(Filed Under wholesale Lingerie News). Splendies is an eight year old subscription underwear business that, according to founder Anthony Coombs, will bring in up to $18 million this year. BODY publisher Nick Monjo asked about the company’s start, its expansion into new categories and the addition of a new online shop.
MONJO: How did you get into this business?
COOMBS: I started Splendies out of my 300 square foot studio apartment in Santa Monica in 2013. The landscape for online e-commerce was vastly different back then and offering underwear as a subscription was a little bit crazy. Subscriptions were almost non-existent and I was literally piecing together software and inventory any way that I could. When I launched there was no Splendies brand and we certainly didn’t have enough customers to make our own so I was just filling the subscription with inventory from anywhere I could get product. Sometimes I’d be at the mall digging through the dollar bins just to fulfill orders. Eventually I was able to partner with some wholesalers who had excess inventory and we were able to sustain growth.
Now it’s pretty much all Splendies branded items but we still do have other brands in the subscription and resell other brands as well. Splendies started as a subscription for people to discover different brands, fabric, fit, and styles, a way for people to step out of their comfort zone if even just for their underwear. But it’s about 90% Splendies branded items now.
MONJO: You started with panties and now you’re expanding. You have also launched a store.
COOMBS: Well, we never call them panties, they’re Splendies. We currently offer undies, socks, and we JUST did a soft launch of just seven bralettes two months ago. We sold out of most of our first run and so we’re going to be expanding that line next month. We’re also producing some innovative face masks that I promise you’ve never seen before, really excited for this. Sleepwear is definitely on the radar.
We launched the store because so many people were coming to us saying that they either wanted more of a certain pair that they got in their subscription or that they wanted to be able to pick their undies so they’d know exactly what they’d be getting. By the way, the subscription is a complete surprise so most months members don’t know what they’re getting, only that they’re getting something fun and different. So the store offers up past items that people have been requesting more of or something new for people who are a little afraid to commit to getting a surprise.
MONJO: What are your retail price ranges in the store?
COOMBS: Splendies undies are $8.99 each and bralettes are currently $15. Sometimes we have sales where we’ll discount undies down to $4.99.
MONJO: Your subscription sales in 2020 were $13 million and you say you are on track for $17-18 million for 2021. What’s driving that growth currently? Where will it come from in the future?
COOMBS: That’s the beauty of the subscription model. When a member signs up we know that they’ll be with us for close to a year so as long as we’re providing something fun and different each month we’re always growing month over month. We’re looking to build a relationship with our members so that they’ll stay with us. And should they decide that they’re no longer in the market for undies that they’ll be able to find something else from our online store or take a break but then come back. Sometimes we’ll sneak peek a pair that they just can’t live without so they’ll come back to the subscription.
We haven’t even scratched the surface of what we can do to grow but we’re looking at other channels and to really expand the store offerings.
MONJO: When you started in 2013 you focused on the curvy customer. There were far fewer options for those women then.
COOMBS: Very true. There are a lot more options to the plus size community and that’s a great thing. When we first started, the plus size community really just had black, nude, and white briefs, and not much else in so far as choice and availability. We set out to offer some fun variety and some really different styles and prints that no one else was doing.
Splendies actually didn’t start out offering sizes Small to Extra Large. We ONLY offered plus sizes and we were started with that inspiration in mind. The other sizes only came after friends saw online what their plus size friends and family members were getting and so people started requesting them in non plus sizes too. So we worked this differently than most. We actually never intended to offer non plus sizes. It was only when the demand came that that happened.
We compete because I still think that we offer the most fun, different, and sexy pairs for plus sizes out there. Who else would put Sloths doing Yoga on a bikini, or a Golden Girls inspired 80’s print, or a lacy tie up spooky bat pair? Everyone should be able to have fun and feel sexy in their undies. Black, nude, and white briefs are a thing of the past.
MONJO: Your service offers three panties a month. What is the pricing? Do you plan to change that?
COOMBS: The pricing starts at $14.99. Yes, costs have gone up a lot and so a future price increase is likely.
MONJO: What is your biggest competition? The other subscription services? Amazon? Victoria’s Secret?
COOMBS: I think that another underwear subscription pops up everyday so there will always be competition. But the main competition comes from brick and mortar stores like the Victoria Secret’s and Aerie’s of the world. All e-commerce brands are trying to get the customer to switch their mindset from physically going into stores to purchase and instead trusting us with consistent fit and timely delivery. Whenever someone says that they no longer shop for underwear in the store it’s a win.
MONJO: What is the geographic mix of your subscribers?
COOMBS: Mostly middle America, the South, and small, rural towns all over the country where, quite frankly, driving to the store or mall to shop for underwear is a major hassle. Getting your undies delivered is a much more convenient option than driving 30 minutes into town. That’s not to say that we don’t have a significant number of members in large urban cities, but they also have so many more options than people living in small town America. People are busy and shopping can be a chore and so Splendies solves that problem for so many. We’re really so many things to many different people. For some, we’re solving the problem of inclusivity of finding fun, sexy pairs no matter what the size; for others we’re taking the inconvenience of shopping out of the equation and making their lives easier; and for others it’s a fun pick me up that puts a smile on their faces.
MONJO: Many online businesses report slower sales as the pandemic winds down. You are projecting growth. How is that?
COOMBS: We’re a subscription, so as long as we keep our members happy and keep offering new and different options to get them back, then we’ll continue to grow. Our store is also showing growth and with the new lines that we’re starting, we’re confident that we’ll continue to grow into 2022.
MONJO: How do you handle complaints? You can’t really offer returns, can you?
COOMBS: Customer service is so important. And with so many other options we have to be at the top of our game. That’s a major differentiator between us and others. We just try to make the customer happy, that’s the secret.
I can honestly say that in eight years we’ve never made a mistake that we haven’t corrected... in eight years! If we ship the wrong item, we’ll reship it. If we have a software glitch and miss something we’ll handle it. We’ve had to do hundreds of reshipments to Canada because they got lost at the border or if a pair had a manufacturing error we try to get ahead of it and have done complete reshipments at no cost to the members. We’ve sent out thousands of free pairs just to keep our members happy.
It can get tricky with a surprise subscription where the customer doesn’t always know what they’re going to get. But we try to articulate this at every turn so that the customer knows exactly what we’re about. So we don’t take returns from the subscription but if a member has an issue we’ll always do our best to make it right. But we DO take returns from the store, no questions asked. We have a 4.5 rating out of 5 on Trustpilot and rate high on other review sites so I think that we’re doing a good job.
MONJO: What other changes are you projecting for your subscription business going forward?
COOMBS: More options for our members. This year we opened up a facility in Canada so that our Canadian members would get their Splendies in days and not weeks. So many were taking weeks and getting stuck at the border and it just wasn’t a good experience for our members. So we solved this. It’s all about the experience.
We’ve started new product lines in the store. For the subscription we’re looking at doing some limited run prints that only a handful of members will receive, adding more variety within the subscription, and maybe adding another subscription to the mix. Our members trust us and we’ve been able to build a brand that they know that they’re going to get a quality item at a REALLY affordable price all with the convenience of not having to leave their home. So there are a lot of possibilities to move beyond just undies.
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