In 1983 when Diane Thomson opened the doors to Dianes Lingerie in Vancouver, Canada, she wanted the shop to be more than just a place for women to buy bras and panties.
Over the past 26 years, the 2,000-square-foot intimate apparel boutique has become known throughout British Columbia and beyond for offering what the company calls the province's largest selection of quality lingerie for women of all shapes and sizes: from bra sizes 30 to 48, AA through J, at prices ranging all the way from $40 to $200, with the majority of popular styles priced from $95 to $200.
"Our store has become known as a haven for women needing personal attention and delicate care," Lynda Barr of Dianes Lingerie commented. "Diane's Way, as it is often referred to, has become a benchmark in the industry by which others strive to achieve."
The store's staff of 14 includes trained bra fitters equipped to fit women in a variety of styles including bridal, nursing, and prosthetics and other post-surgery intimates. Staff members attend the Curve shows in NY and Las Vegas annually, and every few years they attend the Paris Lingerie show in order to stay on top of to the latest global fashions. Thomson, with the help of her assistant, Angela Chamoun, continues to be responsible for all of the store's buying.
Additionally, the company was one of the first independent Canadian boutiques to launch an e-commerce website, which remains an important segment of their business today.
Thomson described her typical customer as an upper middle class woman aged 35 to 55 years, with an average bra size of 36D through E spending between $150 and $200 per visit, mostly on a bra and panty set or two bras. Her most-requested brands are consistently Chantelle, Prima Donna, Marie Jo, Lejaby, Simone Perele and Freya, among others. Although women do drop by in search of special occasion lingerie and sports bras, the bread and butter of Dianes Lingerie’s business among women of all ages remains seamless, molded silhouettes.
Empreinte, which Thomson described as gaining momentum on the West Coast, is becoming increasingly popular among the shop's customers as "the 'It' brand for larger cup sizes with a range to a 46G, and its focus on fashion, lace and femininity."
According to Thomson, the majority of customers are women shopping for themselves, or for each other. Men also drop by to pick up gifts for their wives or girlfriends.
Location and atmosphere are also key to Dianes Lingerie's success, according to the company. The store in located in the "prestigious and unique" shopping district of South Granville, Vancouver, causing many a passersby to drop in for some lingerie during her shopping spree.
Additionally, Dianes Lingerie completed a full interior renovation in 2005. The store is now designed to provide an airy, comfortable shopping experience with "soft, inviting colors, bright wood and ample lighting." Fitting rooms are designed to ensure the privacy and comfort of customers, and in order to keep the store's look fresh, staff members frequently switch up window and product displays with new merchandise, ensuring that regular customers easily spot new styles as soon as they arrive.
To keep customers coming back in droves, Dianes Lingerie takes customer service up a notch with their inventory and POS system, which tracks each client's contact information, size, style and fit preferences, and even their preferred bra fitter. Store staff inform clients when a new bra arrives that matches their tastes.
Although Thomson called the current economic climate in BC "stable but not rosy," Diane Lingerie has recently seen an upswing in sales that "are stronger with each passing day."
To keep business up, the company employs a broad range of PR and direct marketing techniques including sending a monthly e-newsletter to clients, as well as mailing offers, brochures and invitations to the store for those who request it, as well as directing traffic to their website. They also keep the local broadcast and print media abreast to happenings at Dianes Lingerie, and Thomson is frequently featured on the local news shows.
Dianes Lingerie is located at 2950 Granville Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.