With demographics giving our sales context, today I am analyzing the sales distribution of band sizes. Per usual, I will omit cup size and instead examine how much of our sales is concentrated per size. Check out the graph below to see the percentage of total sales represented by each band size:
Observations and Notes:
- We have sold a few 26 bands, but the frequency is so sporadic and the amount so trivial that I have not included them in the graph.
- For reference, the 50+ band size data accounts for 50-56 bands only.
- Band sizes 32 to 38 account for nearly 70% of our total sales, which is identical to last year. If we factor in 40 bands, the figure jumps to nearly 79%, also the same as last year.
- The 34 band size continues to be our best-selling band size store-wide, accounting for nearly 20% of our sales.
- Sadly, 28 and 30 bands only account for 8.8% of our sales which is down slightly from last year.
- Traditional plus-size bands (38-46) represent 37.6% of our sales, up a little from last year.
- Even though I compared the figures to last year, keep in mind we switched to a sales based system this year instead of our usual unit-based system. This is discussed more in depth in the demographics post.
Smaller Bands and Personal Preference
Even though I strongly advocate for the inclusion of smaller bands in manufacturers’ collection, my sales for 28 and 30 bands have always been and still remain quite low, especially for the poor 28s. I suspect the combined 26-30 bands will always account for less than 10% of our total sales. Part of the reason for lower sales from this demographic is the wider prevalence of the +2 and +4 fitting methodology. By this, I do not mean misinformation is leading our customers to purchase band sizes that are too big for them, but rather it has been my experience as a fitter that people who measure 26-30″ around the ribcage choose to size up more frequently in the band than any other band size group. In some cases, the band size which matches their ribcage measurement feels too tight or presses the underwire in painfully. Given the emphasis on t-shirts or thin knits here, avoiding back fat is a common request too, leading clients to size up for a smoother profile in the back. Usually people choosing to size up wear F cups or under, but I have seen customers in H or HH cups do the same. What band size they were wearing previously can also impact what size they choose to buy, with people wearing 34 or 36 bands more likely to stick with a comfortable 32 than drop to a 28 or 30. I think it’s important to remember tolerance and personal preference vary widely from individual to individual, and we need to be mindful of how we make others feel when discussing “proper” measuring or fitting techniques. The +0 method is a great starting point, but it does not work for everyone.
Another important element to consider here is that we are looking at a quarter of our sales being online, and it’s certainly possible if those were in-store sales where clients had access to 28 or 30 bands, that the figures would be a bit higher for those sizes. Finally, there is an under-served market lurking in this category impacting the sales as well. We have quite a few slender women with very soft tissue needing 28 or 30 bands. The open top cups, plunging necklines, and stiffer fabrics on some of the 28 and 30 band size options do not work for them. They are better suited by shapes like the Wacoal Awareness, Retro Chic, or Visual Effects. The Panache Andorra can work sometimes, but this is an unfortunate area where fit issues pop up frequently. Some of these customers have needed to buy 32s or 34s and then have them altered in the band for a tighter fit. While I cannot say that the combination of online sales and underrepresented customers would increase the sales for 28 and 30 band significantly, it is certainly worth noting here.
32-40 Bands aka 79% of our Sales
As expected, the largest concentration of sales is in 32 through 40 bands. Given the size of the average woman (12 or 14), it makes sense to see such a strong performance for the range, particularly for 32-36 bands. As with last year, the 34 band is our best-selling band size with 36 and 38 close behind.
Right from the beginning, we have always had a strong plus-size customer base, and usually, this is the part in my analysis where I become critical and persnickety of what’s available. This year, I have to be honest: Things have gotten better. A lot better. I’m by no means suggesting we do not have further to go or that the market does not deserve some constructive feedback. My post earlier this year regarding the total lack of options for bigger band and smaller cups is a prime example of a market deficit. Nevertheless, with the introduction of fantastic brands like Curvy Couture and size expansions from established brands like Natori, Parfait, Wacoal, Curvy Kate, and Tutti Rouge, the plus-size marketplace is evolving quickly. Even plus-size lingerie pieces are becoming more prevalent with options from Parfait, Elomi, Tia Lyn, Hips & Curves, and iCollection managing to be both gorgeous and well-fitted.
