A Sophisticated Pair had a wonderful 2014. Not only did we upgrade retail spaces and host our biggest giveaway yet, but we also worked to improve our inventory mix and selection, bringing in shapewear brands like Yummie Tummie and Rago and expanding into lingerie from iCollection, stockings from Kix’ies, bust-friendly dresses from Bolero, and amazing bra and panty sets from Comexim and Anna Pardal. Now, with the new year officially started, I want to continue offering customers more options, colors, and styles. Once we survived two years of business, I decided to focus my efforts on creating a well-rounded shop that women could visit for more than just bras, a goal I am still pursuing. Since expansion for small businesses is typically slower, we are still balancing the buying plan for the year, but I wanted to give everyone an early sneak peak at some of the brands and styles we hope to carry this year.
- Sculptresse from Panache: As successful as Elomi and Goddess are for the shop, I am desperate to have another plus-size option, particularly for women who need deeper cups and narrower underwires than what Eveden brands can offer. Originally, I hoped to carry the charming plaid print bra appropriately named Dixie, but it was discontinued prior to release. Now, I contemplating the feisty animal print Chi Chi.
- Cleo Marcie in Basic Colors: Over the last two years, I have been asked with incredible frequency whether the Cleo Marcie is available in something other than (insert bright color of the season), and I am always the bearer of bad news. However, in February, we will have both the new beige and black Marcies in stock for our customers! *collective applause*
- More Wacoal: Okay, so Wacoal doesn’t seem to receive much attention in the blogosphere, and a lot of women build up animosity toward the brand because it’s usually the only thing available in DD-G cups in mainstream shops. However, Wacoal makes some of the best quality bras on the market, and contrary to popular belief, many of them are downright adorable. On the buying agenda for the new year are the Halo Lace Spacer bra, the Retro Chic, How Perfect Wire Free Bra, and the Embrace Lace non-contour bra. We also want to bring in additional styles from Wacoal’s sister brand, like b.tempt’d like Sheer Delight and b.Delight’d.
- More Natori: Natori fares slightly better on the web in part because of the ever popular Feathers bra and their amazing pajamas, but like Wacoal, this is another quality lingerie brand with a lot to offer. For 2015, I am particularly interested in two new expansions. The first is Skarlet Blue, a moderately priced line between Josie and the original Natori, which will have a mix of youthful style bras and sleep sets. Skarlet Blue offers adorable matching PJs for as low as $49 as well as cute sleep shirts and lingerie. While I have admired the Natori sleepwear brands since we opened, the price point even on the cheapest line (Josie) is above what I thought would do well for the shop. However, the new Skarlet Blue line proves to be a lovely bridge line for customers wanting a Natori sleep set at a great price. In addition to Skarlet Blue, Natori will also expand to fuller-figure sizes with the incorporation of more 40-44 bands. These will be bras on the same price and quality level as the original Natori line with a wider size range.
- Tutti Rouge: We carried Tutti Rouge when the line first released, and I think the brands fun aesthetic and commitment to improving season after season is wonderful. As a result, I want to at least bring in the sugary Liliana cream set for spring/summer.
- Fluert with Me Sleepwear: As I mentioned when discussing Skarlet Blue, sleepwear has been on my radar since opening, but it’s hard to find boutique-oriented lines that are not selling a two-piece pajama set for $100+. Granted the fabric feels impossibly soft and comfortable, but I have never been convinced that price point would work in our shop. Fortunaately, Fluert with Me (sister brand to the original Fluert) is a lower priced option with the same great modal based fabrics as many expensive brands. If our first collection goes well in April, look for more of these styles in the shop year round.
- More Comexim and Anna Pardal: Given how successful our relationship with both brands has been for 2014, it makes sense to continue expanding our selection. By the end of 2015, I’d love to have at least three styles from the brands in stock, and with Anna from Anna Pardal hoping to add longlines and babydolls to the collection, I have a feeling it will be hard to choose which ones!
- More Lingerie: Last year was the first year we started to see more interest in lingerie pieces like corsets, stockings, robes, and chemises, and we have been expanding carefully. For 2015, I’d like to continue growing the styles we offer so customers can pick up what they need without needing to order.
- More Bust-Friendly Clothing: Not only are we going to stock multiple Bolero dresses, but I am also going to work with Urkye to bring in button-fronts and possibly jackets into the shop.
- Eucalan Wash: I know, I know. How can you get excited about lingerie/delicate wash when there is talk of Anna Pardal Longlines, the Sculptresse Chi Chi, and bust-friendly clothing? Simple: Eucalan products are hypoallergenic and organic with incredible stain-fighting abilities. Did I mention they have rinseless soap? Yes, hand-washing just got that much easier.
Reading through this list, you may notice a highly requested item nowhere to be found in our expansion plans: swimwear. I would like to carry swimwear in the shop. No, scratch that. I would desperately, unabashed, crazily love to carry swimwear in the shop. The ongoing requests I see from customers, especially during bathing suit season tells me the investment would be a worthwhile one too. Given all of this, why is swimwear not on the agenda? Simply put: I don’t have the money to do it. Now, looking at the list above, you may be wondering why I wouldn’t have enough cash for swimwear, and I’ll explain. First, the expansion options above are spaced out over 12 months. Most swimwear arrives in stores at the end of January through the end of March (well before anyone wants to get into a swimsuit), and for many of the lingerie companies we carry, swimwear is an entirely different approval and credit process with new minimum order points (usually $1000) to be met. In order to bring swimwear into the shop, I estimate I would need anywhere from $5k to $7k in open cash flow by January 31st, and then I would be sitting on that inventory until temperatures were warm enough for people to actually need them. It’s a big risk, a business-ending risk if it doesn’t pan out the way I hope. As a result, swimwear is on hold. Not to mention, I have always said I wanted to make sure we had our bases covered as much as possible on the bra and lingerie front first because that is our primary business, and we are still working to meet demand for certain items and styles.
Having dashed countless dreams with the above paragraph, if things go well this year, I may look into doing a partially crowd-sourced swimwear collection for 2016, meaning you contribute $X and get a gift voucher. It would help pay for the swimwear up front and lesson the risk. Or, we could just have an amazing 2015, and I can justify the outlay and risk for 2016 without any assistance. Either way, I’ll have more information on this closer to summer.
Your turn: What else would you like to see come to the store over the next year or two? Are there products you have a hard time locating locally?