|FORTUNE Small Business:|
Should this bra business flee the suburbs?
A lingerie retailer wonders if a city location would boost her sales.
(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Dear FSB: I have grown my business - I sell lingerie and fit bras - for three years, from a corner shop to a larger retail space. Bras are the most important part of my business. The problem is that my store is in a suburb outside Indianapolis and foot traffic is slow. Should I relocate to the city?
- Patti, Indianapolis, Ind.
Dear Patti: If you're strapped for cash, relocating your business to a larger city may not be the best idea because rents tend to be higher in urban areas. Our consultants have a few ideas that can help you increase customer count and sales right where you are.
One statistic that all of our consultants mention is that 80% of women do not wear the right bra size.
"If she's good at fitting, she should leverage that," says George Whalin, a management consultant who has been advising specialty retailers for 20 years. He suggests inviting women in the neighborhood to your shop for free fittings. You might also consider encouraging customers to host the lingerie version of a Tupperware party by offering to bring your fitting service to their homes.
Dan Sackrowitz, vice president of marketing and development for lingerie retailer Bare Necessities, advises you to develop relationships with other local businesses.
"Something that has worked reasonably well for us is forming partnerships with local gyms and nail salons," he says.
Bare Necessities, which is based in Avenel, N.J., leaves promotional materials in places frequented by their target customers and invites those businesses to leave marketing materials in their shops in return. Advertising your bra fittings at bridal boutiques may also help attract customers.
"Brides and bridal parties are really great customers," Sackrowitz says. "They really need their bras to fit." (In 2006, we asked some of our consultants to help Bare Necessities revamp its brand and website. Check out our Makeover article to find out what type of advice our experts offered to the company.)
Warm weather attire for women (halter tops, strapless dresses, racer-back tanks) can be hard to pull off without the right undergarment. Lisa Jackson, strategy director at creative consultancy Frog Design, recommends donating specialty bras to local women's boutiques for use in their dressing rooms. Customers might be more encouraged to buy these trendy tops if they know that they can also purchase a complementary bra nearby.
"If women have solutions in front of them, some of them will drive to your store to buy the product," Jackson says.
Your website can also help bring customers to your retail space. According to Sackrowitz, it should clearly convey that you have a retail presence.
"Location, store hours, and special events should all be prominently placed on your page," he says.
Viral marketing can be a great, inexpensive way to spread the word about the store beyond your Indiana suburb. Whalin suggests setting up a Facebook profile or producing a creative Google (GOOG, Fortune 500) YouTube video promoting your bra-fitting expertise. (See our April story about Blendtec, a blender company that saw a rise in sales because of the popularity of its quirky YouTube videos.)
If you're in need of more business advice, Jackson recommends tapping into the resources at nearby universities.
"When I was in business school, there were so many students who offered nonprofit consulting support," she says. "She may be able to get a student to come take a look at her books and see where improvements can be made."
If, in the end, you decide that the best way to generate more traffic is to relocate to another area, check out our list of 100 best places to live and launch a business. There may be an up-and-coming area close by.