It sounds an odd concept. Then again, so did The Sock Shop at the time. Just months after going live, Bras Direct, the UK's first online lingerie purveyor, looks on course for a #250,000 turnover by the end of the year. But what sort of person would want to buy her (and on a couple of occasions, his) bras over the Net?
"There are plenty of women out there who don't have access to towns or big cities," explains Carl Christensen of Domino Systems, which developed the site. "For them, a service like this is ideal - it's all at retail prices with delivery to your door within three days. For men, too, buying on behalf of their wives and girlfriends, it's a godsend. I know I get reasonably embarrassed if I have to go into a lingerie shop, so for me, shopping over the Web is much more satisfactory. And you've got 15 leading brands on there, in all sizes and colours. Even if I go into Harrods, I'm unlikely to find such a wide choice."
The men behind Bras Direct, Ian Leibowitch and Harry Golden, were originally thinking along the lines of a conventional mail order operation which would run through press advertising. But they'd heard about the Internet and were curious about what could and could not be achieved. Their site, therefore, was more than anything a toe in the water exercise. So far, its success has exceeded everyone's expectations.
Seventy five per cent of orders come from the UK. On average, the site generates between 10 and 12 orders a day, most of them worth around #60.
Sixty five per cent of the customers are women and the rest of the orders come from men buying for women. At least, that's what they say:
"I've also received a handful of emails from transvestites who tell me what a wonderful site I'm providing," says Christensen. "Sometimes, they ask me to give them advice on which bust size to go for."
For those who already know their dimensions, the site is easy to use.
You click on the Brand button and are presented with a GIF image of a model wearing the bra. If you like, you can zoom in to examine the intricacies of lace and stitching. There's also an option to change the colour of the bra. "We analyse the stats once a month and it's surprising how popular that bit is," says Christensen.
Having selected your bra, you tap in your chest and cup size. Then, if you're certain you want to place an order, all you have to do is click on the button next to each required item. This places your selection in a virtual shopping basket, where it is kept for you until you go to the checkout and enter your credit card details. Finally, hit OK and wait three days.
Future plans for the site include a multilingual shop, online currency conversion and a virtual shopping assistant which trawls the shop on your behalf. Here, you key in details such as how much you want to pay, your size, colour, and whether the bra is for daily or special wear. The system whirrs away in the background and turns up a dozen bras which fit your specification. All you have to do is get your card out.
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