Today’s article is the first in what I hope is a new, regular column titled “Why Do Lingerie Retailers…?” I was talking with Catherine (from Kiss Me Deadly) on Facebook chat a few weeks ago, and asking her about all the weird things lingerie retailers do (and by weird, I mean, “things I don’t understand because I’ve never worked in the lingerie industry.”)
Catherine, being the incredibly obliging, patient, and kind soul that she is, answered all my questions and at the end we realized this would make a really fantastic column…because chances are if I have those questions, tons of other people do too. The first column is about a question both of us get asked a lot, namely – Why are size ranges limited? Here’s what she had to say -
I once wrote a huge thing about this containing some basic stats ideas, and I’m going to return to that, but because it’s pleasingly simple and very gross, let’s talk fingers first. A small amount of people have no fingers. Some people have less than 10. And a very few people have extra fingers (depending on your definition of fingers). This means that the average number of fingers is less than 10. But would you make gloves with less than 10 fingers? No, because the average isn’t always the same as the most common – which, in this case, is 10 ( or 8 fingers and 2 thumbs, for the pedants).
Now lets talk more complicated stuff like dress sizes and bra sizes. There are many dress sizes and even more bra sizes. When you get big numbers, like dress sizes for everyone in the UK, magic things happen to your numbers. Just under 70% of people will fall into the sizes around the most common size. So if you’re a mainstream retailer, how will you make the most money? Do multiple styles in the most common sizes? Or invest heavily in a few ranges that cover all the sizes?
Yep, it’s the first one. However, if you are a specialist, catering to the 15% who are at the top or bottom of the distribution, well then you can concentrate on those less common sizes and do as many styles as you can in that range. But the catch is you only ever target that demographic.
If you’re a big retailer, obviously you’ll do a bit of both. The bulk will be ranges in the usual sizes, with a few brands you have to meet the niche demographics. But if you’re a smaller brand? Well, you just don’t have the negotiating power and the economies of scale those larger companies do, and so you carry fewer sizes. As the saying goes, “It’s not you, it’s us!”