliance on special orders.  However, in keeping with my desire to streamline the series this year, I eschewed my standard assemblage of bar charts with the cup size distribution for each band in favor of a single line graph showcasing the sales for all of the bands together.  The simplicity of the unifying graphs allows you to see how each of the bands differs from the others in what cup sizes perform best as well as showcases the data lines contributing the classic Bell Curve created by cup size sales.  (Note: For clarity and ease, I strictly utilized the UK sizing system and only focused on 28-46 bands.)

brasizes
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Determining our top bra sizes is analogous to those fun “Did you know?” type posts on social media that are cool to read but somewhat superficial in terms of analysis.  And yes, the below graphic will show up on our social media accounts because self-promotion!  Yay!  However, there is only so much useful information to glean from knowing what bra size one small store in the southern US sold the most of in five years, particularly given our results will not be universally representative of all lingerie stores or of the industry as a whole.  It’s one of the reasons I love to hear from other retailers about their sales.  All of us have a unique mission, sizing system, and general assortment that impacts what sizes sell best. As a result, I prefer to focus on the bra size clusters producing the most cumulative sales and why they are so important for success.

bestsellers

Most retailers face a potentially devastating inventory challenge:  The Too Many SKUs Dilemma.  The problem centers on the ease at which a retailer’s general inventory becomes bogged with too many unique items—in the context of this discussion, too many sizes—which can decrease turnover rate, tie up valuable budgeting dollars with dead inventory, and leave customers dissatisfied with the general range of products.  I strongly believe it is one of the reasons why big box retailers zero in on a smaller group of bra sizes rather than catering to everyone, and to be fair, it’s a valid business strategy.  (As an aside, this does not excuse unscrupulous fitting techniques and is rather an observation about the problems faced by businesses carrying more sizes.)  In most clothing stores, you usually see under 20 different size variants for items, but in lingerie, especially bras, it is feasible for a retailer to have access to over 225 different sizes.  The sheer potential for so many people in different sizes to walk through the door, each with individual preferences and needs, can easily lead to a messy, mistake-riddled inventory littered with sizes you never see, fashion stock which didn’t resonate with the size range you selected, and/or bras too similar to other inventory to distinguish themselves.  Moreover, it is hard to grapple with what color the customer base will prefer for a bra, what sizes to pick for a new untested style, and what general clusters need more or less inventory on hand.

Once you start carrying more sizes in stock, balancing your storage and budget transforms into a tight rope walk without a safety net, particularly because you often cannot return poor performing inventory.  You either sell it or donate it.  What’s more, a sub-optimal inventory selection means certain people will not be able to leave with a bra immediately or, in a worst case scenario, at all.  That’s hard.  It’s hard to tell someone you don’t stock their size.  We’re all sensitive about our bodies to varying degrees, and the first instinct for people is to immediately question themselves.  What’s wrong with me?  Why can’t I ever find what I need?  Why do I have to be such a freak?  No bra fitter I know wants to make another person feel awkward, upset, or ill at-ease in their own skin even though many of us, myself included, have done just that by not realizing how a phrase impacted a customer’s feelings.  When you deal with sensitive issues like a person’s size, choosing the right words is imperative but challenging, and most people do not intentionally want to make anyone feel badly about his/her body for wearing a specific bra size (I say “most” because we all know some people are complete jerks).  It’s because of those conversations that the lofty and impractical goal of total size inclusivity arises— a goal which often clashes with the basic business tenet that retailers need to make money to survive.

To be more inclusive and have the capital to offer special orders or to stock at least one bra for certain sizes only works by catering to your majority.  You must ensure people in the best-selling, most common sizes can purchase immediately without needing to wait for orders.  We live in a world strongly motivated by instant gratification, and customers may not want to wait for a special order, opting instead to log into their Prime account and take advantage of increasingly faster and faster shipping options.  Your goal as a retailer is to make the sale that day, not rely on orders or promises of free shipping to engage with the customer, and simply put: the more sizes you stock, the less likely you are to accomplish this.  It’s why it’s so imperative to know what size groups are going to account for the bulk of your demand and ensure they have the best selection.  Those sizes keep you in business so you can help the people in less common ranges.

