Lingerie brands specialising in larger cup sizes have reaped the benefits in an industry dominated by own-label, with Marks & Spencer leading the pack.
“All we talk about in the office is big boobs,” says Gordon Lee, marketing director at DB Apparel, which owns Playtex. “The average bra size in the UK is 34D, which differs from the rest of Europe. More customers are choosing to get fitted for their bras.” Last year, Playtex offered a fitting service in several Debenhams stores. “We found most women went up a cup size, but down a back size,” says Lee.
Clare Thommen, co-owner of lingerie boutique Boudiche in Edinburgh, says fit is now vital. “Customers are more aware of the importance of fit and will come to us because they trust us. They can feel the difference a well-fitted bra makes as soon as they try it on,” she explains. “We use the modern method of fitting, which is the same as Trinny and Susannah – tight across the back.”
Igor Pacemski, director of Indulge Industries, which owns the Yes Master and Indulge labels, says retailers such as Boudiche are setting the pace. “The lingerie market has been in line with the general decline in consumer spending,” he says. “Safe buying has led to a poor mix in a lot of the multiples, but I feel the market will reposition itself. Stores with a twist are the way forward.”
Peter Cronin, sales director at Panache, which specialises in the D-plus market, says: “Brands specialising in bigger cup sizes and more premium labels will do well this season. Entry price point brands will continue to lose out to the high street.” Price deflation has been key over the past year, according to Lee, with Primark leading the way. “But I think we’ll see a backlash from consumers, with quality becoming more important,” he says.
The internet is a huge growth area for lingerie, with etailer Figleaves reporting a 32% sales rise in the run-up to Christmas against the previous year. Bra sets for larger cups sizes, as well as more expensive items, sold well, it added.
Pacemski says: “The insurgence of good, new web companies has led to a healthy pool of branded retailers online.”
However, Lee believes there is still a way to go before retailers capitalise fully on etail. “With Littlewoods and Asos doing so well, I’m surprised that Debenhams and House of Fraser haven’t embraced the web more,” he says.
Autumn 08 is also likely to be dominated by shapewear. Brands such as Made by Niki & Niki Lingerie and Elixir de Lingerie have given smooth lines and shapes a twist, with luxurious fabrics and pretty lace detailing.
Niki McMorrough, director of Made by Niki & Niki Lingerie, says: “Shapewear is a big trend, but not the nasty old Bridget Jones kind. Instead, we’ll see a sexy new way of showing off your curves. It’s all about having the right underwear to go under the right outfit.”
Also on offer are block colours, embroidery, lace, satin and tulle. The major trends are highlighted on the pdf on the right hand side of the page - also visit the new Lingerie Trends page of this website.