Q&A with LeeAnn & Meredith Ireland, President
Ted Vayos, BODY: Describe your store.
Meredith Ireland: We are a small boutique located in the north end of Brantford, Ontario at 40 Charing Cross Street. Our boutique is in an older home that we renovated to suit our needs. The home like atmosphere keeps things very private and gives our clients a great sense of comfort. Essential Under Things opened in June of 2004. I began the process by coming to the realization that there was nowhere in Brantford that I could buy a bra in my size. I felt that it was extremely inconvenient to have to travel at least a half an hour to purchase something that I needed everyday. The more I thought about it the more I realized that if I was having so much difficulty there were probably many other women going through the same thing. The other issue I had was with price points. I found that as you shopped closer to the major centres, the prices went up. I wanted to give all women the opportunity to be able to have a bra that fits them properly. I did not want money to be a deciding factor. With my previous managerial experience in the lingerie industry and my training and ability in the fitting process, the next step seemed logical. Essential Under Things was born. It wasn’t long before we expanded to include Bras, Hosiery, Shapewear, Swimwear and a small Lingerie section.
Ted: What makes your store special?
Meredith: One thing that makes Essential Under Things special is the the fact that we work individually with every one of our clients. We take the time to ensure a proper fit all the while making sure our clients are happy and comfortable. We are also very unique in the size ranges that we carry. We specialize in larger cup sizes that are not available in your mainstream stores. We also try to emphasize to our clients that no matter what size you are, you are normal!
Ted: What do you look for in a brand?
Meredith: When I consider lines to carry in the store, I look at a number of factors. The quality of the garments is very important. We expect high quality items for our clients. Our stock must also have a good value for our clients money. Even though we try to keep our prices down, we carry some fabulous brands with fashionable colours and prints. Every girl likes a little fun in her wardrobe. Just some of the lines that we have chosen to carry are Fit Fully Yours, Freya, Panache, Curvy Kate, Piege, Sunmarin, Triumph, Filodoro, and Spanx. We have also picked up a couple of styles from Prima Donna.
One company that exemplifies all of the qualities that anyone could possibly want in a business is Fit Fully Yours. The style and colour choices are tremendous and they also have styles to suit every shape.
Not many companies will take the time to listen to their retailers. Fit Fully Yours wants the clients feedback and they strive for greatness. They care about trends and what women are looking for.
The turn around time for Fit Fully Yours orders is absolutely phenomenal. The accuracy of their order processing can’t be beat and Paul and Anna are two of the nicest people you could ever possibly work with.
Ted: What are the latest trends?
Meredith: I would have to say that the smooth cup bra is by far the most popular styling choice. Women in this area are very conscious of having a nice, seamless look under their shirts. Women are becoming more interested in colours and prints, but they still like their “T-shirt bras”.
Ted: Describe your price points and size ranges.
Meredith: We have a very extensive size range of 28-56 AA-N and the average price of our bras is $40-$70. There are some styles that do, however, have higher or lower pricepoints. We do try and stick to a strict cap of $100.
Ted: What is your typical or
average customer size?
Meredith: That is a tough question, we see such a wide range of sizes with our clients. If I had to pick an average, I suppose it would be 32-38 FF-G.
Ted: What does the average customer spend per visit to your store?
Meredith: This is something that varies as well. The average client might spend approximately $150 per visit.
Ted: Describe your customer.
Meredith: The majority of our clients are female, however, we do, on occasion, have men that do the shopping for their significant others. As far as the ages of our clients, that is just as varied as our size ranges. We see girls as young as 13 right up to women in their 90’s. Women of all ages deserve a proper bra!
Ted: What else can you tell us about your business?
Meredith: At Essential Under Things we take pride in the personalized service that we provide. I do also have clients that cannot physically come to the store, so I am more than happy to go to them. I also try and spread the word outside of the store about the importance of proper fitting undergarments. I have spoken to many women’s groups including, but not limited to, Support Groups, Sororities, Weigth Loss groups, and Trade Shows. We also enjoy taking Essential Under Things out to local events in the community. The Chamber of Commerce events are always so much fun to be involved in.
Many of our our clients become like family. There are many personal conversations that go on within these walls. In some cases we fit them for thier first bra. Then comes prom and we fit them for their dresses. When it is time for her wedding we look after the undergarments for her gown. Next thing you know, she is coming in for her nursing bra. It is a great honour to be able to watch the lives of so many of our clients evolve.