Our annual statistical series, which originated when store-related activities occupied a significantly smaller portion of my time, transformed over the years into a process I both love and loathe—love for the satisfaction it affords my inner math geek and analytical personality type who genuinely enjoys pouring through data and abstracting patterns and loathe for the overworked business owner who has to find time for sifting through large quantities of figures. Nevertheless, to even be celebrating five years of business, no matter how much time it tacks onto the analysis, is something of a mini-miracle for our small but ambitious shop. Examining the cumulative data demonstrates how much we have grown, not only in terms of sales figures but also in size and style assortment. Before we delve into the statistics, however, I wanted to make a few preemptive comments in the hopes of lending some perspective to the actual numbers. (Note: If you haven’t already seen our post on the giveaway, do so now as there is still time to enter.)
The steamy summer month of July holds a special place in my heart because our little bra shop celebrates its anniversary. A Sophisticated Pair stemmed from my personal desire to find a store which not only offered a range of bra sizes in a wide assortment of colors and styles, but that also offered the kind of quality customer service I found lacking in my own bra shopping experiences. When I was finally fitted properly, I realized the potential for transformation contained in a bra fitting and wanted everyone to feel the same way I did—to look at themselves through the lens of acceptance and confidence. The experience left such an imprint on me that despite being a computer programmer fresh out of grad school, I began researching not only bra fitting techniques but also the fundamentals of owning a small retail business. After two years, I felt comfortable contemplating the idea of a storefront, and I approached my aunt Debbie and my dad Jason with my ideas for improving the bra shopping experience. Together, we sacrificed, worked hard, persevered, and worked harder still so that we could open our doors on July 17, 2011. In a few short days, we will celebrate five years of operation. I have several posts planned about the anniversary (including our annual statistical series) and am looking forward to sharing some of the ups and downs we’ve had with all of our readers. For the meantime though, let’s discuss our annual sale and giveaway!
As someone who is still struggling to build my shop, I have adopted a very strong “pay it forward attitude” toward other small businesses, and when my friend Patricia of Bolero put me in touch with P.D. Roche and her brainchild “Hot Women Clothing,” I was not only intrigued by the concept but also wanted to help P.D. gain exposure for her brand. Like many people living in the south, especially those suffering from the dreaded hot flashes, P.D. tried everything to beat the heat but felt the heavy use of synthetic fabrics, particularly in lounge and nightwear, were at odds with keeping her cool. She wanted to upgrade her favorite worn in tee shirt into something just as breathable and relaxed but with a little more color and style. When I spoke with P.D., I thought the products were a natural fit for our store, not only for menopausal women but for anyone needing cotton sleepwear. Furthermore, many of our lounge pieces, even the cotton ones, are only available in Small to X-Large, with a max size range of 0 to 14. Our wonderful inbetweenies and plus-size customers felt neglected, but Hot Women Clothing specifically caters to fuller-figures. Don’t let the use of Medium to X-Large terminology confuse you. All of the Hot Women Clothing pieces are over-sized, meaning her mediums cater to size 12-18 depending on how relaxed you prefer her fit. In fact, the gorgeous zebra robe has a 60″ circumference to accommodate a range of sizes. Finally, Hot Women Clothing is another “Made in the USA” product, and we all know how I feel about that! We are currently stocking an assortment in the shop right now and will be adding them to the online portal soon. All her products are made from 100% cotton (and not that cheap thin stuff you can see through either), and are priced between $52 and $65. Enough of my gabbing, let’s talk with P.D.!
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.