Remember my annual stats series? No? I don’t blame you seeing as how I started it back in August during a streak of productivity and over-ambitiousness which was ultimately sidelined by the damn move I keep mentioning. Anyway, the store has been unusually quiet, even for a traditionally slow month, and while that bodes poorly for sales, I seized the opportunity to slog through my expansive “To Do” list and revisit my statistical posts. Originally, I planned to divide the content into two smaller, more manageable blogs, but sheesh, how many do we really need? I have so much more content to work on and post that I think we’ll close here with an abundance of cool information on our best-sellers, our up-and-comers, and even our down-and-outers. (Previous entries were: A Guide to Interpretation, Band & Cup sizes, and Best-Selling Bra Sizes.)
Since bras are our proverbial bread and butter, I am most mindful of which ones are selling and which are simply not resonating with our customers. With five years of sales figures to data mine, I was curious to see what has performed best from the beginning but also to examine how longevity may be propping up stagnant sellers with historical sales. Consequently, the above graphic lists both our cumulative best-sellers as well as those from the last year only (keeping in mind we entered a time warp and the last twelve months are July 17, 2015 to July 17, 2016).
Notes & Observations:
- The Panache Sports bra occupies roughly 4.8% of total sales both cumulatively and annually. In fact, even in 2013 and 2014, the sports bras sales still hover around 4.8%, but given the long term, committed support it receives from avid fans, sales stability is not unexpected.
- For Comexim & Anna Pardal, I combined both brands and their total bra sales together for one lump amount. Purists may cry foul with this approach, but honestly, the plunge bra is so specifically Comexim that it felt petty to split hairs and divide the styles, particularly since most people were ordering from both brands equally. Moreover, I examined my personal notes and discovered the most common alteration requested for both brands: Reduced Cup, Reduced Gore, and Straps Moved in by 2cm.
- With Comxim & Anna Pardal factored together, they finish a solid 2nd place across five years of sales, an exceptional feat given their relative newness compared to many styles which have been with us practically since opening. However, what highlights the growth and popularity of the Polish import best is how the dollar amount sold last year is over double the amount sold by the next best-selling style, the Panache Sports Bra.
- Goddess Keira & Kayla: Elomi has always been our best-selling brand for the store, but with their continued price increases, some of our customers are switching to Goddess as a wallet-friendly alternative with a similar fit and quality level. As a result, sales of Keira and Kayla have skyrocketed while simultaneously cannibalizing sales of Cate (formerly Caitlyn). The exceptional color and print variety as well as durable fabrics propelled Keira/Kayla higher onto the list, and if we examine units sold, it surpasses the Panache Sport Bra as our second best-seller. Not to mention, the lace variation Adelaide is also performing well, which could mean further decline in sales for Cate.
- For a bra with half of the size range of the other best-sellers, the exceptional success of the Basic Beauty Spacer bra truly demonstrates the superb quality, affordable price point, and lovely fit. This Wacoal best-seller has been converting fans of Rebecca and Amelia since it’s release with many preferring the overall fit and materials of the Basic Beauty. Not to mention, with the recent release of the Retro Chic Spacer Bra (a style similar to Basic Beauty but available up to a US H cup), I expect we’ll see both styles influencing sales in the future.
- A note on Panache Lingerie: While Envy did make a notable appearance on the yearly sales, the best-sellers tend to under represent the brand. Given Panache’s exceptionally fashion-oriented approach to collections, we tend to have their cumulative sales spaced out across multiple fashion styles. While combining Anna Pardal and Comexim together makes sense, I feel doing the same with Panache is misleading. While many of their bras are not only phenomenal but also a savior for fuller-cup customers, their lack of continuity, particularly in popular fashion styles like Olivia and Georgia, means they have excellent sales as a brand but most individual styles, aside from the Sports Bra, do not stand out on our best-sellers list.
Inherent Bias in the Best-Sellers
Given my statistical series is not a comprehensive hundred page long analysis, there are naturally going to be inherent biases in how I present data. In the case of the best-sellers, we have a group of bras which are fantastic in their own right, but we also have some amazing bra styles which do not make it onto the list because of multiple factors. First, the size range of a bra can greatly influence its sales. The Goddess Keira, for example, is available in 60 sizes, including many of the best-selling sizes for the shop, while the Natori Feathers Contour only has 30 sizes, nearly half of which perform lower overall for us. Thus, Keira boasts an innate advantage in this comparison and would naturally sell more.
