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.)
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.
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.