SHOPPING FOR SHAPERS: AN ATLANTA TALE
Byline: Georgia Lee
ATLANTA — Judging by space allocation and the wide range of shapewear products at both Rich’s and Dillard’s here, the category appears to be booming.
But the sheer number of styles — as well as figuring out which figure problems they address — can be daunting for a shopper, and individualized assistance from salespeople can be the crucial factor in wrapping up the sale. That’s something shoppers may find lacking.
Here’s what recent visits to the two stores revealed.
Shapewear occupies about a third of the entire foundations area of the Rich’s flagship store at Lenox Square. After circling around trying to get oriented for at least 10 minutes, the shopper approached a saleswoman who had been occupied helping customers at the cash register.
When asked for help about selecting shapewear, the salesperson did not inquire much about specific needs. Instead, she pulled out 10 styles, ranging from light control briefs to extra-firm control all-in-one body briefers.
She did give information on which offered the most control. She explained a few features, such as the purpose of “butt boosters,” which are designed to lift and define the derriere. The shopper asked if any contained padding.
“Frederick’s,” she replied. “You have to go to Frederick’s for that.” She added that one of her girlfriends had tried the padded variety, but said the pads had fallen apart or come out after washing.
Handing the shopper a dozen control items, the saleswoman directed her to a fitting room. The saleswoman never returned and was nowhere to be found a while later.
Among the items the saleswoman suggested were a Butt Booster by Bodyslimmers by Nancy Ganz, listed at $55; a firm-control, high-cut brief by Vanity Fair called Smooth Moves, for $13; a strapless full slip called Body Reformer by Smoothie, for $49 and an all-in-one body briefer called Waist Eliminator by Smoothie. The body briefer had a hangtag that read “Does what your diet doesn’t.”
The Smoothie hangtags generally featured information on the degree of firmness and a spot check of what areas the shaper addressed. The shopper found this helpful, particularly considering the lack of advice from the salesperson.
Still, the shopper found many of the shapers didn’t feel right. Indeed, some items may have been the wrong size, which could have been avoided by a little more attention from the salesperson.
Dillard’s six-month-old store here at North Point Mall — the firm’s only store in the Atlanta area — has a lingerie department twice the size of Rich’s. The shapewear area, though, seemed to be around the same size in both stores.
There appeared to be a few more salespeople in Dillard’s innerwear department than at Rich’s. One saleswoman approached the shopper within five minutes.
When asked for information on shapers, the saleswoman explained that Dillard’s main shapewear labels included Smoothie by Strouse; Adler; Cabernet, a house label, and Dim and Bali, both by Sara Lee. There also were some styles by Lilyette, a brand by Maidenform Worldwide.
The salesperson asked a few questions about the shopper’s needs, pointing out several styles that would be appropriate under dresses or pants.
Items she suggested included a long-leg brief by Dim, which retailed for $20, and a tummy-control panty by Smoothie for $20. She also pointed out corset-like waist cinchers by Smoothie at $18 and a packaged control brief called Fashion Form, that “curves, lifts and defines the derriere.” The brief sold for $15.
“I like Cabernet best,” she said. “They are well made and more comfortable.” The attractive satin and satin-trim Cabernet shapers were well represented in the department.
The saleswoman suggested four styles to try on. She checked on the shopper in the fitting room, offering to get additional styles, and later inquired again if the customer needed help.
But what she didn’t do was ask about the shopper’s specific concerns and problem areas. And also as at Rich’s, the saleswoman failed to make sure the shopper was trying on the correct size. It’s a failing that can leave the shapers sitting in the store.