Thirty years ago, Rebecka Vaughan Lambert noticed something missing in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee: high-quality, properly-fitting foundations. Vaughan, then a supervising R.N. at Saint Thomas hospital, decided to switch gears to the intimate apparel industry. In 1979 she opened the intimate apparel boutique, Rebecka Vaughan Lingerie. Today it is 4,500-square-feet with a staff of 10 bra fitters.
"There was virtually nothing available to women in our area," Vaughan Lambert said. "I saw a need, so I did my research and filled it!"
She described the tenants of the store as "excellent fit, outstanding customer service, and unique offerings." They carry a whopping range of bra sizes, from 28AA to 52L, and their price range is just as varied: from $38 for some bras to $650 for a Christina Vancouver peignoir. They also work to set themselves apart from department stores by purchasing high-quality products "that are different from what is offered to the mass market." Vaughan Lambert and co-managers Linda Curley and Adrienne Francis are responsible for the buying, but they rely on input from the entire staff.
The store's palette is still the azure blue that staff chose as their "signature color" when the store opened, mixed with some "soothing" browns. In order to make customers feel "comfortable at all times," the retailer hired an interior designer to create a relaxed ambience. Vaughan Lambert's goal is to allow shoppers to "browse at ease," and one of her four dressing rooms is handicapped-accessible.
The store's assistant manager/marketing coordinator, Miriam Perry Mimms, described clientele as "diverse," but for the most part comprised of women from 25 to 60 of middle to upper income. Clientele range from the nearby Vanderbilt college students to "society ball grande dames." Although large-busted women do frequent the store, Perry Mimms said they get all shapes and sizes, including fashion-forward and body-conscious young women, and post-mastectomy patients who come in for fittings. Men also shop for their significant others.
Curley and Francis listed their hottest brands as Simone Péréle, Prima Donna, and Chantelle. Fantasie and Anita are also popular. In foundations, Body Wrap is the biggest seller. The consistently most-requested items include the Prima Donna Deauville underwire ($110-$125), Anita Twin Big Cup Beauty underwire and softcup ($62), Chantelle Africa T-shirt bra ($88), Goddess lace bustier ($50), Simone Péréle Andora moulded cup ($74), and Hanky Panky thongs ($18). In recent trends, they have noticed that an increasing number of women are realizing that a well-fitting bra and foundation can make a huge difference in their appearance.
According to Perry Mimms, they keep sales up despite the recession through great service, which includes building trust with their clientele that "keeps them coming back." She added that they are being prudent in their purchasing by carrying styles that have always sold well. This February they hosted a Freya swimsuit trunk show to "put our customers first." They also advertise in "tasteful" local newspapers and news stations, and send out an e-newsletter to their email subscriber database every few weeks. Online subscribers also receive special discounts and advance notice of new arrivals, and the retailer is currently working on a royalty program. This March, they will host their annual birthday sale.
"Rebecka Vaughan provides that one-on-one, specialized attention that cannot be had in other stores," Vaughan Lamert said. "Having been in business for 29 years, we know our customers, are willing to place orders for them, make phone calls to them, and ship anywhere in the U.S and even overseas. The customers know that their interests come first."