Emandee Intimates Shops Retail Profile
Q&A with Mercedes Ospovat
Number of stores: 1
Location: Bronx, NY
Katherine Rautenberg, BODY: Describe your store.
Mercedes: Emandee Shops opened in 1930 and my husband purchased the shop in 1962. When we bought the shop, the merchandise was not exactly the same — as time went on, we improved our selection. It’s a place where you can can find sizes that are often difficult to find ... we cater to women of all ages who can’t find their sizes anywhere else. The department stores do not supply these sizes. There are a lot of young women who have a very narrow back but a full bust, and we carry those sizes. I feel we are helping people and that there is a need for what we do. That’s what keeps us alive. I feel good when I’m in the store, knowing we are helping.
Katherine: What makes your store special?
Mercedes: We measure people. We are very interested in maintaining cleanliness and making sure people get fit. It is not a self-service store; we are here to help. I know that a bra size in one brand doesn’t always match up to a bra size in another brand, and merchandise from one brand can vary in size from style to style. It helps that I know this and can pass this information on to customers to make sure they wear bras that actually fit them. When I sell something to a customer, I tell them how to take care of it. Some people want to buy molded cups, and if you put one cup inside of the other and put it in the machine, it messes up the shape. We tell them how to wash and fold and provide a lot more information they don’t have. We take care of each customer that comes in, and that is why they return.
Katherine: List some of the brands that are important to your store.
Mercedes: Leonisa’s new body shapers are fantastic for us. They sell very nicely. I carry many Leonisa products. For a curvy person, the Leonisa shape is fantastic. We have other brands too. Goddess bras. Elila is a bra that has nice sizes, good support and they are always improving, so I am pleased with what they make. Carnival is a staple in my store. We have had Carnival for many years and people don’t get tired of it. There are a lot of people in the Bronx area who like Exquisite Form.
Katherine: What are you looking for in a brand? Do customers ask for brands by name?
Mercedes: I am looking for quality. I know about fabrics — I could design and make a bra if I wanted to! I don’t want to, but I know how it it supposed to look and feel. I don’t buy anything I don’t look at. I look at the merchandise before I buy. There is a of cheap material out there, and a lot of stores in this area sell cheap merchandise. We don’t sell that. I want a customer forever; I don’t want a customer for one sale. They return because I offer quality merchandise. I am proud to say we sell good stuff.
Katherine: Describe your price points and size ranges.
Mercedes: The price range for bras is $16 to $65, $70. Body shapers typically cost $60 to $80 with some models going up to $120 or so. The smallest size we carry is a 32AA. We go up to 56 and 58 in band sizes and carry cup sizes up to a K. In body shapers we carry up to a 7X.
Katherine: What is your average customer size?
Mercedes: 34 to 38 is the most common band size. Double and triple-size cups are common.
Katherine: What does your average customer spend per visit to your store?
Mercedes: Around $70 is common. Generally, customers who are investing in a quality item with a higher price just buy the one item. We also do layaway for people who cannot afford to spend right away. We have to do things for the people in the area.
Katherine: Describe your customer base.
Mercedes: We specialize larger cup sizes and plus sizes, but we also help women of all sizes and all ages. We’ve supplied three generations of a family with bras: a grandmother, mother and daughter ... not all at once, over time we’ve supplied them all with training bras! We do have very loyal customers who bring their family and friends. We have people from England who order from us! A former customer of ours moved there, but they still call us and we make shipping arrangements. Other customers retire to Florida, but they call us for orders or come see us when they visit. Sometimes I won’t see a customer for a long time, but they’ll come back and say, ’Oh, we moved away, but I had to visit your store again.’ Or I won’t see a customer for two years, but that is because the merchandise I sold them lasted for that long.