Byline: Robert Murphy

PARIS — Industry consultant Jos Berry wants to challenge the notion that lingerie stores must sacrifice fantasy to pragmatics in order to generate sales.
Berry, president of Concepts in Paris, a retail consulting firm often commissioned by show organizers Eurovet, has concocted an 18,000-square-foot prototype for a more exciting lingerie store that will be unveiled at the Jan. 25-28 Salon International de la Lingerie here at the Porte de Versailles.
The first “atelier” focused last year on the emotions of the modern woman, and next month’s presentation will be dedicated to the “temptation of modern lingerie, and growing its role as a universal fashion product.”
Berry gripes that most intimate apparel retailers fail to appeal to women’s emotions.
“[Merchants] conceive of lingerie as only a necessity,” Berry said. “I hope to push them to consider lingerie as an accessory, too.”
Fearful they will miss sales, Berry said most retailers cram the selling floor with all of their stock and do not experiment with innovative merchandising schemes. Berry said that in doing so, they daunt customers and achieve the exact opposite of their intentions.
Berry’s alternative is to cut the number of sizes on the selling floor, a move that requires a higher level of service — and juxtapose products such as bras and nightgowns, which are usually merchandised and sold in separate areas. Likewise, she has developed more fetching fixtures, including a luminous display wall.
She reasons that lingerie has become more important a part of the fashion mix and that retailers can profit in higher sales if they adapt their stores to reflect that trend.
Indeed, over the last couple of years, fashion has slowly penetrated lingerie design, which traditionally was preoccupied with technical performance.
But fast-fashion firms like Sweden’s Hennes & Mauritz, part of Spain’s Inditex fashion group, which also controls Zara, have helped shake up the market. They have helped build momentum in lingerie by emphasizing fashion over performance. Designer houses such as Christian Dior and Prada have also introduced collections with a trendy focus.
Meanwhile, a host of young designers are pioneering more avant-garde wares in their intimate apparel, as well as making updated lingerie for the home.
Now it is time for retailers who have not followed these developments to catch up, contended Berry. Apart from revisiting display and merchandising, Berry advises them to invest in more fashionable lingerie items, including at-homewear, sleepwear and robes.
“The biggest challenge lingerie retailers face today is attracting young people who are interested in fashion,” said Berry. ‘They are behind the curve in many ways because ready-to-wear firms have successfully focused on younger clients who have money to burn on trendy looks.”
Still, Berry does not suggest retailers shun their bread-and-butter customers who have not yet fully embraced overtly fashionable lingerie. She proposes that stores cater to a wider variety of clients.

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