For women, comfort dressing, while working from home, can be upped a few notches by completely ditching the bra or discreetly leaving it unclasped. And yet, when the lockdown was partially lifted and it was possible to place orders online, there was a rush to buy bras. There was a difference, however: Push-ups, balconettes and slinky lacy varieties have given way to non-wired bras.

“Lingerie is seeing a surge in demand, with volumes increasing more than three times compared to pre-lockdown,” says Ayyappan Rajagopal, head of business, Myntra. A Lounge story last week explored the concept of revenge buying, stemming from intense pent-up demand. Now, with the lockdown being lifted in phases, retail therapy seems to be making a strong comeback, with lingerie as a best-seller category.

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Photo: Marks & Spencer

“Our understanding is sales of outerwear have slowed down compared to intimate wear,” says Vivek Mehta, CEO, MAS Brands India Pvt. Ltd, which owns Amanté lingerie. But Mehta does expect this rise to plateau in the next couple of months as life returns to some form of normality.

Brands say online shopping carts are loaded with essentials such as sleepwear, especially twin set packs of T-shirt and pyjama (or shorts), non-wired bras and basic knicker packs. It seems what women really want is long-lasting comfort, a theme that seems to dominate shopping behaviour in the covid-19 era.

Pre-lockdown lingerie shopping entailed making purchases after trying styles for fit and comfort. But trial rooms are now a no-go and lingerie shopping has shifted onlineeven though stand-alone stores have been allowed to open post lockdown 4.0. The reasons can be attributed to buying in the safety of a home environment, minimal touch points, contactless delivery and on-field agents wearing protective gear—all these help boost customer confidence. “The surge in online demand is a testimony to consumers’ rising concerns with safety. The lingerie segment is not an exception to this phenomenon,” explains Rajagopal. If anything, safety concerns heighten with intimate wear.

In most multi-brand outlets (MBOs), trial rooms are off-limits for now. Premium brands such as Marks & Spencer have temporarily suspended fitting services and trial rooms. They have extended their refund and exchange window to 90 days for full price merchandise, allowing customers to purchase, try at home and return if need be, or order online and opt for returns through their website.

“Amanté will allow trials, with regular sanitization of our trial rooms. Even the merchandise will be sanitized pre- and post-trials,” says Mehta, referring to their exclusive brand outlets (EBOs). All products tried by a customer will be stored in a separate box for 48 hours and brought back to display post sanitization.They believe trials are an integral part of offline buying, giving customers a feel of the product.

In this altered reality, digital technology will be leveraged to ascertain the right size. Brands such as Zivame already have a superior digital tool called FITCODE to determine customer size as accurately as possible. They use data science algorithms that assess a customer’s fit across one of the 300-plus profiles they have identified and built.

Myntra’s strategy is to create digital content to educate the customer. “We believe content generation on our platform is a key step towards enhancing the customer experience and making Myntra the ideal destination for everything fashion in India,” says Rajagopal. Creating content in-house can also lead to Myntra witnessing a massive uptick in organic demand for lingerie on its platforms.

Mehta says that in India, unorganized retail accounts for about 80% of sales in lingerie. This implies customers don’t have access to trial rooms, and, in most cases, purchases are made in a hurried manner with little attention to size. Amanté, however, is beginning to receive e-catalogue requests from retailers in the unorganized segment—an indicator that they are adapting to a digital world.

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