With this in mind, examining the above size clusters demonstrates how much of our in-store inventory can focus on a more manageable 48 sizes and still satisfy over 75% of customers.  In fact, I specifically selected our 36 best-selling sizes (everyone give a collective hand to my business partner/dad Jason for finding them for me) to prove how carefully curating a selection around those best-sellers can increase overall sales.  It’s not a coincidence that some boutiques may not stock above a G or H cup or that others will not stock certain bands.  For their customer and goals, carrying under 50 sizes may be more profitable and easier for them than having over a 100 sizes available with another 100+ that can be ordered.

In closing, I haven’t decided anything yet, but this may be the last year I tabulate the bra sizes in such detail.  The reporting software on my point-of-sale system does not understand US and UK sizing (shame on it!), and as such, much of the data grunt work must be done by a human being (namely me) to differentiate which G cup sales are UK Gs vs US Gs (among many other letters).  I nearly gave up this year, but I am not ruling it out should I decide to break out my programming books and write software to do it for me.  We shall see!  In the meantime, what do you think of the best-selling sizes?  My next post is going to be a little more hodge podge with areas of growth/decline, best-sellers, and so on.

Erica

P.S.  Other blogs in this year’s series:  A Guide to Interpretation, Band & Cups – Bra Size Divided.

P.P.S.  Links to Year 4 Stats:  Demographics, Band Sizes, Cup Sizes, Bra Sizes, and Best-Sellers.

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5th Annual Stats: Best-Selling Bra Sizes
Erica
Erica is a lover all things lingerie and is passionate about helping people find the bra which fits and flatters. Side passions include reading, writing, hiking, dairy-free food, walking her Jack Russell terrorists, and dying her hair everything from black to red.
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9 thoughts on “5th Annual Stats: Best-Selling Bra Sizes

  • August 24, 2016 at 3:35 pm
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    I’m sort of happy to see that I’m amongst the more popular cup and.band sizes. I’m currently in a 36G (US ) in most of my bras. Definitely not the average size for a guy ,but, it is what it is (or they are).

    I’m still not certain why stores like JCP or Macy’s still only carry up to.a.DD or DDD in most of their bras. Any ideas?

    Reply
    • Erica
      September 7, 2016 at 12:06 pm
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      Hi Corey! I had this discussion with several people leading up to this post, which is actually the inspiration for my discussion of the sizing. In short, I think the reason you do not see larger cups or more diverse sizing in department stores is because of the “Too Many SKUs Dilemma.” Department stores want to get you in and out with your purchase without needing to order extra items, so if they only carry a set number of sizes, they can focus on ensuring they have a range of colors and styles each with multiple units per size. Couple that with lack of experienced fitters (if any), and it makes it easy for people to think they wear a A-DDD size, go into a store, and easily buy bras with or without help. Factor in that lingerie departments in big stores typically also carry a range of actual lingerie, pajamas, robes, hosiery, etc., and it makes fiscal sense to double down on certain sizes to the exclusion of others. It’s one of the reasons some boutiques will do this too and only carry a range that is most profitable. I know if I only carried, say 30-40 UK A-H cups, we’d have more colors per bra available in store and probably more sizes. Some people are very funny about not wanting to wait, and other times, waiting is not an option. So it can hurt us that we carry so many size but so few colors or units.

      Reply
  • August 24, 2016 at 4:54 pm
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    In your previous post I think you said around 38% of your bras sold were in the plus range? I think it will be interesting to watch, if you expand the offering, how the plus sizes invade the top ten. Are you including 38’s in your plus size stats? Do you split them out by band size or brand/style?

    Haven’t your best selling sizes shifted as clientele has grown?

    I love reading your Annual Report posts!

    Note: I get increasingly ticked off that I rarely find (in store or online) my sizes at most retailers when I fall into, depending on brand, 4/5 of your top selling categories. Grrr….

