As a lingerie boutique, chances are high that you do more than just shift inventory.
You offer something that the nearby fashion stores selling jeans and dresses don’t – a personalised, one-on-one fitting service.
Bra fittings are important to the brick-and-mortar lingerie retail business model because of how difficult it can be for customers to find their ideal fit on their own. There’s the way that fit varies between all of the different brands. The way that bras need to fit so very precisely to look good, feel comfortable, and do their job of offering support.
And then there’s the fact that sometimes, shoppers don’t even know what constitutes a good fit themselves. They can be left feeling deflated when a bra doesn’t look the way they’d hoped it would, exiting the store empty-handed when instead, a little helpful guidance towards a different size could have turned them into one very happy customer.
Bra fittings, in summary, are crucial to selling bras. So why then do some lingerie boutiques not offer this service for free? Surely it would lead to more sales?
Arguments for a bra fitting fee
Lingerie boutique owners that apply a price to bra fittings will often cite these two reasons: they require time, and they require expertise.
It’s true that a good bra fitting is not a particularly quick process. It involves measuring, cherry-picking products for the customer to try on (sometimes hunting down the right size from the store room), spending time evaluating the fit, and of course talking to the customer to find out what they’re looking for and any problems they may have with their current bras.
All in all, a bra fitter could be spending 30 minutes with one customer, and if that person then doesn’t buy anything, that’s half an hour’s wages spent in exchange of nothing. Something that is sadly common in this digital era, where a customer can use a store to try the bras on and then hunt it down at a cheaper price online. If you’re going to be acting as the fitting room for someone else’s online business, you should at least be getting paid for it right?
Then there’s the cost of training your staff (or yourself) on how to fit bras. It’s a deceptively difficult skill to master, and many boutiques send their employees off to a professional (and expensive) training course. They want that cost to be recouped somehow, and charging a fee per bra fitting can seem like the most straightforward way to do it.
Arguments against a bra fitting fee
All of that said, just because you put a price on your bra fitting service, doesn’t mean that people are going to pay for it. Customers like getting something for free, and may even expect it when so many lingerie stores do offer zero-cost fittings.
You will be competing with those big players in the lingerie industry, such as Victoria’s Secret in the US and Marks & Spencer in the UK, who offer easy access to complementary bra fittings. You may think that the service at your independent boutique is better, but can you convince the people walking into your store of that?
As I mentioned above, a key reason that some lingerie boutiques offer free bra fittings is that they believe they’ll make up for it in additional sales. Customers are far more likely to buy a bra when it fits well, so why not take the time to help them nail the right size?
Plus, a bra fitting is not all about the sizing – the fitter will also recommend styles, perhaps encouraging the customer to try something they wouldn’t have given a second look on the hanger but which the fitter knows will look fantastic once it’s on.
Many lingerie boutiques will also tell you that a bra fitting service encourages repeat customers. From using the opportunity to build up a rapport with the customer, to sending them a reminder email when their next fitting is due, surely the chance of gaining a new customer who’ll buy a bra from you every six months is worth losing out on a small fitting fee in the short-term for?
Is a refundable fee a good compromise?
There are many arguments for offering free bra fittings, but it is still a fact that they cost you time and money. So why not follow in the footsteps of lingerie boutiques who think they’ve found a good compromise, and charge a fee that is then deducted from the price of the bra if the customer chooses to buy something? In the customer’s eyes, they’ve already part-paid for the bra, so they’ll be more likely to go through with paying the rest.
A few final things to consider
Before you decide to start charging a bra fitting fee however, do consider how many requests you currently get for them. If you’re only carrying out one or two fittings per day, will the additional amount you earn really make all that much difference to your bottom line, especially when it could have the effect of turning potential customers away?
On the other hand, if you’re inundated and having to ask customers to book fittings in advance, then perhaps it does make sense to introduce a fee, and concentrate only on those customers who really value what you do.
And for those on the other side of the fence – currently charging a fee, but considering dropping it – why not throw a well-publicised free fitting event to test the waters? It will give you a great opportunity to see how many free fittings lead to a sale; you’ll quickly find out if people are coming in just out of curiosity, or have a genuine intention to buy.