I just got an e-mail from Christine, owner of B & Lu, telling me she’s responded to the thread over at The Rotund about their lack of larger sizes. I don’t see the comment yet — it’s probably still in moderation — but it sounds like pretty much what we expected: the economy sucks, and they’re just trying to figure out how to stay afloat. Comment is now up, and I’ve reprinted it at the end of this post.
As I said in that thread, I fully believe the larger end of the plus market is so underserved, it’s a potential goldmine for any company that really makes an effort to reach out to it — especially when it’s an online operation that doesn’t have to rely on a single local market. So much of the tiny selection of bigger sizes that currently exists is cheaply made (yet not always cheaply priced) and unfashionable. My sister complains that since she got sized out of Lane Bryant, she can’t even find a fucking pair of chinos that aren’t made from the crappiest possible fabric. And that’s without even getting into the dearth of cute clothes. The market bloody well exists, and practically no one is serving it.
So, Shapelings, now that we’ve got Christine’s ear, how do we help her make B & Lu a successful store that at least fulfills the promise of carrying sizes 14-30 (better yet, 30+)? If you wear a size in the high 20s, did you even know you could shop at B & Lu (before the selection became so limited, anyway)? How do they get the word out? What else can they do to improve? And of course, if there are things you do love about B & Lu right now, positive feedback never hurts.
Unlike some other purveyors of plus-size clothing I could mention, this is a company that’s actually interested in hearing from fat customers and trying to do right by us. Tell ‘em what you have to say in comments.
Update: Here’s Christine’s comment.
I’d like to thank all of our customers that have directed me to this eye opening discussion. This is good feedback for our business, and I have avidly read all of the posts here. I appreciate the time everyone has taken to give their thoughts and opinions. It is very helpful to me. I am willing and happy to make the changes necessary to serve our customer’s needs from this point forward and well into the future.
Recently we have had to make some changes to our business so that we could stay afloat in this challenging economy. It has never been our intention to alienate our 4x & 5x customers, although I understand it doesn’t feel that way to many of you. We are very committed to providing these sizes and not totally eliminating them. A couple of things happened over the past several months that caused us to temporarily offer styles without the 4x & 5x sizing. First of all, over the past year we noticed the decline in 4x & 5x sales. It became common to have sizes 4x & 5x remaining in many of our styles. I’m not sure why this change occured because in our early years it was the 4’s & 5’s that sold out first. This coupled with recent manufacturer issues have posed some major challenges for us in providing beyond a size 3x.
It is true, like one of the posts here stated, that we did have a banner on our site stating “More Size 5x Coming Soon!” We posted that announcement shortly before expecting a shipment of a whole slew of styles that we had worked very hard on producing. We were so excited to receive those styles up to a size 5x, but the manufacturer did not pull through for us and we were shocked and very disappointed. As a result, we have since removed the banner.
I am truly sorry for the frustration many of you have felt. I have received several emails from customers expressing their disappointment, and I really appreciate receiving these. Just knowing that our 4x & 5x customer are there and willing to support us has given us the confidence to move forward with these sizes again. The good news I have is that we have recently found two excellent manufacturers that will produce all of our designs in a full size range and with quality workmanship. I am praying that these manufacturers work out well for us!
So, we are working hard to ensure that you will see the majority of our unique and quality styles up to a size 5x. Just to be clear on this and not be misleading, you may still see some styles only up to a size 3x. The reason for this is two fold: 1)Many manufacturers only offer up to a size 3x . and 2) Size 1x-3x is also a strong market for us, and the styles sell quickly — which in turn provides us with capital to fund production for styles beyond a size 3x. (I know this may sound crazy, but as a small business owner you do what you have to to make things work.)
My estimated time line for seeing more styles up to a size 5x is somewhere around 7-8 weeks. We will add styles as soon as they produced and shipped to us. Please remember we are a very small company (just me and my sister Lucie) so we are trying our best to improve selection and quality. Manufacturing and production time lines can be hairy at best, so I can’t commit to a specific date, but please know that we are working hard on this.
Now, if you’re willing, I’d love to get some additional feedback from you on pricing and styles. I noticed that individual’s feelings are all over the board in regards to our pricing. I’ve always felt that our pricing is moderate. But after reading these posts it looks like some thinks it’s too expensive and others think we could stand to price higher with a better quality (thanks for the input Kate Harding —- it makes sense to me).
In regards to styles —- which styles work best for the customers in the size 4x & 5x range? I would love to get feedback on this in addition to the fabrics and cuts you desire. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will personally respond to your emails. I so look forward to receiving them.
Again, I thank you for your time in providing us with excellent knowledge, ideas, and feedback. You are very important to our business, and we appreciate you!