Price is another factor in the best-sellers list because I drew my data from exit price sales. If you sell ten $70 bras, your gross sales are $700, but you would need to sell twenty $35 bras to equal the same amount. The argument could be made that best-sellers should only be viewed in terms of units sold, but as I mentioned in demographics, the dollar amount is more insightful for me as a retailer. Profit margins on bras are fairly consistent—no matter if the bra retails for $40 or $400—and clock in between 50% and, if you are super super lucky, 62.5%. Keep in mind, the profit margin built into the retail price by the manufacturer does not account for shipping fees, some of which can be quite high, and it is further reduced by discounts, sales, and customer loyalty points (a factor in our case). From that meager profit margin—and trust me, it’s meager—you have to eek out enough money to pay rent, utilities, payroll, and the myriad of other expenses you incur as a small business while simultaneously addressing customer demands for expansion. Circling back to the point of this paragraph: Assuming you make $35 from a $70 bra and $17.50 from a $35 bra, you still need to sell two $35 bras to make the same as selling one $70 bra. Now, inventory turnover factors into this equation too because because if it’s easier to sell two of a $35 bra than one of a $70, it makes financial sense to invest more in the former. However, in the world of bras, it has been my experience the fit, quality, and long term satisfaction of the customer improves with a higher price.
Finally, as discussed in reference to Panache, whether a bra has a basic variation also influences its standing. Fashion-only offerings tend to sell slower because the bulk of our customers are looking for neutrals, especially during their initial appointments, meaning that fabulous red and black bra (*cough* Parfait Charlotte *cough*) may end up on a file but not in our signature zebra bag at checkout.
Running a shop requires constantly listening to your consumers for feedback on what they like, dislike, and prefer to see available. In some instances, I draw my data from official surveys, but in others, I make notes about what I hear on a day-to-day basis interacting with customers. Here are our top requests:
The Non-Bra Inventory Paradox
Some of the above products are already on the horizon, bra-sized swimwear and more in-stock sports bras included, but among the list of bra-related products, we also have quite a few requests for items found in any well-rounded lingerie department, such as shapewear, lingerie, and a wider selection of underwear styles, sizes, and prices. In our demographics post, I mentioned how our shopping center generates practically no foot traffic—a sad circumstance which has influenced the direction of the store in manifold ways, the strongest being the performance of bras versus their non-bra counterparts. While we do have successful non-bra items, several of my attempts to diversify the store have resulted in sluggish sales if not outright failure. What we experience is a conflict between what people say they want and what people actually buy, and as a destination store, people often forget about us when they are shopping for anything other than bras. After all, it’s easier to find hosiery, sleepwear, or accessories in other stores whereas we may be the only place customers can purchase bras.
Bras also tend to absorb the majority of a customer’s shopping budget for their visit, particularly if the person is not local, and even if a customer finds non-bras items he/she likes, bras often (understandably) take budgeting priority. Of course, as a retailer, when you stock something only for it to sell slowly, the decision not only ties up budgeting dollars for future items but also implants a lingering skepticism about experimenting. Lately, much of my expansion efforts focused on addressing bra demands.
Unfortunately, the disparity between perceived demand and actual demand has contributed to a vicious cycle. Customers recognize us as “the bra shop” rather than “the lingerie shop,” thus ensuring any non-bra items are placed on hold for a day which never seems to come. In return, I cut back on the non-bra items we stock, thus making our inventory selection smaller and reinforcing people’s existing perceptions of our brand identity. Now, I fully recognize my own role in this problem. I have never actively or aggressively marketed the store in these avenues, and my orders have always been trial-oriented. Many brands push retailers for larger orders for “saturation.” Essentially, the more brand saturation in the store—the more selection you carry of their products, the more sizes, the more general diversity—the more likely you are to succeed with the line. It’s not an unfair or even incorrect way of thinking, albeit an expensive one. Taking panties as an example, if you only spend a small amount to test run a few styles, then you may exclude certain customers, whether because you do not carry their size, have nothing in the style they prefer, or because your inventory is not the right price or quality range. We suffered from this with bras for a while too. Customers tend to form an opinion of what your store offers that is not always malleable even if the store has changed quite a bit with time. It’s a tricky scenario and one I hope to address more in the future, especially because I have an entire folder of bookmarked products and brands I think are amazing, unique, and not available everywhere that would be a perfect complement to what we carry in the store. We’ll see what the future holds!
Well, that concludes the stats part of the series, but I have some anniversary related posts on bra fitting and experiences on the horizon too. What did you think of the series this year? Any feedback for what you would like to see next year?