Several years ago, Suzan Tabar realized that shopping for lingerie and swimwear had become “an unrewarding necessity for me; an independent, professional woman over 40, with a body that I [had] finally accepted and the means to treat myself to nice things.” Armed with the knowledge that other woman shared her frustration, as well as ample retail experience including co-owning a clothing store, she started Uniquek Lingerie as an online store in 2005, and opened a brick and mortar boutique in Los Angeles, California’s Brentwood Village neighborhood under the same name in 2006.
Today, both the site and the 1,000-square-foot shop carry lingerie, swimwear and sportswear, including best-selling brands Wacoal, Chantelle and Hanky Panky. The company carries sizes that cannot be found at most department stores; they range from 30 to 44, AA through H.
Tabar named the most popular sizes as 34C, 34DD and 38DDD. In order to control “what goes in and out," she handles all of the buying of the store, and shops the latest styles at the Los Angeles markets, as well as the New York and Paris shows. She also fits “98 percent of my customers myself until they are 100 percent satisfied with their fit and purchase.”
Although the shop boasts the personalized benefits of a boutique, including what Tabar described as “100 percent of my attention […] and prices that are more reasonable than department stores,” she said its lay-out boasts “a department store concept e.g. [I] keep all shapewear together in one section, so on and so forth.” She moves merchandise around frequently and bring in new styles every few weeks to keep the store fresh, clean and easily accessible.
Customers range in age from 16-year-old schoolgirls to 90-year-olds from a middle-to-high-income background spending an average of $240 to $300 per visit. Bras range in price from $37 for a Timpa bra to $240 for a La Perla or Millesia bra. In addition to women shopping for themselves or for their mothers or daughters, men shop the selection for their wives or mothers. The most popular styles are bras and panties, as well as sexy and cotton sleepwear. In a strong economy customers shop every month; however, in a poor economy, they tend to limit this indulgence to every three or four months, and special occasions.
Since entering the intimate apparel business, Tabar has noticed that consumers have grown more educated about intimate apparel. “Customers who know their ABCs in lingerie are sophisticated trend-watchers who like high-quality, well-constructed, and great-fitting bras. They will pay for high quality. On the other hand, there are people who also know their ABCs in lingerie but are just interested in the fit and price.”
In order to thrive in the tough economic climate, Tabar has cut down on Uniquek’s inventory and marks down items more frequently. She expects vendors to offer discounts to specialty stores “instead of selling it to discounted department stores,” as well as to be flexible with boutiques regarding the minimums they set. “They need to be aware that specialty stores have no room to stock up like department stores, and for us to bring in every minimum from each and every vendor is very hard in terms of money and space.”
And despite the tough climate and competitors within the five-mile radius of Uniquek, Tabar expects the store to remain successful. “I give my customers great merchandise for their money,” she remarked. “I know most of [them] by name. They bring their daughters, mothers and friends into the store.”
Uniquek Lingerie is located at 132 S. Barrington Pl, Los Angeles, Calif., 90049.