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Lingerie market report

Buyers discuss the state of play in today’s lingerie market and reveal their trend tips for spring 15.

The recent demise of La Senza for a second time and the departure of directors at Ann Summers are reminders of the ongoing challenges for the lingerie sector.

Online competition is a reality of life for traditional retailers, yet it is seen as an opportunity by many, despite the reluctance of some women to buy without being fitted or trying on first.

Against this background, Drapers spoke to industry insiders about their current take on market trends and buying preferences.

Debenhams Sharon Webb, head of lingerie buying & design

What’s driving the lingerie market at the moment?

Spring/ summer is reliant on the weather. We are seeing huge uplift on both nude and strapless lines with sales on multiways 20% up on the year.

Have there been any major changes?
The growth in shapewear in the last few years has slowed and we are now seeing a decline in sales. I think this is down to the change in emphasis in ‘going out’ and dressing for occasions, but also shapewear garments are pretty robust and made to last well, so if you aren’t wearing them frequently they will last. In the past two to five years there was a big focus on foundation dressing from Gok Wan and Trinny & Susannah. There is no one really pushing this to the front of customers’ minds at the moment, so there is a shift in shopping trends.

Which brands are getting it right?
From the brands we stock, Triumph is back on track with its heartland customers and product that appeals to them: new ranges are looking strong, well thought through and comprehensive. I love the whole ethos of Curvy Kate. It know its customer, not only what she wants from a product but how
she wants to be communicated with - it’s so accessible, positive and empowering how the brand speaks to its consumer.

And wrong?
Generally there isn’t enough innovation coming through from the international brands. It has been such a long time since we’ve seen something really exciting and revolutionary.

Which styles are doing well and what are customers buying into?
For our spring 14 bra fit campaign we collaborated with Triumph, Wonderbra and Fantasie, featuring key styles along with two of our brands to discover your perfect fit. All five styles in the campaign have seen big increases on the year. This season it’s also been about print and colour - we are selling a broad spectrum of true brights and some really bold prints.

What brands are you backing for spring 15?
Freya looks fantastic. Within our own ranges we continue to focus on B by Ted Baker, which is hugely successful for us, and we are launching a new lingerie brand for the season as well as giving Floozie a refocus and update.

What do you see happening in the market over the next 12 months?
With the release of the film 50 Shades of Grey on Valentine’s Day next year, I think the focus on and fascination with more seductive lingerie will build. The influence of Victoria’s Secret in terms of colour will continue, and I really hope we can continue to focus the customer on the importance of great-fitting lingerie.

New Look Toni-Anne Lindsay, lingerie buyer

What’s driving the lingerie market?

We’ve seen a lot of the mix-and-match trend. People used to buy sets but that is changing. Luxury basics are really strong at the moment. People are paying more attention to their basic lingerie and spending that bit more on everyday lingerie.

Have there been any major changes?
The biggest change for us over the last couple of years has been the demand for larger cup sizes. Previously, the biggest size we carried was a 36DD, but online we now carry back sizes up to 44 and F cups. We’re also seeing a lot more trend-led products, particularly ‘wear to be seen’ lingerie.

Which styles are popular with customers?
Long-line styles (main picture, above) are most popular, and we’re seeing a lot of strapless and T-shirt bras due to the time of year.

What trends are you backing for spring 15?
We are going big on soft bras for spring. We’re known for our padding, but we want to introduce softer styles. Really bright colours like lime green and UV purple will also sell well.

What is New Look doing to distinguish itself from its competitors?
For us being fashionable and having a quick lead time - three months instead of the usual six - is really important. We’re able to react to trends quickly and link our lingerie to our clothing styles, so people can buy a complete outfit.

Arnotts Department store, Dublin RachAel Armstrong, lingerie & hosiery buyer

What’s driving the lingerie market?

Lingerie has become more fashion-focused and more fun. Colours and prints are now just as important in your range as the core basics.

Have there been any major changes?
There has been a dramatic move in shapewear to regenerate sales, as this area has been tricky. It has become more fashionable and comfortable too with the move to seam-free and thinner materials. The sports end is expanding rapidly as people understand the importance of wearing the right bra for high-impact sports. People are also getting more sophisticated with their choice of swimwear and are willing to invest more money.

Which styles are popular with customers?
Swimwear with tummy control has been selling very well for us and the bandeau-style bikini with underwire support for the bigger bust. Strapless bras have been outperforming this season, with more options available than ever before, and also the finer shapewear slips and seam-free pants.

Who is getting it right?
In shapewear I am really impressed with Spanx’s spring 15 range. The colours are soft and easy to wear and the new lace gives it a slightly sexier feel. The launch of the Triumph magic wire range will be revolutionary and lead the way in the market for non-wired bras.

What are customers buying into?
Premium brands are on the rise again and customers want affordable luxury, so brands like Elle Macpherson Intimates and Wacoal are doing well. We are also seeing a huge rise in the smaller back with a bigger cup with most brands now accommodating this.

Which trade shows do you attend?
Mode City Paris, London Swimwear Show, Moda and The Lingerie Edit.

Dolci Follie, Notting Hill Simona Walters, owner

What’s driving the lingerie market?

More than ever before the market is fashion and trend-led. It’s no longer a separate entity to women’s outer wardrobe. Just as women like to update their wardrobe, they also like to update their lingerie.

Which styles are customers picking up on?
One trend that is getting increasingly popular is lingerie as outerwear. A lot of customers now consider all the ways of wearing items when buying - for instance, if bodies can be worn with a pair of trousers for an evening look, or if a bra would look good worn under a sheer blouse.

