Edna: Unique Lingerie, Inc. is conveniently located off the I-75 (Interstate) in Ocala, Florida and easy to find. As a board-certified mastectomy fitter, I’m in awe of how many women aren’t aware that they are entitled to this valuable service. Many of our clients, as a result of visiting this store for the first time, find out that their insurance allows them to have a professional fitting for their prosthesis and bras, fully billable to the insurance company. We also attract women of all ages that can’t find the correct garments for their proms, weddings and special occasions. Women are able to find nursing bras, sports bras, girdles, slips, non-wired bras and lingerie for any occasion. We provide for their after-surgery augmentation, tummy tucks, and body makeovers. We work with local seamstresses and on occasion, perform alterations on premise. We only work with manufacturers who are as passionate and committed about quality products as we are. We listen to your needs, value your input, and strive to earn the confidence and trust you deserve. We currently hold a certification and accreditation from the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics, and Pedorthics, but specialize in mastectomy prosthesis and fittings.
Ted: What do you look for in a brand?
Edna: Since there are so many brands out there, it is hard to determine what is going to be better for each client. We have found that so many women want to have molded cups, but molded cups aren’t for every woman. When we do order molded cups we look for the structure that doesn’t allow the breast to sink to the bottom causing an empty space between the bra and the breast. Support and lift is our priority. We look for the brands that have well-structured straps for women that have heavier breasts so the breasts don’t pull the bra, causing the back of the bra to creep upward. We also look at the side panels of the bra as they are designed to keep the breast tissue in front of the wire. Many women don’t like lace and finding the right bra without lace is exhaustive. We carry at least one demi cup and balconette, but primarily full coverage bras.
Ted: List some of the key brands that are important to your store.
Edna: For our mastectomy clients American Breast Care (ABC), Anita, Trulife, Classique, AlmostU and Jodee are our most featured products. On occasion we will get a special request for a product not normally stocked and will place a special order. For full cup size bras, we feature Elila, Lunaire, Panache, Carnival, Wacoal, LeMystere, VaBien, Curvy Kate, Felina, Shapeez, Fit Fully Yours, Aviana, Dominique, Edith Lances and Leonisa. For maternity clients we carry Cache Coeur, MelindaG, Bravado, LeMystere and Coobie Intimates. I was recently re-introduced to the Corin line, which I am happy to see back in the United States market.
Ted: Do you private label any products under your own store name?
Edna: Yes! After many years of research, I recently acquired a private label of women’s robes from AAKAR Intimates. My first order was a big hit for my store, and I am now in negotiations of having additional products made.
Ted: Do you sell bras? What are your top selling brands?
Edna: Yes, as I described earlier, bra fittings are the most essential part of my business. My most popular selling bras are PrimaDonna, Lunaire and Panache. PrimaDonna offers cup sizes up to a J and they have never disappointed me or my client with a fitting. PrimaDonna bras are extremely appealing to every lady that tries it on for the first time. The quality of these bras puts them in a higher price bracket, but if a client chooses to make that first purchase, I guarantee they will always request another PrimaDonna bra. Panache is my second brand for good reason – my younger clients love the Panache bra’s perfect fit, choice of colors, styles and sizing, and the price point. I have done quite well with VaBien. Their strapless bra and body suits are a big hit for specialty evening wear.
Ted: Do you sell lingerie?
Edna: Yes, I sell lingerie but not as much as I did when I first opened in 2008. I do special orders for bridal parties and special occasions, but my top selling brands are Shirley of Hollywood, Mapale and Shadowline. Shirley of Hollywood is classy-sexy, Mapale is youthful-sexy and Shadowline is mature-sexy. I love them all and my clients love having the variety of choices.
Ted: Do you sell sleepwear?
Edna: Yes, I carry Shadowline, Softies, and Linda Hartmann. Shadowline has an extensive line of matching robes and gowns. I love Softies cuddly robes and pajamas. I like Linda Hartmann’s sophisticated look and feel of their loungewear.
Ted: Do you sell swimwear?
Edna: Yes, I do sell swimwear. That fact that I am in the Sunshine State, Florida, surrounded by beaches, swimming pools, snowbirds and cruise lines, I have to carry them. I stock 3 swim lines: Jodee and T.H.E. for my mastectomy clients needing a pocket bra, and PrimaDonna for the cup size and body contouring.
Ted: Do you sell shapewear?
Edna: Yes, I sell Squeem, Shapeez, Rago, VaBien, PrimaDonna, and Fajas Disenos D’ Prada. I have sold Squeem since the day I opened and will continue with their line because I love the shaping capability and support, and my clients love them. Shapeez has done well for me when clients are looking for a molded cup and a smooth look.
Ted: Do you sell hosiery?
Edna: Yes, I sell stockings, although on a very small scale, because of the availability in department stores. Music Legs and Shirley of Hollywood are my most requested stockings.
Ted: Do you sell corsets?
Edna: Yes, I have corsets from Shirley of Hollywood. Most corsets are special orders for special occasions.
Ted: What do you sell your customers to wear with their strapless dresses?
Edna: VaBien, Dominique and Elila.
Ted: Where do you like to shop for your merchandise?
