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How ThirdLove is revolutionizing the in-store bra shopping experience


ThirdLove, a digital-native women’s underwear brand known for its huge range of bra sizes and online fitting quizzes, has taken the physical retail world by storm over the past of the last year. In 2019, the brand opened a pop-up in New York’s SoHo that exceeded expectations. So post-pandemic, ThirdLove partnered with Leap and opened its first location in March 2022 in Newport Beach. It has since opened stores in DC, Boston, SF, Walnut Creek, Scottsdale, Chicago and most recently Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.

In a market historically dominated by Victoria’s Secret
and Aerie, ThirdLove is gaining popularity, likely due to its unique fit approach. However, more recently the brand has introduced this approach to the physical world, competing with larger retailers at the store level. Still, it’s a huge challenge, but one that can probably be overcome by successfully mimicking its online in-store experience.

Education and product fit are a priority.

“All of our fit stylists go through an intensive program to understand bra size fit issues — common obstacles women face in finding the right fit,” said Heidi Zak, CEO and co-founder of ThirdLove, adding that “we really want a woman to find her best size and most of the time it’s different from what she’s wearing… 60-70% of the time we’re changing her size from what she’s wearing right now, and I think that’s different from other bra manufacturers who aren’t as focused on helping solve this problem.”

The chat system on the brand’s website is its most used way to interact with a fit stylist. So it only made sense to provide the same level of in-person service, enhanced by the different styles and over 60 bra sizes available at each location. Its huge size range and recognition that every woman is different would likely be intimidating to the average shopper entering uneducated. However, the concept is like Bonobos, with almost 100 pant size variations and many stores focused on fit advice. A more complicated product leads to a better fit and a greater need for quality customer service.

However, unlike Bonobos and other brands focused on zero inventory, like Warby Parker and Peloton, ThirdLove offers inventory to buy. Instead, it took the hybrid approach, offering some wares but not all.

Stores are multipurpose – a billboard, an acquisition tool, and a transactional touchpoint.

Many digital native brands today realize that the benefit of having a physical presence goes beyond in-store transactions. ThirdLove is among them. As Zak mentions, “what we’ve realized is that stores are really an acquisition tool,” sharing that around 65% of customers are new. This means that unlike other traditional bra retailers, these stores focus more on the experience and less on the transaction itself, allowing the customer to build quality relationships with the brand.

Beyond the acquisition, there is the fact that having a physical presence reinforces awareness. “Obviously you want every store to be profitable and make money, but even if you break even, you have a billboard that’s constantly displayed in a place where a lot of people are probably passing by. So I think he still has an added benefit that you can’t necessarily quantify but is real,” Zak shared.

There’s no doubt, given its early stage of expansion, that ThirdLove has more learnings to gather. With only nine locations open (all less than a year old), there’s data to analyze, and that’s what Zak and company plan to do in the near term. After that, other stores will come, but it remains to be determined when and how many. In the meantime, it has become clear that ThirdLove’s approach of bringing its educational and personalized online experience to stores is a significant departure from that of the traditional retailer. And so, it creates a new, potentially more favorable bra shopping experience for customers.




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