What trends are you backing for spring 15?
A lot of the styles are coming out designed to work as both lingerie and outerwear. Bodies, teddies and long-line bras are becoming more popular because of this. Contrasting colours and mismatched loud prints as well as clever cut-out designs using sheer fabrics are also trends to look forward to.

Boux Avenue Debby Duckett, buying director

What’s driving the lingerie market?

Customers want a ‘wardrobe of bras’ as opposed to a few functional T-shirt bras. With so many different styles and options available the consumer has so much more choice. Lingerie has also become far more of a fashion focal point. We see a lot of trends mirroring through into lingerie as well as an increase in demand for statement prints.

Have there been any major changes?
We’ve seen a shift in sizing. Historically our average size was a 34B, but our statistics show it’s actually more of a 34C now. We have also seen considerable growth in our D and DD cup sizes.

Which styles are popular with customers?
Our strapless bras are always popular, because they are so versatile. We have also seen a lot of interest in our more vintage-inspired pieces, especially our lingerie sets that include high-waisted knickers. It’s a fab trend - it’s sexy and feminine as well as being that little bit more forgiving. We feel this is a trend that will definitely continue into next year.

What trends are you backing for spring 15?
We’ve gone after the pastels trend in a big way, with lots of pretty, feminine pieces, tapping back into the vintage-inspired as well as buying into some fabulous prints.

What is Boux Avenue doing to distinguish itself from its competitors?
We are very much centred on lingerie that serves a purpose: correct fitting and fully supportive bras. We have created a beautiful destination for lingerie shopping, as opposed to throwing it in your basket along with your food shopping. We pride ourselves on our innovative fitting suites equipped with a concierge service and different lighting options.

House of Fraser Isabel Keith, lingerie buyer

The lingerie market has changed considerably over the past few years, with body confidence at the forefront of both retailers’ and consumers’ minds. Lingerie is now more about contouring your body and enhancing your assets. Women do not want to be restricted by uncomfortable lingerie and shapewear - instead the focus is on much more lightweight products, breathable fabrications and flattering shapes that are comfortable and can be worn every day. It is something we really believe in and we are keen to champion brands with the same ethos.

Guilt Lingerie, Chichester and Petworth, west sussex Georgina Willis, owner

What’s driving the lingerie market?

A demand for fit, quality and longevity of product. Confidence is returning to shopkeepers, because suppliers are relaxing their minimums and are willing to test-drive brands in independent lingerie shops. Generally there is an increased awareness of lingerie being seen as an outerwear accessory, which has made it more accessible and fun.

Have there been any major changes?
The biggest is the increase of purchasing online, and we notice customers are increasingly using independent lingerie shops as a free fitting service before buying online. It can take up to half an hour to properly select and fit a bra professionally.

Which styles are doing well?
Large cup sizes that are comfortable and fit well are proving popular. Half-padded cups with a little support and lace on top are also selling well.
What are customers buying into? Customers love to boast they know a little shop that looks after them. It’s the one area of fashion where customers relinquish choice and hand themselves over to an expert they can trust. We call it the ‘Savile Row’ effect, and it needs to be worked on and expanded.

What do you see happening in the market over the next 12 months?
There will be a gradual improvement in sales. Everyone is tired of austerity and buying new lingerie should reflect this. As the French say: “You can never put awful clothes on top of new lingerie!” The lingerie industry is the foundation of looking good.

Which trade shows do you attend?
Salon International de la Lingerie, Mode City and Interfilière - all in Paris, The Lingerie Edit, London Swimwear Show, Scoop and Pure.

Eden, Nantwich, Cheshire Amanda Callus, owner

The industry is being led by neutrals at the moment - everything from nude to ivory is doing well. Larger cup sizes are also coming to the fore with most brands stocking up to a G cup. Feminine lace details are still selling very well, whether it’s on the cup, strap or under bands. We always go to Moda - it’s really important for me to see the product and get a general overview of the colours for the season, so I can be confident with my buying. Weather is always a key factor for independents and when the sun is shining consumers are always in a more positive mood.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Did Bravissimo decline to comment? ;o)

    I am not surprised at La Senza and Ann Summers. I have found their lingerie shabby (by this I mean poor quality). Some of it may look nice, but it simply doesn't last, especially for those with medium to full busts. The problem then for the retailer is that their customer won't go back.

    My experience is that women are now 'getting it' about the need for proper fit. That said, I still find the majority of my customers don't realise a regularly worn bra is not going to last more than 6 months, especially for the larger cup sizes.

    In terms of criticism, I do feel that lingerie is not aligned to seasonal trends, both in terms of colours and styles. This is an opportunity. For example we've had a 'lime' summer, yet I could not find a lime (or close) coloured bra. I laugh reading lime is planned for next year... and when asymmetric dresses / tops appeared, quality multi ways were in short supply.

    In my unbiased opinion, Shape wear is a gimmick and the decline is simply down to the fact it does not deliver the aspiration. Women can look good whatever their shape, as long as they choose the right styles.. It's not needed but preys on women's insecurities. Shape wear is uncomfortable and I find mostly gathering dust in wardrobes I weed... However, there is an opportunity for slips and underwear that permits the clothing above it to fall naturally. More options here would be good, in terms of length, colour and fabric.

    In my opinion, there's still so much more the lingerie sector can do, though quality (fabric & construction) should keep customers returning.

    Brands I recommend (I have no bias) include Triumph, Freya, Panache, Bravissimo and Fantasy. I plan to check out Curvy Kate as a consequence of this article.

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