Next Wednesday I head to Indianapolis for Under Construction, an event co-sponsored by Barbara Gilbert. After I got off the phone with Barbara last week, I wanted to move to Indianapolis to work for her. If you keep reading, you’ll understand why.
Wide Range of Sizes
My blog focuses on lingerie stores that are good for D+ women, but chances are, if they have the inventory that makes them good for us, then they’re also good for everyone else. Barbara Gilbert has over 10,000 bras at her Indianapolis store and over 30,000 bras at her Ft. Wayne store. If this is the only specialty lingerie store for miles around–as it is–isn’t this the kind of inventory you would hope it held?
There’s something for everyone, from a 28AA to a 28N and up to a 56 band. Surprisingly, Barbara told me that it’s the 56A, B and C’s that are difficult for her to find. However, if they don’t have what you need, guess what? They’ll special order it. I asked Barbara why some stores don’t do this, and she explained that it’s expensive for them. Bra manufacturers often require minimum orders of at least $250, and the shipping cost for one bra is the same as for 10. (Personally, I think more brick and mortar stores should be willing to do this in order to differentiate themselves from online stores, but that’s another post.
What if a customer expects to leave the store looking amazing instead of having to wait for her size to arrive in the mail? Here’s where Barbara and her team’s years of experience come in. They will work magic with alterations and extenders to make sure everything is in the right place when the customer walks out the door.
Knowledge and Experience
Not everyone in Barbara’s stores has her years of experience, but they’re getting there. She puts new employees through a three-month training period that includes learning the sizes, styles and colors available from every manufacturer. This means a New Beginnings fitter should know even more about what’s available than you do (don’t you hate it when you have to educate your bra fitter?).
Since good fitters are essential to a good lingerie store, I wondered what qualities Barbara looks for when hiring.
- Passionate. The Indianapolis store has a new employee who has fallen in love with bra fitting after only a few weeks. According to Barbara, she’s right on schedule. After 2-3 weeks, a new employee either loves her job or leaves it.
- Hard Working. A fitter has to have passion to get her through the day because Barbara’s fitters are on their feet for most of it. Customers wait for them to unlock the doors at opening each morning.
- Caring. When I told Barbara that I’ve overheard fitters in some stores say things like, “I don’t think we have anything that big,” or “We don’t have anything that small,” she was horrified. If anyone uttered those words in her stores, they’d be strongly reprimanded.
Barbara told me that her staff is “there to please the customer and treat her like a queen.” Nowhere is this more evident than in the treatment of a woman who comes to Barbara’s New Beginnings for a breast prosthesis. When this customer comes to the Fort Wayne store, no one can tell whether her needs are any different from those of anyone else who walks into the store. Inventory is brought to her through a private door between her dressing room and the room where the inventory is held.
Barbara tells me that I wouldn’t believe the number and types of issues that arise on any given day. What I loved was the excitement in her voice when she told me this. Barbara and her staff “love our bra challenges” and have never come across anyone that they couldn’t fit.
Visiting the Store
Can you see why I can’t wait to visit Barbara’s New Beginnings when I get off the plane next Wednesday? I’ll be sure to snap a few photos for Hourglassy.
If you have a store near you that scores high in my three criteria for bra shopping (wide inventory; depth of knowledge and experience; and people skills), please share with us.