DISCLOSURE : nothing in this article is legal or accounting advice!
This is a road map from our experience dealing with bra stores.
If you have debts, it is your duty to put the interest of your creditors first.
You must make every effort to maximize the value of your items to make sure your creditors are satisfied.
We want to make it very clear : talk to your professional advisors!
Closing your bra store is now a reality. Regardless of how you arrived here, the path forward is like other retail store closings.
The main criteria that will determine your closing plan is: how much time do you have?
This article assumes you have a reasonable amount of time, 2 months at least. Rarely does closing a lingerie store sneak up on someone. Lets hope you are at the early stages.
Closing a store is an intricate job with many moving parts. The analogy I use is “Christmas Dinner”.
It’s Christmas and everyone is coming to your house this year and they expect a BIG DINNER. You can’t look at Christmas Dinner as one thing. Rather, a collection of small things (and some big) that when put together make the dinner. You cannot do it all at once.
You boil the potatos, and soon enough, the mashed potatos are ready. You made a couple of salads yesterday. You also made dessert yesterday. The turkey is in the oven. You caramelize some carrots and then whisk the gravy. In the end, you put it all together and you have Christmas Dinner.
The same goes for closing your store. Don’t look at it as one thing but a bunch of small tasks that put together complete the big task.
Looked at as one major job might make it seem less overwhelming but provides the poorest results. Dismantling it piece by piece and working through the sections gives you the best chance.
Our goal is to have you close your store on your terms and with the best results.
How much time do you have?
The ideal time frame to properly wind down a bra store is 3 months.
One month will be hectic. If you only have one month, your expectations should be low. Recovering your investments will be hard.
Two months is a doable time, but a little hurried.
Three months or more gives you the best chance.
You should leave at least 5 days after your last day of business to clean up, make any repairs to the location, and tie up loose ends that show up.
1 – Notifying people.
2 – Cancelling subscriptions, marketing, monthly contracts, etc.
3 – Winding down the corporation, settling taxes, dissolution, legal and accounting.
4 – Inventory clearance.
5 – Tidy up, garbage, location repairs, etc.
Vendors : most vendors will figure out you will be closing from your buying habits. It rarely comes as a surprise to them.
Make notifying them a priority if you have a contract that binds you. It might have notification clauses or penalties for early termination.
In a perfect world, vendors can help you. They can put you in touch with other stores that might buy your merchandise or the vendor might buy back stock.
But this is rare since both would impact their bottom line.
If you feel you have a special relationship with any of them, it might be worth approaching the subject.
Landlord : informing your landlord early can be ideal. Especially if you have to close before your lease expires.
Early notification gives them time to rent out your space to a new tenant. Informing your landlord early may reduce liability. Informing them early can also help you land a landlord reference in the future. Good relationships always pay off!
Staff : notifying staff as soon as can is very important, mainly because it is the right thing to do.
There is no obligation to inform them the minute you makeup your mind. Especially if you have a long window to your close date.
You have to balance your needs with the needs of your staff. You want all your staff to have proper time to prepare for a transition and find a new job. You also don’t want all your staff to find new jobs and leave you before the work in your store is finished.
You need staff for the inventory clearout, the packing, the cleaning. Having staff is key. Some staff may stay on until the end and take employment benefits that come from the closure. Others will be eager to look for a new job.
Either way, this is a delicate balancing act, try to make sure you do not undermine your staff or yourself.
Accountant and Lawyer : these two should be #1. They should be notified even before you make your final decision!
Their knowledge will guide your decisions to make sure that you follow all the rules.
It’s one thing to leave a landlord or a vendor upset at your closing, it’s quite another to be in the Government’s bad books.
The government, the CRA, does not go away. These professionals have a lot of work to do for you. Dissolve your corporation. Pay your HST and pay taxes. Make sure any business licenses closed. Be up to date with payroll deductions (EI, CPP, etc).
Your accountant will provide you a summary of what to expect with your finances. Your lawyer will make sure all legal matters are resolved. You don’t want paperwork following you into the future. When you close your store, you want to close it all!
Customer : this is the last group to notify and best to notify in segments.
Make sure anything on auto-renewal, especially yearly subscriptions are turned off. You don’t want to pay for a full year a month before you close up.
You probably have a yearly support subscription.
