Lingerie shops navigate business during the pandemic


One of the selling points of visiting a specialty lingerie shop is the opportunity for one-on-one, hands on service from the staff.

Looking to find the best fitting bra, by its nature, is an intimate process.

But with protocols put in place to fight COVID-19, lingerie shops are finding that selling intimate garments in the traditional way may be too intimate to keep its customers safe.

CURVE New York, which organizes trade shows for the intimate clothing industry, held a webinar on May 13 to help retailers map out their operations in a post-pandemic shopping environment.

Led by Ellen Lewis, owner and publisher of the Lingerie Briefs, the webinar gathered store owners from across the country to offer up their experiences.

Although the panelists all represented brick and mortar stores, during the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” orders, the retailers participating said they had to turn to the web to maintain social distancing and to reach their customers.

“We have used digital and social media… in greater numbers and believe it has helped us during this pandemic to stay active,” said Patti Platt of A La Mode of Maryland.

“Social media helped us to reach people who were also shut off from the traditional way of business,” said Tana Re of TLC Lingerie of Montana. “Our Facebook helped us to promote items… We showed them beauitiful products that we just got in.”

Re said, “(Social media) also gave us a platform and the opportunity to post videos of us talking to our public and showing them our openness to the new way of doing things.”

COVID-19 has impacted how lingerie/ intimates shops are doing business. A model poses at CURVE New York in 2018. PHOTO by MIKE CHAIKEN

Some stores have turned to Facebook, Instagram and Zoom to organize virtual parties with their customers.

Although there were positives brought up about turning to the web, some of the panelists expressed concern about that approach to the intimates business. They noted one of the selling points of an intimate shop is securing a proper fit from a trained staff member. This is important, panelists said, because different brands and different styles will fit differently. An in-person experience is necessary to ensure a customer is buying the right bra. Even if a customer is a regular, and stores keep sizes on file, bodies do change and the files might be incorrect.

“My issue is that I feel I am doing my customers a disservice by not fitting them,” said one panelist.

One panelist, however, suggested stores create a video tutorial to post on their sites to help guide a customer to measure and fit themselves.

Another retailer noted that under the government guidelines put forth regarding social distancing, they can’t touch their customers to help guide them to a good fit.

The future could be brighter for the shops, who have been working remotely with customers.

After weeks in quarantine, panelists noted that those people who are still working are anxious to spend money. They also have more money available because they have been unable to spend funds on entertainment. “Put goodies in front of them and they will purchase.”

The retailers also noted the pandemic inspired them to expand the product lines they do carry. Some of the panelists said they had not carried pajamas or sleepwear before the pandemic. They are now finding a demand for these garments.

The pandemic also has forced the retailers to change their approach to how they handle the inventory. The panelists said they already were steaming garments for sterility before the pandemic. The need is even greater now to ensure the garments are safe, they said.