Edna: I enjoy going to Curve in New York when possible. The majority of my shopping is by browsing vendor catalogs.
Ted: Have any brands disappointed you? How?
Edna: Yes, and without naming them, they know who they are. It is disappointing knowing that some brands are competing with their own retailers by selling their products online. I am contractually obligated to the brand, as a retailer, to not offer their products under a certain price point. However, some brands simultaneously offer their products online with prices that small businesses can’t feasibly compete with. On occasion, I have agreed to meet the price a client found on a website if they can prove the style, size and color are being advertised for less – but this is very difficult for small businesses to do. There are other issues with brands offering their products online – both non-post-mastectomy bras and mastectomy bras. These brands are misleading their customers to believe that finding the perfect fit and style for their needs can be done without the help of an experienced, professional fitter. To most women, these bras are an investment that should be made with the help of someone who is extremely knowledgeable about the products and can offer invaluable direction in choosing the perfect bra.
Ted: What product were you sorry to see discontinued?
Edna: I haven’t had any problem with discontinued products. There are always other alternatives for a good salesperson to offer their clients.
Ted: Have you brought any new products or brands into your store recently?
Edna: Yes. I now carry Coobie bras. Some of my mastectomy clients love the fact they have a pocket in them for their prosthesis and the variety of colors available. I am also in the process of bringing the Corin bra line back. In 2008 and 2009 I carried Corin and was very happy with the line, but then they weren’t available. Thank you Corin for returning, I know my clients will love the quality and the price point. In the past two years I’ve become known for offering wigs (cranial prosthesis). Many women come in asking if their insurance will cover wigs after chemotherapy and loss of hair. Unfortunately many insurance companies, including Medicare, will not cover for this service. We recommend that they check with their insurance company and if they do cover it, we will request a prescription from their physician and bill their insurance company for the wig.
Ted: Describe the popular styles or trends in your store.
Edna: Although I have carried Squeem since the inception of my business, body shapers are becoming the latest trend as the result of so many women having breast reductions, body sculpting, and gastric bypass which causes the softening the stomach tissue. This has led me to ordering a larger variety of Fajas and compression type garments. Butt-lifters are on the rise as well.
Ted: What are your most popular colors?
Edna: I believe that the majority of women have been stuck on the nude and beige colors for so long that it’s like pulling teeth convincing them to try other colors. Our older clients request white bras in most instances. Our staff offers fittings with other colors such as blue, red, orange, peach and pink. When the client realizes the beauty in these colors, they tend explore. My experience in Florida is that it is a difficult task to sell black bras unless needed for a special occasion. Younger women love trying the multi-color bras and are prone to make that purchase.
Ted: Describe your price points and size ranges.
Edna: As you know, PrimaDonna is our highest price point starting at $119.00, and our lowest price point is Felina Paramour at $42.00. Our size ranges are 28AA to 56N and we provide specialized alterations when sizes just don’t exist.
Ted: What is your typical or average customer size?
Edna: Our clients are not considered typical and we really don’t have an average size, but for the purpose of this interview: 32 E-G, 36 E-G, 38 G- J, 40 D-K, 46 B,C,G and H, 50 E-N.
Ted: What does your average customer spend per visit to your store?
Edna: $150.00, with more than 2 visits per year.
Ted: Describe your customer base.
Edna: Our customer base are local working and retired women, and tweens to 101 years of age (being my oldest client as of this interview, who shops twice a year).
Ted: What has impacted your business the most over the past year?
Edna: A negative impact on my business in the last year has been manufacturers placing greater emphasis on online sales and at the same time undercutting prices of small business retailers like myself. Unfortunately for small business owners, it’s difficult to compete when we are a brick and mortar with high rent and employees. However, a client with an in-person experienced fitter who addresses their personal concerns will experience a better outlook and fit. This quote from one of my clients explains why it’s so important for women to experience a professional fitting, “When I came to Unique Lingerie, not only had I never been professionally fitted, but I had absolutely no idea what bra size I was. I had recently finished breastfeeding my first child and felt completely disconnected from my breasts. I had haphazardly tried to buy bras online, sizes anywhere from 34B to 38DD, leaving me to feel hopeless as to finding a bra that made me happy. When Edna at Unique Lingerie fitted me, her personal service made me feel at ease and comfortable in my body, and her expertise gave me huge confidence in my purchases. The bras I wear now are perfect for me in every way and I’m so glad I had the experience of being professionally fitted.” A positive impact on my business has been that customer demand for opening a second location is high and it comes from my customers’ loyalty to our store. My clients who are not local residents ask often when and where I will be opening a second location, or if I sell products online, which inspires me to plan for the future of Unique Lingerie.
Ted: What have you done to draw attention to your business?
Edna: 2019 is bringing big changes for our online presence, including a new website, increased social media presence, and starting an e-mail marketing campaign. I’ve also developed my own personal label in lingerie. I intend to increase the number of items under my private label.
Ted: Who are your favorite sales representatives in the business?
Edna: 90% of my purchases are done via fax or email and I don’t have the opportunity to meet sales representatives. I have a good business relationship with Robin at American Breast Care, who helps us plan store events and is very knowledgeable about the brand she represents. She looks to provide me with unique products I can offer to my clients.