They might have penalties for early cancellation. If you paid ahead of time, make sure you don’t autorenew and chalk up the lost months to the cost of doing business.
Doesn’t hurt to send an email to see if they will refund a part, but keep expectations low.
This might be a sellable asset.
If your website has been operating for a few years and has some Domain Authority (DA), it might have value. People often buy websites with DA to help them leverage the growth of other sites. Use Flippa to find out the value of your site.
If your site has no value, cancel your domain, website hosting, digital marketing, and web designer/service agency.
Call your lawyer and accountant for guidance. Do not try to do this alone.
This section is beyond the scope of this article.
You pay your professionals good money, take advantage!
This is where a large part of your focus will be, after all, in bra stores, the largest part of money is in inventory.
Plus, this is what you do and are good at; fitting bras and selling bras.
Having the three months will benefit you the most in this area.
With more time, the more chances you have to recover as much of your inventory investment as possible.
An important state of mind in executing this part of the work without it causing you too much grief is : don’t be greedy!
Closing a store is not the ideal time to maximize profits. Your focus needs to be recovery. Recovering as much money as possible.
It is important to avoid emotional or intellectual valuations of products. You cannot judge items at regular market rates.
A Prima Donna bra that you sell for $160, you cannot expect $160 for it right now. It will create frustration and disappointment.
We want you to get as much money back for as many products as you can in the fastest way possible. That means, sometimes you’ll win, and sometimes you’ll lose.
The moment you decide to close, the value of your inventory starts to drop. If it ends up in boxes, it will no longer be inventory, instead, it turns into “stuff”. And stuff is worthless.
Yet, time is your friend. The moment you decide to close, the value of your inventory begins to drop for you. But not to the customer.
Since the customer does not know yet, this is our opportunity to get stuff done.
Your sales should start slow and targeted.
Do not put signs in the window, blast your newsletter, or paper your social media with “going out of business” promotions until the final 30 days.
Lets look at some ways to get stuff moving, in a 90 day cycle.
Have an accurate count of all your inventory.
Your POS should allow you to download all your lingerie inventory into an excel or csv file.
Tidy up the data to make it easy to review and sort into segments so you can target products.
If dealing with excel is overwhelming contact us at Your Bra Store for help. We’ll clean, organize, and sort your data quickly for easy reference.
Choose items that you are willing to sell at a steep discount first. Products to lure customers in.
Do not create a sale that targets all your products. No “Buy one get one free!” or “Everything 30% off”.
Make the sale specific.
For example :
Use your data list to choose products that have been in the store a long time.
Sort them by received data and gather all the products that have been in the store at least 3 years.
Put them all together somewhere in the store. Create a “inventory clearout section” in the store that includes all these products.
You might want to pick a brand that sells well, has a loyal following, and you are willing to sell at close to cost.
Stay away from your best selling bras or your high profit lingerie at this point. Make this sale time limited.
Review the layout of your store.
Is it possible to gather and showcase your high demand, high profit items close to your sale items?
Remove any clutter around the sale items. Some bra stores try to put as much merchandise as possible into the floor all at once! Don’t do that.
Make sure the high demand, high profit items are close and accessible to the sale items.
Do not try to overpack this area. You want to limit customer options to maximize your high profit opportunities early.
Use your email newsletter to let your customers know.
You can also give the email newsletter customers a little extra add-on beyond the offer. Phrase it as a loyalty discount only for email subscribers. You can use a code for the extra discount.
Use a subtle sign on your windows and use your social media to push this specific sale. No need to mention “going out of business” or “closing sale”.
Your goal is to give this sale a unique feeling.
Give the staff whisper offers. Let them offer extra discounts in the changeroom that are not advertised (whisper offers).
If your staff knows about the closing, give them a chance to buy office supplies, chattels, computers, chairs, etc. Anything they want. Make a list and let them start making claims to things.
If you exported all your lingerie inventory to an excel file from your POS system, you are ready to engage in your ecommerce strategy.
Do you have an ecommerce store? If so, you should try to get all your products listed into your ecommerce store.
Don’t have an ecommerce store, setting up a quick Shopify store is easier than you think and not very expensive. Reach out to us at Your Bra Store and we can help you with the setup.
If you have an ecommerce store, invest in Google Ads and Facebook marketing.
