Q&A with Karen Przybylski, president
Ted Vayos, BODY: Describe your store for our readers.
Karen Przybylski: We are in a small strip mall, hidden from the view of the many drivers that travel right past us every day. New customers usually call to get exact directions, and then tell us they know right where we are. My Aunt decided to open another store in the suburbs when many of our customers moved out this way. A large contributing factor was free parking in the lot just a few yards from our front door. The wheelchair ramp makes it accessible to everyone. Most of the Metro Detroit area can get to us within about 20 minutes. This location proved to be a good choice when we had to close our Downtown Detroit store in 2000. We carry bras, girdles, waist cinchers, garter belts, slips, panties, long gowns, baby dolls, stockings and panty hose. We try to carry what women can’t find in the department or chain stores.
Ted: What makes your store special?
Karen: What makes us special is…we are a specialty store. All employees are trained fitters in bras and girdles. When someone new starts to work here, it is usually 4 to 6 months before I let them be on their own to fit a customer. There are far too many places that act like they know what they are doing, and don’t! Our most experienced fitter began working for us in 1959, another for 30 years, one for almost 20 and the newest has been with us about 8 months. The ladies are also trained in teaching customers how to hand wash their bras and girdles to get the most wear out of their garments.
Ted: What do you look for in a brand?
Karen: When it comes to brands we carry, most important is how it fits and what is the range of sizes. Next is the value for the customer. Is it worth what we will need charge for it? If the answer is no, I tend to stay away from it. I guess we would be considered low end to moderate. There is a place in this world for bras that are $75.00 and more, but the average woman with a full bust needs more than 1 or 2 bras, and they should not have to go into hock to get them! Our main companies for bras are Eveden, Elila, Dominique and Cortland. For girdles I would say that Rago, Cortland and VaBien are our main wholesalers. For lingerie, Shirley, Intimate Attitudes, Sante and Dixie Belle have been with us for many, many years. I am looking forward to carrying a new company called Tia Lyn which I found at the Las Vegas Curve show. They have lingerie designed for a fuller bust, which we desperately need! I am also looking forward to getting a few more styles from Panache and trying a few bras from Curvy Kate.
Ted: Describe the popular styles or trends in your store.
Karen: Quite a few of our customers have been shopping at chain stores that carry mostly padded bras. When we inform them that padding is designed to make the bust size look fuller, it comes as a big surprise to most. Once they get into the correct size, they agree they don’t need the padding. We also sell quite a few strapless bras. Weddings, Prom, Homecoming and basic summer dresses all need a good fitting strapless bra. I’m always looking for new companies that make full sized and full busted short and long line strapless bras.
Ted: Describe your price points and size ranges.
Karen: We carry bras in cup sizes B thru N and back sizes 30 to 56. Average bra price on bigger sizes is about $50.00. Although not all back sizes come in all cup sizes, I try to be aware of any companies that have even more extended sizes. In girdles we have Small thru 10X and can order some styles up to a 15X. The pull-on styles are anywhere from $30.00 to $55.00. Zipper girdles are a few dollars more. In lingerie, we go up to a 3X with some styles in 4X and 5X and slips up to size 52.
Ted: What is your typical or average customer size?
Karen: Our average customer wears a 42J bra (American sizing) and a 3X girdle. So, about a size 18 or 20 dress.
Ted: What is your average customer spend per visit?
Karen: Our average customer spends about $85.00-$90.00. That is 2 bras or a bra and girdle. Some will come in once a year and stock up and some will come in every 2 months and get 1 piece.
Ted: Describe your customer.
Karen: We have customers ranging in age from 10 to into their 90’s. We have a few that are over 100! We have so many families that will come in with at least 3 generations all together. Most of our customers are women, but, we do have men that come in to get a bra or some lingerie for their ladies. We also have quite a few longtime customers that are cross-dressers. A little bit of everything!
Ted: What has impacted your business the most over the past year?
Karen: What has really impacted our business in the last year or two is how many people are getting fed up with stores that carry bras but don’t have anyone that can really help you. They tell them the wrong size because they don’t know what they’re doing. It benefits us, but the customers end up spending money on something that doesn’t fit correctly. Another thing is that busts are getting fuller so much younger. Some of our most popular sizes among the pre-teens are 32DDD and 32G. They are coming in younger, thinner and bigger busted. Even if a customer doesn’t buy from us, we’re always willing to tell them what size they should be wearing. For our fuller busted customers, we explain the difference between American and British cup sizing. Keeping customers informed about not putting their cell phone in their bra for the health of their breasts is another thing that has really changed in the last few years. The bottom line is….we care about our customers !