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.)
My recent collaboration with Bluestockings Boutique on small business ownership inspired me to explore one of the core elements of our discussion: the price of lingerie and how consumers perceive it. Do a quick search on Google (or your search engine of choice) for core bra styles from major lingerie brands like Panache, Natori, and Affinitas, and you may be surprised at how challenging it is to find discount pricing anymore. If the bra is black, beige, white, or a newly released fashion color, it is probably listed at full price, and if it’s not, wait a few days. Eventually, someone will report the infraction, and the item will quickly return to its original Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). But why have retailers all across the US finally agreed to uphold the same pricing schema despite years of competing for consumer dollars based on low cost? Simple. Manufacturers have grown tired of watching their carefully designed, high quality products be associated with low prices and discounts. Unlike many avenues of retail, intimate apparel remains fairly exempt from what’s known as inflationary pricing—a practice where the retailers and/or manufacturers inflate the price of a product beyond its true worth to allow for constant discounting and price-based competition. As a result, the suggested retail price on most items has been determined by the manufacturer to be a fair evaluation of the design process, fabrics, manufacturing, and associated retail expenses like rent, utilities, and the cost of a professional fitter. In short, there’s no wiggle room for lowering that price and maintaining a successful profit, particularly for boutique retailers. Enter the advent of MAP Agreements.