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Designers Business & Strategy Publish in 3 May 2024

6 retailers tips for opening a lingerie store

Three retailers share their expertise on how to make a business succeed, in store and online.

How does one sell lingerie these days ? At the intersection of traditional retail and an intimate world with its own sales rules, lingerie certainly requires a specific expertise. In Berlin, Diane-Sophie Durigon founded Le Pop Lingerie, a feminist store for women and trans people that mixes underwear with inclusive sex-toys, books and music. At his Parisian store Dollhouse, Miguel Rubio sells lingerie, toys and accessories, to men and women looking for seduction games.

In the UK, Sarah Northey’s eshop Naughty Knickers won the 2023 E-tailer of the year award. The three of them gave us their tips on how to get started in the lingerie business, from brand mix to communication.

Why open a shop ?

The question may sound foolish but it is at the heart of the retail activity, one that must be driven by passion, and above all by a true confidence in one’s own approach. “I opened Naughty Knickers out of love for lingerie, and because in the UK I was struggling to find more sexy ranges of products. There was a spot to be filled.” Says Sarah Northey. According to Diane-Sophie Durigon, opening a store requires a true love for contact. “When products revolve around women and pleasure, it is essential to feel at ease with the customers, to love people and to be able to show yourself to them.” Miguel Rubio agrees that empathy is key. “People can be very shy when it comes to buying intimate products. You need to be aware that you are selling a sort of well-being. It comes with a real commitment.”

Scarlette Gasque

How to create the right shopping environment ?

The ability to put customers at ease in a safe place is at the heart of the lingerie business. “Don’t ever be judgmental, Diane-Sophie Durigon says, because customers are already judging themselves. As a retailer, I also avoid being extra positive. I try to maintain a form of neutrality, while of course remaining sympathetic but without ever being too much.” In-store merchandising is also obviously essential. At Dollhouse, lingerie is displayed on the ground floor and pleasure objects on the first floor in a secluded, intimate space where customers can take the time to look around without worrying about being seen.

How to choose the right brands ?

“By finding the right balance between quality products and a wide price range.” Miguel Rubio says. “Divide your offer between must-have products and more original things. And always make sure that a brand doesn’t use your store as a window for products that she will sell online at discount prices. That would not do you any good.” For her e-shop, Sarah Northey relies on the quality and uniqueness of brands that are harder to find in the UK. “It is a risk to take, but if you work with the right partners who agree on working on your terms and who support your business, then it’s a win !”

To Diane-Sophie Durigon, finding the right partners is also essential. “I pay attention to the person behind the brand, she says, and to the quality of human relations.” She also makes sure to maintain a balance between easy, commercial brands, and others that focus on inclusivity and on a local, environmentally-friendly production.

How to better showcase the products ?

The shopping environment must fit the customers, so that they will not only want to buy, but also to come back. “What really makes the difference for in-store retailers is to be able to educate their customers, so that they will get more than a simple purchase.” Diane-Sophie Durigon says. At Le Pop Lingerie, she organizes workshops, book-clubs and discussion groups around feminine masturbation, to strengthen her relationship with customers and offer them something more to think about. Dollhouse and Naughty Knickers prefer to rely on a diverse range of products, and on a tailored customer journey that fosters curiosity. “When someone visits the website to buy lingerie, and notices that we also sell sex-toys, they will almost always come back, Sarah Northey says. It is all about suggesting the products without pushing them too much. This type of purchase is very successful online because clients tend to be a bit shy about it.”

Scarlette Gasque

How to communicate ?

When it comes to lingerie or pleasure products, digital communication is a key domain that needs to be mastered. “If they don’t see you, they won’t love you !” Diane-Sophie Durigon says. “Communication must be permanent, whether it is answering customers’ questions on Instagram, posting on a daily basis or sending newsletters.” In the field of lingerie social media call for a specific mastering of visual communication, as images that are deemed to sexual are often censored. “We rarely manage to get sponsored content. Our posts are refused as soon as they show too much skin, sexual elements or fat bodies… So images need to be cleverly made, down to the detail, to make sure they will create traffic.”

What about male customers ?

« To them, buying female lingerie is an adventure, Miguel Rubio says. Always be able to translate their needs and to guide them through their buying process.” Men are a particularly loyal customer base, so if they first visit to the shop proves convincing, they will come back to buy more, knowing they can find familiar products that already proved to be a success.