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At most stores, fitting rooms are afterthoughts. At Journelle, the four-unit upscale lingerie retailer, they’re more like secret weapons.

In 2007, when Claire Chambers founded the business in New York, she called upon the Kramer Design Group to help develop the brand concept and store format. Creating a better fitting room became a priority.

“We approached it from a consumer experience point of view — more room for the back-of-the-house, easier to shop,” Robin Kramer, president of Kramer Design, told WWD. There are bathrobes so if the customer wanted she could go back on the selling floor without having to get dressed again, even lemon water in the fitting rooms. “We made it like a spa, a place where women could feel comfortable,” Kramer said.

“We realized the sale is really made in the fitting room.”

Last November, Journelle opened its fourth store, a 1,000-square-foot unit in the trendy Bucktown neighborhood in Chicago, at 1725 North Damen Avenue. “It’s a feminine, residential and warm environment, not girly or overly sexy or boudoire-ish,” Kramer said.

The store advanced the elevated fitting room format and has dimmers to set moods. The store also has for easy self-service, custom-made fixtures displaying product organized by style, size, color and end-use such, as strapless bras for strapless dresses. Drawers are merchandised by “everyday” basics, fashion, shapewear and bridal.

Lyn Lewis, who as managing director has been running the business since the departure of Chambers last fall, said the decision to open in Chicago became obvious following a successful pop-up there two years ago, and after noticing that significant e-commerce sales were being generated by Chicagoans. In addition, “Bucktown was a natural choice because it has the same neighborhood-feel as our successful flagship location in Union Square,” said Lewis. The three other Journelle stores are all in Manhattan — at 3 East 17th Street; 125 Mercer Street, and 1266 Third Avenue. The corporate office is at 159 W. 25th Street.

No additional store openings are set, though according to Allison Beale, Journelle’s brand and marketing director, there is an appetite for greater brick-and-mortar. “We certainly believe in store openings and personal experience.”

She said that this year, the plan is to more than double sales of the private label Journelle Collection, launched last September. “Our goal was to provide what we thought the industry was lacking — beautiful, affordable styles that are perfect for everyday but still special and interesting enough for special occasions,” Beale said. “Our collection features silhouettes that are simple but classic and incredibly wearable — T-shirt bras, plunge bras, the unlined lace demi. We’ve taken basic styles and elevated them with special, exclusive laces, high-tech fabrics, back details, signature hardware — putting our stamp on every piece.”

Beale also said the company hopes to increase e-commerce revenues, currently accounting for  50 percent of the Journelle business, through greater marketing and by approaching vendors for exclusives. Journelle would not disclose revenues.

Three years ago, Triumph International purchased a majority stake in Journelle, which sells bras, underwear, loungewear, accessories, shapewear, and hosiery from such brands as Chantelle, Eberjey, Stella McCartney Lingerie, Heidi Klum Intimates, Natori, Triumph, La Perla, L’Agent, Fortnight, Else, Lonely, Mimi Holliday, Fleur of England, Dear Bowie and For Love + Lemons.

Journelle has a merchandising philosophy geared to women inclined to buy intimate apparel based on what pleases them, more so than what they think might please their significant other.  “They’re really buying for herself, for everyday, and for her own enjoyment, to feel comfortable,” Kramer said. “In 2016, that’s even more relevant. Everything is about female empowerment.”



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