Q&A with Laura Hardiman, Owner & Key Buyer.
Number of stores: 1
Location: Andover, Mass
Year opened: 2012
Ted Vayos, BODY: Describe your store.
Laura Hardiman: The Ivory Corset is a very intimate boutique of only 500 sq ft. It’s tastefully furnished in ivory and gold antiques and perfectly perched on the top floor of a very unique one-stop bridal destination. Being in a bridal building, The Ivory Corset naturally caters to brides and wedding attendants. Therefore, we carry an extensive selection of bridal bustiers, long-line, strapless and specialty bras, shapewear and lingerie.
Ted: What makes your store special?
Laura: Customers rarely stumble into The Ivory Corset…it’s more of a destination trip based on a need. They’re looking for proper fitting undergarments and knowledgeable staff to help them. My targeted customers are brides and women attending formal events. I encourage women to bring their dresses and schedule an appointment so I can best help them select the perfect fitting undergarments. Whether it’s a bridal bustier, strapless bra, seamless shapewear or solution items, every woman wants to look flawless when attending a formal event and most need help finding the perfect undergarments. The other reason women come to The Ivory Corset…location, location, location! We are perched on the top floor of the largest one-stop bridal shopping destination in the country. The Bridal Center in downtown Andover is prominently located at 1 Main Street and consists of 9 wedding specialty businesses. Cristina’s Bridal Salon attracts brides from all over New England and when their customers need undergarments, they simply come up the elevator…sometimes even in their dresses. Customers love the convenience of having everything under one roof. The Ivory Corset’s selection of specialty undergarments and the commitment to help select the perfect fitting undergarments, keeps women coming back and telling their friends. Ultimately, the key to our success is excellent customer service, product knowledge and proper fit.
Ted: What do you look for in a brand?
Laura: Proper fit and product quality are my biggest criteria. When you’re helping a woman find undergarments for a formal event, they MUST fit and function perfectly especially if it’s their wedding day or they’re in the wedding party. Simone Perele is by far my best-selling bra line and their bridal bustiers are like no other when it comes to fit, smoothness and sheer beauty. Overall Simone Perele is a pleasure to work with as a company. Their product quality and customer service are superb and I’m addicted to their on-line retailer site. Having the entire line at my fingertips is invaluable and makes my job as a buyer so much more efficient. Other key specialty bra lines are VaBien and Elila. For fine lingerie my must-have is Lisa’s Folly and NKiMode by Kenan. Eberjey is a customer favorite for sleepwear and Yummie Tummie and VaBien for shapewear. Other popular brands are Cosabella, LeMystere, Julie France, Affinitas, Jonquil and Sherry et Cie.
Ted: Describe popular styles or trends in your store.
Laura: Because so many of my customers are brides, I do carry a fair amount of honeymoon lingerie. I’m proud to offer quality silk lingerie in plus sizes and my customers appreciate the selection. Kenan’s NKiMode goes up to 3X and has been a staple in my shop from day one. I’m always looking for fun and unique lingerie without sacrificing quality and was delighted to see so many lines at Curve this summer. Popular trends vary. Cosabella and InBloom are very popular with my young brides. Whereas my regular shoppers love classic styles by Kenan and Eberjey. Anything I bring in from Simone Perele does well. I’m excited about their new full figure line. Finally, I can give my F-H cup customers some glamour. I’m confident Revelation is going to be a strong seller this fall. Their new Top Model shapewear line has already proven to be a big hit. Proof that shapewear can truly be attractive and breathable while still slimming. What’s not to love!
Ted: Describe your price points and size ranges.
Laura: In this economy, I feel it’s critical to offer my customers a few price points. Affinitas is my entry point at $30+, Elle MacPherson and LeMystere are examples of moderate at $55+ and Simone Perele at $80-$175. Because I specialize in formal attire undergarments, I carry a lot of strapless and long-lines and Elila goes up to 46H. My shapewear selection goes up to 6X and my lingerie goes up to 3X. Regardless of size or budget, I want all women to enjoy the personal attention of boutique shopping.
Ted: What is your average customer size?
Laura: Honestly it varies! When you’re a bra fitter, you have a tendency to attract the more challenging sizes. I don’t sell nearly as many B and C cups as I do E and F cups. Sleepwear and shapewear vary widely. Oddly enough I have to stock XS shapewear, because even the smallest bride wants to look smaller on her wedding day…thank you Simone and Yummie!
Ted: What does the average customer spend per visit to your store?
Laura: $90-$125 average sale.
Ted: Describe your customer base.
Laura: As a new business, I’m still developing my customer base, but I’m finding that 60% of my customers are women either getting married or attending formal events. 30% are repeat customers coming in for bras, sleepwear and lingerie. The remaining 10% are male shoppers buying lingerie. Looking forward to bumping that number up this holiday season.