Noah Wrubel, chairman and chief executive officer of Bare Necessities, a brick-and-mortar and Internet lingerie retailer, presented a seminar last Wednesday on how brands and companies can boost business in tough times.
This story first appeared in the February 9, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The event, “Getting Intimate with the Internet,” hosted by the Intimate Apparel Council division of the American Apparel & Footwear Association at the Grand Hyatt New York hotel, also focused on the success of Bare Necessities’ 10-year-old online business.
Wrubel, who launched Bare Necessities in 1997, a year before going online, told the 75 executives in attendance that the $35 million company has generated yearly compounded sales growth of more than 70 percent for the past 10 years. Barenecessities.com garnered the 49th position on the Top 500 Guide of apparel e-tailers.
“We do everything ourselves, from selecting the merchandise to designing the Web site and creating the text to fulfillment and shipping,” said Wrubel. “Today, we are the largest purveyor of men’s underwear online. We have one million visitors a month, have sold 2.75 million bras and 1.9 million panties, and we have half a million e-mail subscribers.”
He added that the site offers 125 innerwear brands, as well as 226 bra sizes, ranging from 28DD to 58C.
“Part of what we do is deciding what to carry and not to carry, and that has put us in a good stead over the years,” Wrubel said. “In 2008, we launched our first catalogue. But what I didn’t know was we were entering an economic tsunami.”
Wrubel noted that 1.5 million catalogues were mailed last year.
He said the secret to the company’s success is that staff members remained merchants, not tech geeks.
“We decided we were retailers, and that thought was a great way to sell lingerie,” he said. “We believe the shopping experience online is a separate experience than a branding experience or a Web experience. We want to sell product and get customers moving through the process quickly.
“The only thing we don’t do is manufacture the product,” he said. “Almost every contact we have with every customer is to ask for some feedback. It goes to everybody at the company and every morning my e-mail box is filled with customer comments. We try to fulfill customer comments, no matter how trivial. We never forget that the customer is king.”
Regarding best-selling categories, Wrubel said, “Better [price] bras do a good business. Women who buy bras in the $50, $60, $70 and $80 range are still buying bras. And shapewear is growing unbelievably online. I think it’s arrived as a product category unto itself. It’s no longer a segment. Women now think of the shapewear piece they want to wear when they buy apparel.”