    Reply
    • Erica
      September 7, 2016 at 12:26 pm
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      Yep, I do include 38s in my plus-size stats (I consider plus-size 38+ bands), and I think the reason there is only one in the top 10 deals more with how strong the sales are in the other top sizes than with low sales for the 38s. I’m going to compare sales in the last 12 or 18 months (not sure which yet) to showcase how things are changing too, but in general, 34F and sister sizes around that tend to do the best for us. That said, the 38 bands are interesting to me because we have client clusters in the 38H, 38HH, 38J, and 40GG range who all compete over bras. I’ve started doubling up on those sizes in my fashion orders, but that size tends to be pretty popular and common because of those clients. Other sizes have similar effects too. What I’ve seen this year, more than any other, is the distribution starting to normalize more across all the sizes. My E-G sizes were technically “down” in terms of how much they sold compared to other sizes although they still perform very strongly . . . there’s just been more sales in A-C cups and GG+ which impacted the percentage of how much the E-G cups sold relative to total sales. Bra sizing is often hard to distinguish best-sellers in some senses too because each bra runs differently, and it’s also very common for someone to buy a US 34G in a Natori and then a 36DDD in Wacoal, for example. I think it’s interesting, but not always useful. I find it more important to know which general ranges perform best and in which styles. For example, I very rarely have customer come in wearing A-C cups who will consider a non-padded bra, so if I am bringing in non-padded, chances are those sizes will not be in the mix. Or if I am considering a new Curvy Couture style, I know the sizes which do best for them are 34-38 DDD-H. For Panache, FF+ cups perform best, and for Comexim, it’s 28-34 bands. It’s that kind of information which is hard to extrapolate from best-selling sizes or indeed any analysis of sizing that helps me make better buying decisions. It comes more from experience and from doing purchase orders week after week after, lol. In fact, it’s the latter kind of information, I am hoping to showcase in my upcoming post!

      Reply
  • August 24, 2016 at 8:25 pm
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    I am little surprised there’s only one 38 band in the top 10. I am not surprised that most fall outside of US core sizing. I am both surprised and not surprised at the lack of 40FF+ in a top group because it falls out side of core Lane Bryant/Torrid sizing but I would probably still be cramming myself into an ill-fitting Lane Bryant bra if not for my roommate spilling out of the US H with shoulder problems. (We always do things for people we care about we wouldn’t do for ourselves.)

    There is something very empowering and self esteem boosting when you finally get a bra that fits (also that is not beige and medicinal looking). Which is why I go around evangelizing about UK sizing and handing out Erica’s card.

    Reply
    • Erica
      September 7, 2016 at 12:47 pm
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      Hi Ashley! I touched on this in my comment to Wide Curves, but I think the lack of 38+ bands and 40FF+ cups in the top ten has more to do with very strong sales in those top 10 sizes overshadowing good sales in other ones. We’ve seen growth all around for plus-size, particularly in 40-46GG+ cups, but when compared to a 34F or 34FF, the sales from the core size tend to be so consistent and so large that the good performance from the 38HH, for example, does not have enough to kick ’em out of the top 10. That said, I checked my Top 36 sizes, and they are as follows starting with number 11: 34GG, 32FF, 36G, 38FF, 36DD, 40F, 38E, 36GG, 34DD, 32DD, 32G, 38GG, 38G, 38H, 32GG, 40G, 40FF, 34H, 30F, 38HH, 42F, 40E, 34D, 38DD, 32D, 42FF. As you can see, the 38s and 40s are definitely great sellers for us, just not quite as great as the top 10s. 🙂

      With regard to Lane Byrant/Torrid, I think the referrals can sometimes be a little misleading in terms of translating to sales. A lot of their bras are padded, molded cups, so their customer comes in expecting that style. Unfortunately, if you wear a 38+ band and UK G+ cup, your options for molded, padded cups dwindle industry-wide, and many of what is available starts around $65. As a result, some people won’t purchase anything or will only purchase one bra and wear it until it falls apart before purchasing another. I think if Curvy Couture or Eveden could release a more affordable molded cup and/or add sizes, we’d see even more sales there.

      Reply
  • August 30, 2016 at 1:08 pm
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    You have com up with such a great statistics. I think it will help the women to find their right bra size easily. Also, it helps to the bra manufacturer to design which size bra which has on demand in market.

    Reply
    • Erica
      September 7, 2016 at 12:48 pm
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      Thanks, Jasmin! I always find the process pretty eye-opening. 🙂

      Reply

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