Q&A with Erica Windle, president
Ted Vayos, BODY: Describe describe your store, including physical location and description. Include a list of the key product categories.
Erica Windle: A Sophisticated Pair is a family owned and operated lingerie shop committed to promoting superior fit, comfort, and quality to our customers. We believe all women deserve that “Aha” moment where she finds the perfect bra for her body and realizes how wonderful she can feel about herself, her boobs, and her bras. Because we carry a wide assortment of brands, styles, and sizes designed to support and flatter a curvier figure, we provide our customers with a diverse selection of intimates that go beyond basic beige. In addition to everyday staples, we offer customers colorful, fashion-forward, and (dare we say it?) beautiful bras that are guaranteed to spice up any woman’s lingerie drawer.
Our storefront is located in the dynamic Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina in a small, clean, and close-knit shopping center near the highway. After entering the large glass doors acting as a portal to our shop, customers are treated to a sophisticated marriage between modern design and a gothic aesthetic which serves as the perfect backdrop for our personalized fitting experience. Deep teal walls with accents of amethyst, crimson, and gunmetal complement the stylish black and white prints and cast iron fixtures, and pictures of silver screen starlets artfully arranged throughout the store along with my grandfather’s navy unit add to the vintage ambience. In the center of the store, a small seating area with magazines, catalogs, and children’s books not only allows friends and family to wait comfortably but also facilitates conversation among customers while they test the fit and feel of their favorite bras.
Arranged neatly on racks and display tables, our merchandise is available for customers to browse at their leisure with lingerie accessories placed prominently on our checkout counter. Since we focus primarily on proper fitting techniques, the majority of our inventory is bras, but we have expanded to include underwear, shapewear, and accessories.
Ted: What makes your store special?
Erica: Customers choose our store because we focus on them instead of on the sale. Every customer that walks through our doors is greeted warmly and treated to a friendly, positive bra shopping experience, even if they leave without purchasing. If necessary, we will sacrifice the sale and refer our customers to other retailers or provide additional recommendations for clients with special needs. We aspire to make our customers feel like a part of the Sophisticated Pair family and not like another dollar amount tacked onto our bottom line.
Ted: What do you look for in a brand?
Erica: Because we are a small store, we seek out high quality brands which will complement our existing inventory, whether through a superb fit, a gorgeous aesthetic, or an expanded size range. Additionally, companies with excellent sales representatives attract our business as do those which excel in friendly and efficient service. Ideally, we like working with companies with fast leads times, personalized customer service, and a willingness to get us the products we need when we need them. Pamela Sands for Affinitas and Debbie Sesty of Wacoal, in particular, perfectly embody the kind of relationship we hope to foster with vendors, and we have already been impressed in our dealings with up-and-coming brand Tutti Rouge.
Ted: Describe the popular styles or trends in your store.
Erica: Since our store is located in the south where temperatures stay warm, our customers want bras which wear well under thinner knits and tee shirts while still offering modesty protection. However, once they buy a tee shirt bra or two, many return for a more fashionable bra. Padded half-cups, jewel tones, and romantic floral prints are some of their favorites.
Ted: Describe your price points and size ranges.
Erica: In store, we offer bands ranging from 28 to 46 and cups spanning a B cup to a UK K cup (US O); however, we happily order additional sizes up to a 56 back and UK KK (US P) cup. Prices for bras range between $30 and $70 while panties cost between $10 and $40.
Ted: What is your typical or average customer size?
Erica: Most of our customers wear between a 32 and 38 band with cups spanning between a UK E and a UK G; however, our top-selling UK sizes are 32E, 32FF, 38FF, 36F, and 34F.
Ted: What does the average customer spend per visit to your store?
Erica: Our transactions average between $70 and $120.
Ted: Describe your customer.
Erica: On any given day in our shop, you are likely to find women varying in ages, occupations, skin tones, and sizes, and our goal is to ensure each one leaves with a bra she loves. Tackling fit issues across a broad customer base can be challenging, but we rely on our generous order policy to get our customers precisely what they need.
Ted: What else can you tell us about your business?
Erica: So many women across the US do not have access to a professional fitter, and as a result, we provide comprehensive articles and videos both in our Bra Naked Truth series as well as on our blog to help these women fit themselves. Furthermore, we developed a bra size calculator for these women to use to find a starting point size—a calculator which has been consistently touted as one of the most accurate on the Internet. In the future, we plan on expanding the algorithm and improving accuracy by including more than just measurements. Finally, we also provide advice and fittings through emails to help our customers find which styles and sizes work the best.