Q&A with Carol Hiebert, President
Ted Vayos, BODY: Describe your retail bsuiness for our readers.
Carol Hiebert: From a tiny office on my own to a 1900 sq. ft boutique with 2 trained fitters to work with me in just 8 years! I had worked for Fashion Foundations in Kelowna for several years when I met a wonderful man…one problem, he lived in Castlegar. My children loved him too – so off we went! I continued to work for the Kelowna location doing data entry from my home for over a year. By then I was sure of 2 things – I missed inter-action with people and knew my community and surrounding small towns in the Kootenay Valley needed a lingerie store like this. My original plan was to only do post Mastectomy fittings – I found a small office and the Kelowna store sent inventory to get me started. Within months, word got out that Fashion Foundations had a new store in Castlegar – I needed to expand already! My store now is “Busting at the seams” with the best of bras in petite to plus, basic choices to the most exquisite you’ve ever seen! Quality lingerie and swimwear are also found here. We specialize in post Mastectomy fittings. Our fitting room is filled with a superb selection of prostheses, bras and swimwear. I have been a certified Post-Mastectomy Fitter for over 15 years by 4 of the leading Post-Mastectomy companies. I am proud that one of my staff has now completed the first of her certificates.
Ted: What makes your business special?
Carol: Our personal service and knowledge of product! Each customer will have a fitter to help her find the best choice for her needs and desires. Our selection of styles and sizes offer each woman – petite to plus, young to young at heart a choice. We do not measure – we personally fit our ladies. No online training here. We keep records of each purchase so a ladies next visit has a great beginning. It’s also a great asset for husband with that “lost” look at gift buying time.
Ted: What do you look for in a brand?
Carol: In both bras and swimwear we look for quality, value and a good size range for the brands we choose. Chantelle bras have been a favorite for us and customers since day one. Great basics year after year with pretty new fashion styles in spring and fall seasons. Chantelle has recently started expanding their size range which is most helpful. Prima Donna is probably the most recognized name for a busty woman looking for a beautiful, comfortable bra. Some of our other favorites are Marlies Dekkers – for the edgier customer, Elomi & Goddess – good price points for plus size, Ulla – a more exquisite choice for plus size, Empriente – “As close to a custom fit bra as you will find”, Fantasie & Freya – Lots of choices in colors, styles & sizes. Something for everyone!, Panache – our favorite sports bra. Hanky Panky – Probably the most popular thong ever and in colors to match all your bra choices! Our new favorite we reach for is Fit Fully Yours – a great size range, price point and important to us, this supplier keeps lots of inventory so we can re-order quickly & easily. A BIG plus for customer service!
Ted: Describe the popular styles or trends in your store.
Carol: Castlegar, surrounded by beautiful mountains, rivers & golf courses, has a large base of fitness buffs so our selection of sports bras is important. No wire for Yoga to extreme support for joggers. Marlies Dekker is a great seller for the edgier look and great comfort too. Fit Fully Yours Maxine t-shirt bra are a daily sale in our Boutique – shape, comfort, quality.
Ted: Describe your price points and size ranges.
Carol: Bra prices range from $25 - $279. Most popular choices from $79 - $129. Sizing from 28 – 48 bands and AA – N cups. Lingerie XS – 4X. Swimwear size 6 – 26 and several styles with underwire for the fuller busted lady.
Ted: What is your typical or average customer size?
Carol: Most ladies range from 32 – 36 band sizes, C – J cups. But, ladies might think they are a 38C and just “hate bras”. When we properly fit them they are amazed at their new found comfort and figure.
Ted: What does your average customer spend per visit to your store?
Carol: $79 - $180 is the average sale. It is not uncommon for a lady to spend $500 or more on a visit. Comfort is “priceless”!
Ted: Describe your customer.
Carol: Our customer’s ages range from 12 to 92! Moms bring in daughters, daughters bring in granny and granny brings in the bride to be. We cater to all women! For the waiting husband, my store has a super selection of Saxx Boxers which was invented by a young fellow in Kelowna. Both husband and wife may find themselves “uplifted”.
Ted: What has impacted your business the most over the past year?
Carol: A recent change in staff has created an amazing change of atmosphere and enthusiasm which creates a friendly relationship all round. Competent, caring staff is essential in a store of our nature. We have also increased our advertising budget in the last year to reach more of the smaller communities and we have really felt the increase in traffic through our door. We are very involved with community events such as the Cancer Walk. We also participate in “Find your Divine” event in Castlegar and Nelson to promote women’s wellness. For the last 4 years, we have provided a fashion show for Rotary fund raising. This is a spectacular evening for ladies and a highlight for the City of Castlegar. Our business is uplifting!