Lounge Underwear says COVID-19 led to a massive sales spike this year. And the U.K.-based retailer has nearly quadrupled staff over the past year to keep up with surging sales, says Arron Kooner, head of customer communications.
“Our CEO always says COVID has been the perfect storm for us,” Kooner says. Indeed, with stores shut down and consumers staying at home, the changes the coronavirus brought to consumers’ daily life created an ideal selling environment for a web-only loungewear retailer.
The merchant, which launched in late 2015, has grown sales 250% so far this year compared with the same period in 2020. And it experienced more than 300% sales growth year over year and delivered half a million packages on Black Friday alone. The merchant’s 2020 web sales totaled 13.8 million pounds (U.S. $18.9 million), and this year the retailer forecasts it will generate 50 million pounds (U.S. $68.4 million) in web sales.
To keep up with demand, it nearly quadrupled its staff to between 70 and 80 employees this year from about 20 last year, Kooner says. The new employees fill a range of roles from marketing to technology to warehouse operations.
Being a digital-focused web-only and agile business has served Lounge Underwear well during the pandemic, Kooner says. When the coronavirus hit, most Lounge Underwear employees were able to begin working from home overnight, he says. Plus, he says the retailer had already developed online tools to help shoppers quickly find proper fitting undergarments.
For example, “The Fitting Room” feature on its site enables shoppers to take a brief quiz with questions that ask a shopper her favorite bra styles, such as underwire or bralette, and the current sizes of bras she owns to direct her to products and fits she might like. “We’ve seen across the board that this feature has been used much more since COVID,” Kooner says without being more specific.
It also had already added more payment options such as the ability for consumers to pay for purchases over time with Klarna or AfterPay, free shipping when shoppers meet a minimum threshold (threshold varies by country), free returns and enabling shoppers to sign up for email notifications when a product they are interested in is back in stock. The retailer, which sells globally, says U.S., Australia, and the rest of Europe are its biggest international markets.
But even with such helpful tools and incentives, the retailer still is experiencing surges in customer inquiries as more shoppers visit the site. Lounge Underwear typically has eight customer service representatives but expanded that to 17 to handle questions over the holidays, Kooner says. For the period from Black Friday through the following 30 days, Lounge Underwear’s customer service representatives fielded 37,215 inquiries, up from 8,643 for the same period a year earlier.
In an effort to continue to grow, the retailer in September 2020 began using personalization vendor Emarsys. Emarsys operates a cloud-based marketing platform that helps retailers offer personalized marketing across email, mobile, social, SMS and the web. However, Lounge Underwear says it’s too early to share results from the vendor’s services.