The lingerie industry has no shortage of distributors and wholesalers who are looking for retailers to stock and sell their products. You may be able to find a local lingerie distributor that allows you to hand-pick the merchandise you carry, or you can find an online wholesaler to provide your inventory.
Find a Lingerie Supplier
To get started, lingerie retail experts at The Lingerie Center recommend you stock at least eight types of bras, five styles of panties and a selection of other lingerie staples like camisoles, thongs, bustiers, baby doll sets and girdles. Many lingerie entrepreneurs are loyal to their suppliers, but you may choose to work with multiple wholesalers to diversify your inventory.
If you’re hesitant or short of the capital to commit to a large inventory purchase of lingerie up front, you can work with a drop-ship company. These companies allow you to take online orders and payments for their products from your own website. You then transmit your orders to the dropshipper, and they send the merchandise directly to the customer for you, often with your store name on the packing slip.
Choose an E-Commerce Platform
The e-commerce package you select will power your online lingerie store, automatically handling back office tasks like tracking inventory, accepting orders and processing payments. Your online lingerie site will require detailed, enlargeable photos of your merchandise and the ability for your customers to select colors and sizes, so your e-commerce platform must support these features.
You can select from an array of open-source e-commerce packages with templates designed for online sales, or have a specialized package custom built for your business and loaded on your own Web server. E-commerce experts at 3DCart, an online shopping cart system, note that you must carefully evaluate the e-commerce package you select to ensure it meets your needs.
Consider Selling on Major Online Sites
Some online retailers choose to bypass their own e-commerce website altogether, choosing to list inventory on high-traffic hosted sales sites like eBay and Amazon. These sites already have significant volumes of traffic, provide resources for uploading pictures and descriptions, and can help facilitate transactions. In many cases, these sites can also help you resolve disputes if there is a problem with the transaction. You may need to apply for permission to sell lingerie and related clothing items on some sites, such as Amazon, so you may want to handle this step early in your business set-up process.
You may choose to operate exclusively on hosted sites like eBay and Amazon, or you can simply use them to supplement your own e-commerce website.
Get Comfortable with Digital Marketing
Regardless of how much lingerie you list, how stunning the photos are, or how capable your shopping cart system is, you can’t succeed in online lingerie sales until you generate traffic to your website. Start by spreading the word locally, encouraging your friends and family to shop your site. Kristina DeJesus, owner of WonderLust Lingerie, recommends marking your online lingerie store though photo-intensive social media sites like Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook. Lingerie requires visually oriented online marketing, so these platforms can nicely complement other visual advertising channels like paid graphics ads.
The goal in marketing an online lingerie business is to get prospective customers to click through to your online store, so digital and social media channels may be more successful than offline venues like billboards, radio and newspaper ads.