A Brief History of Your Bra Store
Most of us know how important bras are to a woman’s wardrobe. Bras add value to how women look and feel in public. For large bust women, they play a pivotal role in their everyday comfort. Many women cannot get by without a well-fitting bra. Yet, spending $100 or more on a bra is not possible for everyone.
The answer might be an online bra store in Canada that works to help independent bra stores sell their slow-moving stock. As a result, they connect customers to premium bras at sale prices. All bras on their site are always at least 30% off.
Your Bra Store’s mission is to help independent bra stores sell more bras.
Unlike most bra stores that offer an array of products and knowledge, Your Bra Store focuses on bras at sale prices. There is no bra-fitting advice and there is no real glamour to their approach. Their focus is one thing, bras.
Founded in 2016, the idea for Your Bra Store came after a consulting job at an independent bra store.
"I admit I was fairly ignorant to the machinations of the bra industry. When I was brought in to help with some operational challenges a small bra store was having, I was quite surprised at what I found.”
What they found was a unique industry.
“I realized that there are three kinds of bra eco-systems;
- Mall Bras (Victoria’s Secret, La Vie en Rose)
- Direct-to-Consumer Bra (Knix, Third Love)
- Premium Bras (Empreinte, Prima Donna, Elomi, Marie Jo, Simone Perele).”
The incredible thing about premium bras is they are sold almost exclusively in small, independent bra stores. You might find some brands in department stores, The Bay carries Chantelle and Wacoal, but most premium bras are sold in independent bra stores.
Research by Your Bra Store shows that only 1 out of the 5 top brands sold in independent bra stores are also available in large retail stores. Of the top 20 bra brands, 12 of them are only sold in bra boutiques.
“When I started going through the layers of the business, I was floored when I saw their inventory.”
It turns out that for bra stores to be effective at serving their market (being as inclusive as possible), requires buying a lot of inventory.
“There are about 170 different bra sizes. From a 28AA up to a 46K. There are lots of sizes tucked in there. Why? Because our bodies are so different.”
If a store wants to serve most of the clients that come through their door, they must carry an incredible amount of stock. Not only are there about 170 different sizes, but there are also types of bras (plunge, full cup, demi, strapless, etc.), different colors (beige, red, black, blue) and different brands.
“It’s insane right? What’s the math there? If you want to carry one of each bra size, in five different types, in two colors, and from only two brands? That’s 170 x 5 x 2 x 2 = 3400 bras!”
3400 bras, yet all you will have for each customer (or size) are two bras of different colors in each type. That’s not enough.
“Then I broke down the cost. A store that sells brands like Empreinte, Prima Donna, Marie Jo, Simone Perele, Elomi, Panache, Chantelle, and such, their average cost per bra is about $55. So a basic store, with only those 3400 bras, has to invest $187,000! That’s a lot of money.”
The train of thought did not stop there. Your Bra Store realized that across Canada there are all these little bra stores everywhere. All of them with a lot of money tied up in bra inventory and with little to no reach beyond their community.
“What’s more, their inventory is highly prized. Customers who wear these brands are some of the most loyal customers out there. Women who wear these brands are acutely aware of how that brand fits them and their size. A woman in Nova Scotia who wears Prima Donna or Elomi can confidently order a bra online, regardless if it’s coming from Alberta or Manitoba. She knows what she wants (needs!) and if she can get it at a good price, all the better. Plus, with us, she’s still supporting a small, independent, female owned business.”
With the thinking cap still on, the research continued. The next deep dive was into understanding the web presence of these bra stores.
“I began to look at the web presence of these stores. I worked in a store with a lovely lady with excellent bra fitting skills, great customer service, and great a team. But no IT skills. As I kept meeting other store owners, I continued to find the commonality; stores run by passionate women, most in business for over 10 years, and a general mistrust of eCommerce and even of their own POS systems!”
The main reason bra stores are reluctant to embrace eCommerce is because most of them believe bras should not be sold online. Selling bras online without people trying them on is the antithesis of that.
Yet, bra stores face the same challenges other retailers face, the so-called "Retail Apocalypse". Their expenses are going up. Wages, up. The cost of leasing a space, up. The cost of renovating, up. Costs of goods, up. But their sales are slowing down and the customer is becoming more demanding!
In the past, bra retailers rarely gave refunds or took items back. Now they are confronted with customers who want to return their bras. If the store doesn’t take the return they risk online scorn. A negative review is a blow to their online reputation, further suppressing sales and adding to the challenges of running a retail store.
