Lingerie independents have hit out at underwear brand Spanx’s decision to exit some independent retailers across the UK and Ireland, saying it has “pulled the rug from under them”.
In a letter seen by Drapers, Spanx said it is assessing the brand’s strategy following the decision in September 2018 to take UK and Ireland sales in house. Spanx was previously sold by lingerie distributor Brand Mrkt. Stockists have been given until 30 January to place orders – after that they will not be fulfilled. Retailers have been told they will be able to reapply to be a Spanx stockist at a later date.
The letter reads: “As we previously communicated, Spanx is transitioning to a direct-distribution model in the UK and Ireland beginning in early 2019.
“We have come to the difficult decision that we cannot support all accounts in phase one of our transition. Brand Mrkt will continue to accept your orders for Spanx brand product to ship by 30 January 2019, after which no orders will be accepted for the Spanx brand by either Brand Mrkt or Spanx.
“Following the opening of our first-ever international office this spring, we will align closely with our London-based Spanx team to further evolve our brand strategy locally, assessing how best to support each channel of distribution in this changing retail environment. We feel confident that strategically laying the groundwork in phases will be best for long-term success in the UK and Ireland. When we are fully set up to fulfil and service your account, a reapplication process will follow.”
Leigh McKelvey, vice president of global commerce at Spanx said: “Since the launch of the Spanx brand, we have been fortunate to have so many women embrace our brand and experience our products. As we evolve our brand strategy locally in the UK and Ireland, partnering with our retailers directly will allow us to deepen our brand footprint and strengthen our commitment to our local customers by allowing us to reach them in new ways. Our customers will continue to receive the best possible experience and access to products from local boutiques, online retailers and major department stores that will make them look and feel their best.”
Michele Poynter, owner of independent lingerie retailer Mish in Wadebridge, Cornwall, told Drapers: “We have been stocking Spanx for a few years. It is our biggest shapewear brand. The news has been incredibly disappointing for us because it’s going to jeopardise our customers’ confidence. We’re trying to find replacements, but Spanx is such a big name and that’s a big factor for our customers.
“It feels like they have just completely pulled the rug from under us. It just isn’t on. However, as much as we need them, we can survive without them.”
They have just completely pulled the rug from under us
Michele Poyner, owner of Mish in Wadebridge, Cornwall
Jackie Upton, owner of independent lingerie retailer Sheen Uncovered in Richmond, south-west London, said: “I saw this coming. Spanx pulling out will 100% affect our footfall – it’s a nightmare. It is so frustrating when brands behave like this because indies are the gateway to their brands. It’s hard because you work with these brands and build them up, and then they drop you. We are going to trade shows over the next few weeks to find a similar shapewear seller.”
One Bath-based lingerie retailer said it only started selling Spanx 18 months ago. She said: “We only stock two styles, a body and a brief, so fortunately the brand pulling out will not affect our footfall. I’m really pleased I didn’t stock any more.”
Another lingerie independent said: “I didn’t think it [the letter] was very clear, so I can’t work out if it concerns me or not. I have been stocking it up until this point and I even placed a new order with them just last week. I really hope [Spanx] won’t be pulling out from my store. Spanx is one of our biggest brands.”
Claire Woodall, founder and owner of Lincoln Bra Lady in Lincoln, stopped stocking Spanx last year after prices were increased: “I saw this coming and knew it would happen eventually. I, like other indies, dropped out of Spanx because it was stretching our budgets to breaking point. Lingerie indies just need to work together and find new brands to replace Spanx because there are so many good-quality pieces elsewhere.”
• Are you a Spanx stockist and has your store been affected by this? If so, email us.