Is It Worth It? The Pros and Cons Of Running Your Own Lingerie Business
Whew, it’s been a long, challenging journey to get to here! After finally breaking free from the corporate fashion world and starting my own business a year ago, I’m finally on a path that excites and inspires me! It wasn’t easy. There were sleepless nights, multiple sacrifices, and tons of hard work, but this November marks the first anniversary of WonderLust Lingerie. I’m reflecting back on my journey to reevaluate what has worked for me and what still needs work.
Everybody tells you starting your own business is difficult, but it’s really hard to fully understand that until you actually take the plunge. And now that I’m in it, the truth is it’s even harder than I thought.
While there are so many rewarding aspects to my new job, I am constantly struggling to stay afloat and I know I am not alone. In fact, one of the questions I get asked most by aspiring business owners and lingerie enthusiasts is “Is it worth it?” which is a pretty loaded question. How can I sum up my experience and feelings when everyone is different and handles things in their own unique way?
In order to gauge if starting a lingerie business is worth it to you, you really have to do some soul searching first. Running a business in any field is taxing and not for the faint of heart. But if you truly have a passion for lingerie and are willing to put up with the stress and hard work it will entail, this could be the industry for you.
Below I’ve put together a list of pros and cons based on my own personal experience. I encourage budding lingerie entrepreneurs to read on and see if this could be a potential career path for you.
Pro: You get to help people find their confidence
Lingerie shopping can be intimidating and at times downright dreadful for some people. Maybe they lack the confidence to show off their body or have never found a fit or style that speaks to them. Either way, I’ve found that being respectful and sympathetic to your customers’ needs and feelings can go a long way. Once your customer feels safe and comfortable, chances are they’ll become repeat customers and may open up to new ideas about lingerie. It feels amazing to convert a timid customer into a full-on lingerista, and watching their confidence grow always brightens my day.
Con: Lingerie is still considered a risqué field
It boggles my mind that many people still consider lingerie to be “frivolous,” “dirty,” or even “misogynistic.” While it can certainly be all of those things, the majority of the lingerie industry is striving for quality, fashion, and fit with the wearer’s well-being in mind. Yes, it is a sector of the market that is intimate and personal, but this is why it has the ability to make a woman feel amazing on her own terms. I’m often met with inappropriate comments when I explain my job, which proves the lingerie industry is still judged differently and more harshly than other fashion professions.
Pro: You learn to appreciate all sorts of body types
I’ll admit that working in the fashion industry had taken its toll on me in terms of how I viewed my body and my confidence level. I was taught early on what the “perfect” body type looked like and how everyone should strive to reach that standard. However, working with customers from all walks of life has shown me that the “perfect” body type is not as prevalent as I had thought. In fact I find myself mostly met with a wide range of sizes and shapes. Size 36D is my best selling size. I’m exposed to many different shapes, colors, and sizes, and each looks no less sexy to me than that “perfect” woman. Confidence truly comes from the inside, and admiring these gorgeous women of differing proportions has really opened my eyes to what I now consider beautiful.
Con: Fit is extra important and can negatively affect sales
The fit of a garment is always an important factor to keep in mind, but when you are dealing with lingerie it becomes imperative. Uncomfortable undies can pretty much ruin your day and an ill-fitting bra can have bigger consequences like pain, discomfort, and even long-term health problems. Because bras are such technical pieces and need to be tried on, it can be challenging for a lingerie business to sell them, especially online. Not being able to try on a bra is a risk for the customer, so it’s important to have a fair return policy. It also helps to have an extensive fit chart, library, and instructions for your customers to better understand what they are buying and give them a better chance of purchasing something they’ll love.
Pro: You have access to free and discounted samples
I’d be lying if I said that this wasn’t half the reason I wanted to go into the business in the first place! Designing and buying lingerie for myself and my likeminded friends is part of what fuels me. Depending on what market you are in, you’ll definitely have the chance get free samples or purchase styles at the wholesale cost. This is a great way to not only satisfy your shopping addiction, but also test out the merchandise firsthand and learn how your product fits, feels, and behaves on the body. Just make sure to keep your shopping in check and always prioritize your business finances over your personal desires!
Con: Managing inventory can be tricky with all the sizes
No two bodies are shaped alike, which is why sizing can be a bit tricky. Most “average” clothing retailers sell a range from size 0-12 which gives the customer seven sizes to choose from --- and even fewer if they’re sized from S-XL. While this isn’t much of a problem for sleepwear and underwear, it does become an issue in bras when your customers can range anywhere from a 30A to a 40F and beyond. It’s simply not feasible or affordable to carry all the sizes, so it’s up to you to decide which sizes are right for your business. Typically, for every one size of underwear, I carry two to three bra sizes, which makes for a large inventory and requires more careful monitoring in the long run.
Pro: You will learn the art form of lingerie design
As a lingerie enthusiast I’ve been studying quality and craftsmanship for years, and am always a stickler for expertly made lingerie. Luxury fabrics, handmade details, and expert construction are all things I learned to value early on. Studying the fabrics, details, and techniques up close is a great way to learn about and appreciate lingerie, and learning how they are stabilized and sculpted into their final form is invaluable if you are working in the industry. Viewing lingerie as an art form has given me pride in the styles I offer my customers and makes it easier for me to stand behind my product.
Con: Sales can be slower than in sportswear
For as popular as lingerie is and more recognized as an important part of a wardrobe, it still does not bring in the same revenue as clothing. For every dozen shirts that you own, you may only have one bra. And underwear is often bought in bulk and only a few times a year for the average shopper. The trends in lingerie also move slower since it is mostly worn in private, and there are fewer options to choose from than in sportswear. But don’t let that deter you – lingerie is still a viable market and is growing each year as more designers and retailers emerge offering us new and exciting options to choose from.
Pro: You get to work with lingerie for a living!
I can’t stress this one enough. If you have a passion for what you’re doing and are willing to dedicate ample amounts of time and energy into your business, then go for it! I love lingerie and have become somewhat of an expert in it throughout the years, making this one career choice that I can’t ever imagine leaving. Somehow I don’t think selling kitchen appliances or dog food would bring me as much joy, or feel as rewarding as lingerie does. So find what it is that speaks to you or gets you excited and try giving it a go – life is too short not to!
Have you considered starting your own lingerie business? What questions do you have?