“Even the stores that were branching out online were not having much success. Opening an eCommerce store is relatively easy but having people find it is very hard. We did the research and call this the problem of “Low Visibility”. The average bra store’s website in Canada in terms of site traffic gets about 130 people a month. A pittance of the online traffic that exists in this area. What’s more, most of their online customers were the same as their in-store customers. Retailers found themselves with increased work and expenses to serve the same customers.”
Even with all these changes going on, bra stores continue to need lots of inventory. With so many existential threats percolating, that is money at risk!
“So this is where I came up with Your Bra Store. What if I went to the retailer and said, “Hey, I know you have all these bras here that have been sitting. Why don’t we try to move your older merchandise to free up that money? I will take care of the eCommerce, the IT, the SEO, and I'll also take care of the customer.”
When retailers work with Your Bra Store they don’t have to worry about customer interactions, complaints, returns, anything.
“Our goal was to make it as easy as possible for them. I would be their eCommerce site (or an auxiliary site to their own) and at the same time remove all the parts of eCommerce that drive retailers crazy. Such as web maintenance, customer service, traffic growth, etc.”
Bra stores were very receptive when YBS went out to pitch their idea but ran into the challenge of how to track all these bras. Inventory accuracy is key because you don’t want to make sales that you can’t fulfill. But the store doesn’t want to email YBS every time they sell a bra. So that’s when the entrepreneurship and the need to invest came in.
Your Bra Store now has an inventory platform that connects with the store’s POS systems. Stores using Shopify, LightSpeed, or Smart Vendor can connect to Your Bra Store’s system and it automatically updates any changes to inventory quantities.
“Developing the platform really changed the game for us. Suddenly we could easily connect to stores in a no-risk method. Our platform doesn’t do anything other than read inventory totals every 3 to 5 minutes and updates any changes. It can’t affect anything inside the retailers' system. It is a simple query based on SKU matched with inventory totals and done.”
Five years later, Your Bra Store is still growing. The pandemic forced them to slow down a bit;
“I love to visit stores in person. I don’t really think there is another way to do business. I want them to see my face. I want them to know that we are in this together. I understand the challenges of running a retail store, and that all my efforts are to support them and make things easy.”
When a retailer works with YBS they market the bras under the Your Bra Store banner. The customer only sees Your Bra Store and does not interact with the retailer.
When a bra sells, the retailer just pops the bra in the mail. Done! They get paid. They call the process, “sell and forget”.
“We also offer the customer the ability to make returns! You can’t find that anywhere else for sale bras, we did the research! But we pay out the customer for those. We don’t bother the retailer at all.”
Your Bra Store now has a development team,
“Last year we built the Bra Directory which is a list of all Canadian independent bra stores. You can go on there and type in your postal code and find stores within a geographic range you set. You can also find stores based on specialties, like virtual bra fittings that are very helpful to people who don’t have access to a bra store close by or have mobility issues. We built this because our goal is to support these small bra stores. It also has charts, a calculator, and blog posts about things we learn and discover working with bra stores.”
They have a writer for their product descriptions. Each product description is written unique, they do not copy and paste descriptions. They do this to distinguish themselves from other retailers who all have the same description for the same product. It also helps them with Google.
They also have a data entry person.
“For too many years I was the bottleneck of the company. When a store shares 300 bras with us, it takes a long time to upload them! Now, when I meet stores and they share their product information with me, we can upload them quickly and start making sales faster.”
Your Bra Store likes to point out that their clients are the bra stores. By focusing on serving the bra stores, the result is the customer gets incredible bras at incredible prices.
While most stores focus on image, knowledge, new products, and so forth, Your Bra Store only focuses on building relationships with bra stores to get the best bras at the best prices.
“We believe that our bras, at those prices, are substantive enough for us. We are not out there to be the bra company on the cover of Vogue. We want to keep our mission and our process simple. We want people to know that we are the spot for amazing bras at great prices. You’ll always get an authentic, new, unworn bra from us. We think that’s enough.
We think that is a fair value proposition for everyone involved; the customer and the store. There is an old saying, “They who hold much, squeeze little”. We believe in a narrow value proposition for our clients and our customers that we can repeat over and over and over.”
We agree. Who doesn’t love a great bra on sale? And you also know that when you shop with Your Bra Store you are helping to support a small bra store in Canada. Win. Win.