By  on May 13, 2013

Bare Necessities sees itself as the Sephora of lingerie — online.

The largest specialty online retailer of men’s and women’s innerwear in the U.S. is marking its 15th anniversary, and it has good reason to celebrate, following a growth rate of 18.1 percent in 2012 to annual sales of $66 million.

The increase in revenues is in line with an annual compounded growth rate of 49 percent since parent company Bare Web Inc.’s inception in 1998.

Monthly visits by consumers to average 1.5 million, of which 717,765 are unique visitors. The average purchase is $98.

The company was started by Noah Wrubel, chief executive officer, and Bill Richardson, president and chief operating officer, who were college roommates at Carnegie Mellon University.

“It’s great to be in business with a best friend,” said Wrubel, who oversees marketing, merchandising and e-commerce operations. Richardson heads programing, information technology, financials and warehouse logistics.

Since creating on a shoestring budget, with warehouse space borrowed from Wrubel’s father in Newark, the partners have built a solid business model for selling lingerie online and developed a rapport with brands, as well as a growing consumer base.

Wrubel, a former buyer at Lord & Taylor, remembered a number of challenges in starting an e-commerce business.

“At the beginning, it was just me and Bill in a small room with a contract programmer we hired to build the site.…We wanted to test the site to see if it worked, so we gave friends prepaid $50 cards to shop the site,” said Wrubel.

“We started as a very entrepreneurial business.…If something needed to be packed and shipped, it was ‘OK, come downstairs and pick some merchandise,’ even if you were in the middle of a program or a spreadsheet,” said Richardson, a former executive at the now defunct accounting firm Arthur Andersen.

Richardson said he was about to be named a partner at the Andersen company — which would soon become embroiled in the Enron accounting scandal — but told the accounting powerhouse he had decided to join a lingerie e-commerce start-up instead.

“I got some strange looks,” remembered Richardson.

Apparently, the gambit paid off.

Bare Necessities is headquartered in 100,000-square-foot facilities in Edison, N.J., and employs 75 people in sales, customer service and warehouse management. Along the way, the entrepreneurial duo poached some key talent from retail competitors: Maureen Stabnau, senior vice president of merchandising, who was formerly a buyer at Lord & Taylor, and Jay Dunn, chief marketing officer. Dunn was formerly vice president and chief marketing officer at Lane Bryant.

In 2012, BarePlus by Bare Necessities was launched featuring intimate apparel for plus-size women. The e-tailer introduced solution-based swimwear in 2010 and features 6,500 intimate apparel, legwear and swimwear styles on its site, including Wolford, Wacoal, Calvin Klein, DKNY, Under Armour, Spanx, Chantelle, Hanky Panky and Miraclesuit.

The company is building a 2,000-square-foot state-of-the-art photo studio to custom-produce images and videos for the site, which will be operational this summer.

“We also just broke ground on a 4,800-square-foot training facility for customer service folks where we’ll do training seminars,” explained Wrubel.

Bare Necessities celebrated its 15th anniversary last week at Arena, a club in Manhattan, where more than 250 wholesalers were the “guests of honor.”

“The party was for our vendors. We provide a platform for them to get millions of customers and viewers every month to buy their brands. We wanted to thank our vendors,” said Wrubel.

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