Smaller Bands: Another Perspective
I realized when I was proofing this article that I made the point of noting low sales figures for 28 and 30 bands without commenting on how 44-56 bands only account for 5.9% of sales, 2.9% less than 28 and 30 bands. When put into this perspective, 28 and 30 bands are actually more common for us than 44+ bands. However, the reason I single them out each year is because I often read or hear from people that 28s/30s should have a higher market share than they do or how the only reason manufacturers claim they do not sell is because of issues with misinformation or poor fitting advice. I have no doubts that if every person in America was fitted properly for a bra that these numbers may change, but that’s not the sole issue impacting sales. As mentioned above, people measuring 28″ or 30″ around the ribs come into the shop all the time, but that does not mean they buy 28 or 30 bands. From speaking with other boutique owners, I know the frequency of sales at my store for these sizes is actually average to above average, and as a 30 band myself, I am pretty ecstatic about this. What I take from the figures is this: 28 and 30 band people do exist. We may not be as mainstream as we hope or believe, but there is a significant portion of us accounting for these sales. We aren’t a 34 or 36, but there is certainly enough demand to warrant inclusion in more collections, and manufacturers are listening. Natori has multiple 30 band styles now, and gorgeous newcomer Skarlett Blue is releasing 28 and 30 bands next year (32-36 A-DDD people: Check them out!). Even Wacoal and Le Mystere are releasing more 30s. Progress is being made for this demographic, and the best way to ensure it continues is to keep buying!
Words of Encouragement
From a personal perspective, I know a statistical series like this can negatively impact body image for some people. One of the unfortunate statements I hear on a weekly basis is how customers feel like they have “weird” or “abnormal” bodies, particularly if they fall outside of the more common sizes. There is nothing weird or abnormal about your body. I was speaking with Anna from Bras & Body Image last week on Twitter about the poor showing of 28/30 bands for our sales figures, and I joked how funny it is that I own a bra store and very rarely sell my own bra size. I could list all of my 28HH/28J/30H/30HH/30J customers off the top of my head right now because there’s like 20 to 25 of us. So, don’t read into this series as anything more than what it is: A reporting of sales figures.
Now, on the flip side, if I only have 20-25 customers in that size range, it makes sense that I can only carry so much inventory on hand. It’s not fair to ask a retailer to keep every single possible size in stock in multiple styles and colors when some of those sizes do not sell or sell rarely. Even a large retailer will eventually run into issues. What it does mean though is to find a retailer who will work with you to order products, give personalized advice, and help find you the right styles for your shape (like us *hint hint*). Keep in mind that past sales will always be a large factor in the buying process, and in order to stay open to help people in less common sizes, we need to stock more inventory we can sell quickly. These best-sellers help minimize inventory overhead and enable us to special order other sizes or styles as needed.
To this effect—and I know people hate to hear it—the best way to encourage manufacturers to make a special size is to buy them at full price. This isn’t to say you should buy a substandard product, but if you are never buying these sizes at full-price, retailers will not stock them. It’s not that I don’t want to have a large range of sizes or to have a decent selection in every size, but when you can carry everything from a 28D to a 56N, that easily leads to the “too many SKUs” problem. Your turnover plummets, your bottom line is eaten up with excess inventory, and pretty soon, you’re not helping anyone anymore. Retail ownership is hard, and boutique owners do the best they can. At the end of the day, our goal is to help you, our customers, and we would never want you to feel negatively about yourself because we don’t carry as much in your size. That being said, we are a business and have to keep our doors open to be here to continue helping our customers.