My beloved blog has been rather silent this year, not for my lack of wanting to write new content, and today I want to briefly update here why posting has been irregular. Last year was not a good year. Between chronic illness and then my brother’s attack in September, the store truly suffered from closures, inconsistent hours, and order delays. We managed to keep our doors open and to even eek out a minuscule growth rate, but there were many times I questioned my decision to continue forward with A Sophisticated Pair. This year, however, has really seen an explosion for us. It feels like we are back on track with our customers and with our plans for expansion, and I cannot be happier. However, busy days, last minute appointments, and all the added responsibilities involved in strengthening our business have tested my time management skills to the limit. Blogging, despite being an outlet for my writing passion, was continually bumped to the bottom of my ever-expanding “To Do” list, along with posting updates on Facebook and Instagram, developing a new fit tool, dying my hair, and cleaning out my shed.
Today, I am tickled pink to be spotlighting a personal friend of mine: the one and only Iman Woods! Iman and I met when she came to the store in search of bras, and we immediately clicked. Both of us love being personal cheerleaders for people, empowering them to see the beauty within themselves and to appreciate their bodies as they are. Meeting Iman was not like meeting a stranger but more like connecting with a friend, and her generosity of spirit is inspiring. She volunteered to loan me the gorgeous pinup paintings—which she did herself by the way—to decorate the store, and she constantly refers clients to the shop. In keeping with her goals of building a supportive community, Iman often hosts “Girls Night Out” parties to introduce her friends to each other, and every single one of them has been a blast with lots of great conversation and laughter. I love when people build each other up and find ways of working together to create something wonderful, and Iman channels this energy into all of her endeavors.
When I received an email from Anna of Anna Pardal after attending Curves NY for the first and only time in February of 2014, I was giddy with excitement and knew instantly this was a marvelous opportunity for the shop. Over the last two years, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with her personally and professionally even though importing made-to-order products from Poland was not always easy. Anna and I certainly faced numerous challenges in ensuring all of our customers ultimately received the correct item, in the right size, and with the perfect combination of alterations. However, despite the problems, many clients found working with Anna to be a life changing experience. Our guest blogger Trycia was able to request a gorgeous custom Sabine set, including matching panties specifically designed with her needs in mind. Then there is Tami, a woman who suffered long term from chafing by the straps, too tall cups on the side, and a lack of center depth. Anna, Tami, and I collaborated together to engineer pattern changes that yielded a fit so perfect Tami felt like “superwoman.” Tami and Trycia are not alone either. Countless people took advantage of a generous alterations process to find the fit tweaks which worked best for them. Some people, like myself, fell in love with the classic shape immediately because of the low wires and deep cups that were more comfortable than UK brands while still others appreciated the luxurious, sophisticated aesthetic honed by Anna’s keen eye. Despite the lows, our relationship with Anna Pardal is defined more by the highs, which is why I was so saddened (okay, devastated) to hear that Anna was closing the brand for personal reasons. Running a small business is one of the hardest things a person can do in their lifetime, and I am glad she decided to put herself first and find some balance. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing her artistic perspective again in the lingerie world soon, but in the meantime, we wish her nothing but the best!
We have finally arrived at my favorite post to compile in the series: our best-sellers. While knowing which cup sizes, band sizes, and bra sizes sell the best is an extremely important element to maintaining inventory, it’s also smart to keep track of what products perform well and in what sizes. My strategy with purchasing new inventory is to create a well-rounded set of options per size cluster, which includes carrying multiple styles, colors, and brands designed to suit a variety of customer breast shapes and preferences. Analyzing our best-sellers can be a key way to select future core styles, determine the best colors to choose, and even analyze the optimum size configuration per style.
Since we have discussed the band sizes and cup sizes separately now, it’s time to combine them and analyze the breakdown of sales by bra size. To best accomplish this, I have created graphs of sales within each band size, and I also determined our best-selling sizes. Remember to read through our demographics post as well. (Note: All sizes are in UK sizing.)
My name is Holly, and like Erica, I spend at least six hours a day looking at bras. As a boutique owner, Erica has to get dressed up and go to work every day. As a lingerie copywriter and owner of The Full Figured Chest Copywriting and blog, I at least get to look at bras in my pajamas while petting my dog.
I jumped at the chance to write a column for Erica for several reasons.1) Most of the bras that I’ve bought in the past two years have come from her shop. Several of my favorite brands are things I have tried based on her recommendations. 2) Lots of the Sophisticated Pair customer base, both online and in store, is in my exact size range. And believe me, I have seen a ton of bras in my size range.
Looking back over my posts for August, my consistency was not exactly the best. As all of you know by now, we had a huge sale and giveaway contest, which took a greater toll on my time management skills than expected. Since the blog tends to rank lower on the priority list than my “business owner stuff,” it’s easy to fall into the trap of “That post can wait” and not update at all. While I enjoy writing posts more than writing purchase orders, the latter always take precedence. I do not know how September will pan out for consistency either because we have undertaken a pretty substantial project at the store: switching our e-commerce platform.
Remember that super amazing giveaway we did last month? Well, here are the winning ticket codes:
Full disclosure: I’m not a huge fan of the term “back fat” because I hear it way too often in my job by people who look perfect as they are. Factor in how the mere hint of this perceived imperfection can lead a client to size up in the band to the point of a poorer overall fit, and you can understand my frustration for yet another way people have at their disposal to pick themselves apart. I am also a woman who does possess some extra . . . ahem . . . tissue back there. I developed it after years of not wearing a bra that fits, particularly during periods of weight gain and loss, and even when I am in fighting shape, the squishy bits DO NOT GO AWAY. I used to be really self-conscious about it, but I realized there were much better things for me to worry about and have made peace with it.
July 17th is always an emotional day for us because it marks our anniversary for opening the shop, and with four years of operation and experience under the proverbial belt, we feel the store has truly grown and improved—a trend we plan to continue by expanding our inventory and improving our services. Because our boutique would not exist without the support of our wonderful customers, we are happy to celebrate again this year with our August Anniversary Sale and Giveaway! Words will never express how much you mean to us, but a few free prizes certainly won’t hurt.
On more than one occasion, I have mentioned my ongoing goal to create a shop people visit for more than just bras, and while progress is slow due to budget and space constraints, I feel like our giveaway this year truly reflects how diverse the shop is becoming. We have prizes ranging from traditional lingerie sets to bust-friendly clothing to hosiery, and I have to give a standing ovation to our vendors for being so generous.