Not sure how to set up and manage either of those campaigns? We suggest reaching out to Dee-Boswell Buck. She is an excellent resource and can set up targeted campaigns to drive people to your site.
Do you use marketplaces to sell online? Setting up accounts on eBay and Amazon takes about an hour. The listing process can be cumbersome and keeping track of inventory can be hard.
If you don’t have time to deal with online marketplaces, listing bras or dealing with customers and returns, contact us at Your Bra Store.
At Your Bra Store, we’ll list your items for you, we’ll deal with the customers and you won’t have to deal with the returns. You can sell all your items at any price and remain anonymous to the customer.
It doesn’t cost anything, we do all the work, and we only charge our fee when we sell an item. You’ll get access to the US and Canadian market with none of the headaches.
Remember your high demand, high profit lingerie brands we discussed? The bras you put in a prominent position to leverage the customers who came in for the first sale? Take those best selling, high demand bras, the ones that never need to go on sale, and put them on sale.
Make it a small sale!
It may seem crazy to discount them, but the faster you sell them, at the smallest discount, allows you to keep your margins high.
By selling the premium bras and lingerie at a discount allows you to make them “final sale”. You don’t have to worry about customers abusing your return policy as your store winds down.
Selling these high value premium bras at a sale price now avoids having these bras on the floor during the last 30 days where the discounts are higher.
These top brand bras will drive customers to the store.
Use the customer traffic the premium bras bring to push whatever may be left over from that first sale.
Also, add extra products to the first sale batch to increase sales from that group.
Increase “whisper” offerings.
Encourage customer appointments to buy your premium lingerie (Empreinte, Prima Donna, Ewa Michalak). Review the appointments for each day against their customer profiles to see if they like to buy other products.
Do they also buy Marie Jo sets? Does this customer like to buy Christine nightwear? Hanro? Make sure your fitter is ready with targeted “whisper sales” for them.
Start sourcing liquidators in case it comes to that. You can google retail liquidators to get a list in your area.
Haven’t contacted us at Your Bra Store? Get on it! Lets see if there is a fit in liquidation. We buy bras in bulk.
Talk to your vendors. See if any vendors might take items back. This is a long-shot. But worth a chance.
Do you have relationships with other bra store owners? If so, reach out to them, let them know what is going on. At a good price (below wholesale) they might buying stock in bulk.. They might also buy fixtures, mannequins, label printers, computers, etc.
If you don’t know other bra stores or don’t feel comfortable exposing your story at this point, call Your Bra Store. We’ll work with other stores and try to sell your products to them for you.
Stay constant with your social media or your email newsletter. Leverage, leverage, leverage. Stay away from “going out of sale” language at this point. Great bra brands with customer loyalty and a high demand will pull customers in.
Use your windows to highlight the sales. Don’t start a “store closing sale” yet, customers will wait for further reductions if you do and hold off coming in. Create great sales and push them.
Focus on certain demographics. For example, close your store late one day for an office worker sale. Many stores close around 6 or 7. Pick a couple of days to close at 9pm. Create an early morning sale for seniors. Include a couple of carafes of coffee, tea, and a breakfast snack.
Continue discounting items online.
Make sure your homepage is promoting your sale items.
Hopefully by now you should only have a spatter of items left.
If you have inventory you still want to sell, the key is to have an accurate list of items. It’s reasonable to put this lingerie inventory in boxes now, but make sure each box has a manifest detailing what’s inside.
Ideally your manifest has information like; brand, style, size, color, quantity, and cost.
The manifests help you with liquidators or auction houses. These are probably your last options at this stage.
If you are no longer interested in selling and have inventory left over, donate to local women’s shelters. Banking some goodwill goes a long way.
Some stuff will be garbage. Don’t fret. Get some boxes and take that stuff to the dump!
Every load you drop off will be a weight off your shoulders. Every bit of weight you release gets you closer to that new door, that new beginning. The lighter you become, the quicker your pace becomes to arrive at your new phase.
Your lease will probably require you to leave your location in broom swept condition. This means repairing any damage to the walls from your racks, removing everything from inside the location, and giving it a good sweep.
I remember when I closed my store. It was bitter sweet. I left a lot of good memories there and it was strange to see it empty. I had worked hard those last few weeks to close it down, and when I stood at the door and looked one last time, I was relieved.
I knew a new chapter could begin.