Q&A with Barbara Gilbert, president
Ted Vayos, BODY: Describe your store for our readers.
Barbara Gilbert: Walk into our store and you’ll feel comfortable and energized at once! You’ll be greeted with a smile and encouraged to find a lingerie wardrobe that REALLY fits while enjoying a cup of coffee. Our always-engaging and friendly team performs at its best when we’re very busy. We love our customers and look forward to meeting new faces each day.
Our shop locations are both easily-accessible and near upscale shopping centers. We chose to open our second location in Indianapolis about four years ago because our Fort Wayne store attracted so many clients from that area. Barbara’s carries lingerie from AAA-N cup, nursing bras and sports bras, post-mastectomy bras and prostheses, swimwear year-round, statement jewelry and handbags, unique loungewear, solutions-oriented accessories such as fashion tape and shoulder cushions, and more.
Both stores have a warm, welcoming and feminine feel. We adore color (especially citrus hues, bright turquoise, pink & black), warmth, and creating an environment that is FUN, well-organized and is constantly updated. Aside from our eye-catching bust sculptures (of which we own more than a dozen,) our store has chandeliers, new French white-lacquered furniture, custom upholstered chairs, and art pieces by local artisans.
Ted: What makes your store special?
Barbara: Amazing, personalized service is our claim to fame! Every woman is greeted with a smile and warm welcome, and is assisted through a personal and private fitting consultation.
I came up with the idea for Barbara’s when I was on the surgical floor at IU MedCenter, as I have a congenital pancreas illness that left me hospitalized or bedridden for two years. My hospital room-mates had all had breast surgery, and confided in me that they were unsure of where to go or what to do to feel whole again. I knew right then that I was meant to heal so I could be part of other women’s healing process. The name “Barbara’s New Beginnings” meant that we all have new beginnings in life.
Indeed, ladies come from all across the country to visit our shops. They come in groups, they sing and laugh and make each day special. This truly is a caring business!
Ted: What do you look for in a brand?
Barbara: We cater to many tastes and preferences, but basic neutrals, blacks and pops of color in feminine shapes sell best.
Some of our top-selling, well-loved brands: Eveden/Wacoal, Panache, Simone Perele, Shock Absorber, Anita, Amoena & ABC. All of these brands take our customer and fitter-sourced feedback into account to continually improve their product offerings and fit the needs of our clients. Eveden and Wacoal offer many styles with a leotard back or centered shoulder straps, which gives clients a posture-perfect feeling (and our slim-shouldered gals won’t lose their straps due to slippage!) Amoena, ABC, and Anita offer a wide range of basic and luxe pocketed bras for our post-surgical clients. These companies have wonderful reps who help us stay up to date with ever-changing Medicare guidelines while offering the best care and options.
Ted: Describe the popular styles or trends in your store.
Barbara: Our customers have become more fashion-forward: open to more vivid color and print options in matching bra-and-panty sets, layering brighter pieces under smooth half-camisoles and peekaboo tops. We’ve expanded our swimwear ranges per customer request, offering more bottom options (boyshort, tie-side briefs, skirts, and hipsters) and size ranges year-round. We’ve enjoyed the popularity of retro Hollywood-style high-waist panties and gorgeous European lace bras with rich color and detail. The feminine look is bold and beautiful here in the Midwest!
Ted: Describe your price points and size ranges.
Barbara: Our stores carry bras from AAA-N cup, shapewear from XS to 16X, dress-sized swimwear from 6-32, and cup-sized swimwear to K cup. We truly are a store for every woman! Our regular-priced bras average $50-$60, with a range from about $30-$115. The average swimsuit price is $100.
Ted: What is your typical or average customer size?
Barbara: Because we carry such a large size range, it’s difficult to pin down an average, but both stores sell size 32F very quickly.
Ted: What does the average customer spend per visit to your store?
Barbara: The average customer purchases several bras, fabric wash and sometimes an accessory or matching panty for an average ticket price of $150-$175.00. We create a wishlist for customers to keep track of their favorite items for future purchases.
Ted: Describe your customer.
Barbara: We have customers who range in age from 9-99. We love fitting for young girls’ first bras and being an important resource for women of all ages. We educate our customers on what to look for in terms of fit with bras, and our personalized customer service attracts women from all backgrounds.
Many men come to our store to purchase gift certificates for Mother’s Day, birthdays, and anniversaries. Our customer wishlists make it easy for men to shop for gifts that fit the ladies in their lives, which we are happy to wrap!
Ted: What else can you tell us about your business?
Barbara: We are always researching and seeking the best of what the lingerie world has to offer. Our fitters train for 90 days before fitting on their own. We are constantly improving our service standards to make the fitting experience comfortable and fun!
We have a wonderful customer base! We keep our VIP customers in the know through our facebook page and VIP email club.
We participate in many community events. We have fit homeless women for bras at a local shelter, had a blast at Girls’ Night Out events, worked with other local vendors at prestigious women’s events such as Tapestry and Nancy Irsay’s Retreat, and donated bras to shelters and crisis centers.