The idea to open Lingerie Superstore came to Debbie Ahearn and her husband Mike while they were running a "neighborhood bar" in a remote area of Phoenix.
Due to the bar's location, Ahearn decided she would need a gimmick to get customers walking in and decided to have the waitresses dressed in sexy, yet tasteful, lingerie. "The girls had a difficult time finding appropriate lingerie that offered coverage, so we began to see a need in the area," explained Ahearn.
After her husband's passing approximately a year ago, Ahearn now runs the Phoenix location, which opened in January 2001, and an additional location in Tempe, which inaugurated five years later, with the help of her 20 employees (ten at each store).
The locations, which measure at over 5,000-square-feet each, are 20 minutes apart from each other on "a good traffic day," joked Ahearn.
Ahearn didn't have any experience in the intimate apparel industry when she decided to open up the first location, but says that she learned a lot from her sales representatives by asking questions every time they met.
Specifically, Rob McCoullough, a rep that worked with Leg Avenue at the time the store opened and who now reps Body Language and Fantasy, is someone Ahearn says was of much help. Additionally, Kimberly Dillon, a rep for Pleaser, Body Zone and Dreamgirl; Fred Wells, a rep for Escante; and Richard Case, operations manager at Body Zone "have really helped me a lot with learning the business," said Ahearn. She still works with them to this day.
In terms of clientele Ahearn said: "We call ourselves the Lingerie Superstore because we're really trying to reach everybody. All ages, male, female, couples, dancers, cross-dressers, mainstream everyday people - that's our goal, to have something for everybody."
Of the 40 to 50 brands the stores carry, the best-selling are Pleaser shoes, Leg Avenue hosiery, Body Zone, Dreamgirl and Shirley of Hollywood, said Ahearn adding that "our main focus is sexy lingerie."
While the Lingerie Superstores have welcomed customers on shopping sprees spending over $700, a typical customer will spend around $50 per visit. Products in the store tend to range in price from $30 to $60.
Additionally, the stores carry men's underwear. "We have one of the largest selections, if not the largest in Phoenix," said Ahearn. Men can browse the large section for brands including Shirley's Gyz, Shame, and Clever.
This year, Ahearn will launch a website for the Lingerie Superstore, which will be set up as an information site initially with plans of eventually setting it up for e-commerce.