(Filed Under wholesale Lingerie News). Over four decades in business, Carole Martin is a moderately priced bra line owned by Robert Dubé and Michael Zinay. Based in Canada, but also with sales in the U.S., it focuses on the older consumer. BODY publisher Nick Monjo interviewed the company’s Adèle Laviolette.
MONJO: Is there a “Carole Martin” with the company? Where did the name come from?
LAVIOLETTE: Launched in 1971, the Carole Martin name originated with a Canadian media and mail order catalog company. It sold bras, fashion accessories, house wares and other assorted goods across Canada. The company worked closely with a USA based firm, Carole Wright Gifts, using the same business model south of the border. Management wanted a bilingual name to appeal to both English and French market segments in Canada so they approached Carol Wright Gifts with the idea of adopting a similar name. From this Carole Martin was born. Later expanded to Carole Martin Comfort Wear in 2006.
Originally, Carole Martin bras shared similarities to products offered by Playtex and Wonder Bra at the time. These featured full support with multiple various cup sizes. The landscape was fairly competitive. Given that bras were a small subset of the business, the company did not spend much time developing the category.
It was in 1991 when one of the current owners decided to develop an inexpensive, expandable cup bra with front closure. People were asking for it and there was really nothing like it on the market at the time. Working with a design company, they came up with what is today known as the Full Freedom Comfort Bra.
MONJO: What makes your bras different?
LAVIOLETTE: There are a number of things that make our products unique. First we do not compromise on quality or fit. We have a rigorous product development and design process. We spend a lot of time on fabric selection and the pattern stage. There are numerous fittings and we don’t approve production until we are satisfied the end product meets our high standards for comfort and fit. Most of our styles are either front closure or slip on, wire free with large shoulder straps. Carole Martin customers are typically a mature, 40 plus demographic.
MONJO: Is “comfort” the defining element of your products? What describes your collection best?
LAVIOLETTE: Yes. Carole Martin’s key point of difference is the simple comfort message. Our mission is to create and distribute the world’s most comfortable bras.
MONJO: Your website shows nine different bras and two briefs.
LAVIOLETTE: There are currently nine Carole Martin comfort bra styles and two panty briefs available. Additional product concepts are in development, planning for new complementary colors and styles to the Carole Martin Comfort line each year. This spring we are launching the Crossover Comfort Bra with front closure and the Crossover Slip-On Bra. We are also adding a matching Wide Waist Panty Brief made with full coverage microfiber fabric. We are also very excited to introduce a new color: crystal pink.
MONJO: Which of the current styles were most recently introduced?
LAVIOLETTE: In 2018, four new bra styles were introduced: Crossover Padded, Cooling Comfort, Prosthesis Pocket Bra, Seamless Comfort along with two new colors midnight blue and café.
MONJO: You described the Carole Martin line as focused on the 40 and up crowd. Are there any products for a younger customer?
LAVIOLETTE: Yes, the Strapless, Slip-On and Active Comfort Bra featuring racer back straps most certainly appeal to a younger clientele. We have also targeted a younger demographic with Carole Martin’s Crossover Padded and Slip-On Crossover Bra styles.
MONJO: What about sizes?
LAVIOLETTE: Carole Martin bra’s unique stretch fabric has a stretch cup that fit cup B, C, D, DD cups. Most bras are available in sizes 34 through 44. The Full-Freedom Comfort Bra is offered in sizes 46 and 48.
MONJO: What about the size range for the briefs?
LAVIOLETTE: These range from Sm to 3X. They are a very giving brief which sits right below the belly button, never rolling down nor creeping up. They offer a cotton gusset providing added comfort.
MONJO: Are you planning any expansion to the size ranges?
LAVIOLETTE: Yes, if the need is there.
MONJO: What about pricing?
LAVIOLETTE: Retail prices generally range between $12.95 and $14.95.
MONJO: I believe you said you have been selling direct-to-consumer from the beginning. When did the effort to sell through retail shops begin in Canada?
MONJO: How many retail stores are now selling Carole Martin in Canada?
LAVIOLETTE: The Carole Martin brand is sold nationally in Canada in 1,500 doors including pharmacies and big box stores
MONJO: What are some examples of stores carrying the brand in Canada?
LAVIOLETTE: Boutiques, major drugstores. Namely Jean-Coutu, Pharma Choice, Pharmasave, London Drugs, Giant Tiger, Michael Rossy, Stedmans, V&S stores, Northwest Company.
MONJO: What about the U.S.?
LAVIOLETTE: Currently selling in boutiques and Kinney Drugs in upstate New York and Vermont. Also online retailers Walmart, Zulily, Mary Maxim, National Wholesale, Universal Direct, Age Comfort, Amazon.
MONJO: Who is the contact person for stores looking to sell Carole Martin products?
LAVIOLETTE: Adèle Laviolette, 855-286-8688, Mob: 514-743-4240 email@example.com.
MONJO: What is the appeal of the Carole Martin brand to U.S. retailers?
LAVIOLETTE: How many times have you heard a woman say her bra does not fit properly? That does not happen with Carole Martin. Our commitment to product development, consistent quality, fabric selection and manufacturing ensures every Carole Martin bra fits the way it is supposed to. For this reason there is a great deal of brand loyalty and repeat purchase as well as a very low level of returns associated with the Carole Martin brand. These are rather compelling reasons for a retailer to carry the line.
The Carole Martin Comfort Wear value proposition:
• Product quality (fabric and workmanship)
• Simple comfort message - key point of difference
• Interactive packaging - see what you get (recyclable, reusable, soon to be environmentally sustainable)
• Brand following
• One size fits B,C, D and DD cups = reduced SKUs = low product return
• Retail price point: exceptional value.
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