Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dear Linda Heasley: Six things I’d like to see from Lane Bryant under the new CEO

Lane Bryant is a long-standing staple of the plus-size fashion community. The first store was opened in 1904, but by the 1920s they became known as a specialty store for “stout-figured” women and have held on to a generous share of that market for almost a hundred years, mostly by default alone. There just aren’t that many affordable and/or accessible options for us bigger girls.

 Lane Bryant is getting a new CEO this week. Ms. Linda Heasley was in charge of the revitalization of Limited, breathing new life into the brand and make it profitable again and there are high hopes that she’ll do the same for Lane Bryant, especially after an admittedly poor fourth quarter for 2012. Her first day on the job will be Monday, February 18th, 2013. Based on the articles I read, Ms. Heasley’s main goal is to bring younger clientele in to Lane Bryant. With that in mind, I have some suggestions.

  • Train and inform your staff - It should be understood in a plus-size store that there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all, much less one-stereotype-fits all. Many people assume that Lane Bryant is like a safe fashion haven for fat women. Not so, when the sales people assume the same stereotypes that many fat women are trying to shed. I’ve shopped at Lane Bryant for years and yet it is becoming more and more common to hear the sales people talking about or at fat people saying that they’re lazy, over-eaters, or unhealthy. Not only is this patently untrue and a sad prejudice, but it’s also absolutely horrible customer service. In a store where every fat woman should feel special and catered to, I think it’s not too much to ask that we at least feel safe and secure. 
  • Consider other body types - We’re not all hourglass Amazons. Seriously. My boobs aren’t that big and I’m just not that tall. Can I please get some options that I don’t have to chop, hem, stuff, or ignore whole areas of the store all together? 
  •  Bring the fashion into this century - please (PLEASE!) bring some more up-to-date fashion sense to your store; particularly to the casuals section where everything looks like something my grandmother would buy from Alfred Dunner. 
  • Stock some smaller bra sizes - For real. Just because I’m a 40, a 44, or a 54, doesn’t mean that I’m automatically a C-, D-, or an E-cup. Or at least offer them as options you can order. I understand basic retail enough to know that you don’t want to stock something in your store that won’t sell as well as everything else, but could we at least get some options that we can order online or have special-ordered at the store? 
  • Tights - I really, really want to see tights. I don’t mean pantyhose and I don’t mean leggings. I mean honest-to-goodness tights. And not just plain black or navy blue ones. Let’s get some options: cable-knit, striped, argyle, bright colors. (Note to Torrid: I don’t know what is up with your tights, but I have never had a problem before with the length of tights being too short...)
  • Speaking of Torrid, take a clue from them - I don’t mean copy them, but perhaps you could be Torrid’s slightly-more mature and more sophisticated older sister? Like an Anne-Taylor-Limited-Gap hybrid with some edge? I always go into those stores with thinner friends wishing I could wear the clothes they offer. And having to pass it all by.

And after all these suggestions I will say this: I hope that this change in leadership is exactly what you need. I hope it brings in business. And I hope I can enjoy shopping there again. Best of luck, Ms. Heasley. I’m looking forward to what you have to offer.
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