The Art of Selling Sports Bras
Expert advice from the brand and retail side.
The Art of Selling Sports Bras
Expert advice from the brand and retail side.
Molly Hanks Doyle, merchandising manager at Title Nine, and Joy Haizen, managing director, Anita USA, share their insights on the sports bra category.
Why is a sports bra such an important part of a workout wardrobe?
Wearing a properly fitting sports bra during high impact activities is crucial, not only for optimal comfort but for protection against painful breast movement and over-stretching of delicate connective breast tissue. “For women of all shapes and sizes, when breasts are poorly supported, they can move up-and-down and side-to-side up to 3 1⁄2 inches per high impact step,” explains Joy Haizen, managing director, Anita USA. This can cause not only discomfort, but also ligament damage. Wearing a supportive sports bra can reduce high impact breast movement up to 78%. “The importance of a properly fitting sports bra can’t be over emphasized,” she notes.
Consumers also benefit from having a sports bra that is “distraction free,” says Molly Hanks Doyle, merchandising manager at Title Nine. “You want to make sure it’s comfortable and make sure you don’t have straps digging in or cutting in.”
What are some basic tips for consumers in selecting the right sports bra?
Make sure it fits properly and select a bra based on what activities it will be used for. “You don’t want to wear a low impact yoga bra for running or vice versa,” says Hanks Doyle. “A heavy-duty running bra can be too much for yoga — then maybe you’re not breathing well because of it, or you’re distracted because you’re not comfortable. Knowing what you’re using it for is important.”
She adds, “With a sports bra you want to have a good firm fit. Getting a proper fit from the band around the rib cage is key. So, ask the consumer ‘let’s find out your size and then tell me what you’re doing in it.’ Start there.”
Factors such as body volume, breast shape, tissue density, and the spacing of the breasts on the chest wall can all impact what size bra works best for a person. “These are some of the reasons why fitting is such an important experience in finding the correct sports bra size and style, especially for women with larger cup and band sizes,” Haizen explains, noting that it’s ideal for consumers to get fitted in person by a qualified fitter. A secondary option is to get virtually fitted. If neither of these options are available, Anita offers an online fitting guide with information about different bra and breast types, bra fitting and a size calculator. But Haizen says, this should be used only as an “initial starting point because measuring your bra size is not an exact science and could require some tweaking by different styles and sizes.”
How can retailers help consumers select the right sports bra?
Having a bra expert in-store is a good start. Offering helpful signage and/or information online is also critical. Hosting group events where fittings can be done in a relaxed atmosphere are also very helpful.
At Title Nine, which has a catalog, online and an in-store business, the retailer hosts “Fit Fests” in its stores. These events are a great way to get customers in the store to see the bra selection, socialize, and get fitted. Brand experts are on-hand, as well as knowledgeable store staff. “It is a high touch shopping experience,” says Hanks Doyle. “It takes a little more effort but it’s worth it. It’s like a party. People will drive an hour for it. It’s a great in-store event that helps educate our customer and helps remind them that we’re experts in bras and we have a great selection. There are snacks and drinks and a raffle, and everybody gets a little discount.”
From a brand perspective, Haizen says finding like-minded retail partners like Title Nine is a win-win. “At Anita Active we create solution-based sports bras for women using our Fit-Centric philosophy and it is ideal to find a retail partner like Title Nine that has the same intentional mission,” she says. “We are very involved in Title Nine’s End Consumer ‘Fit Fests’ at select locations throughout the country that include Fit Clinics for the selling staff so they can be proficiently trained in bra fittings and product knowledge of their offered sports bra assortment. Additionally, we at Anita Active offer Title Nine and other retailers an online education platform for their employees that includes Fitting Techniques, Product Knowledge, and examples of Problem/Solving Solutions that can occur during bra fittings as well as examples of Talking Points and Questions that help the selling staff communicate to the end consumer based on their lifestyle and activities.”
Anita Active’s advice to its retailers is “train your employees,” says Haizen. “Only if your employees feel confident with their fitting expertise and are empowered with the knowledge of the best style recommendations based on size and activity, then they can effectively consult their customers on how to find the perfect sports bra for them.”
Title Nine’s Hanks Doyle concurs, “What you want is someone on your team to be well versed in the sports bra category, and in fitting, if possible.” Going above and beyond to help customers find their perfect sports bra is “totally worth doing,” she says, “because once a customer finds the sports bra they love, they’re super grateful. They’ll come back. They’ll buy three or four of them and replace them on a regular basis.”
Any other retail tips for merchandising and marketing the sports bra category effectively?
Appoint somebody in the store who can own the category. Have them learn everything about the bras via trainings or by digging around online and finding the information they need, says Hanks Doyle. “In-store events are also really a great way to get people into the stores,” she says. “We’ll market our in-store events for a month or two. You need someone in-store who is excited about it and talking it up.”
As for merchandising, Title Nine organizes bras by size first, and then calls out some of the features and benefits people tend to look for in each bra.
Aside from the importance of support, how important are style and price to consumers?
“People want awesome products that make them feel and look good,” says Hanks Doyle. “Style is very important. As far as price, we just did a deep dive on price analysis and at Title Nine we’re seeing customers being a little more price sensitive right now. We’ve seen a shift in the last year or two with that. But we also know that especially for the larger cup sizes, they’ll pay anything if it’s the right bra. For people who have a harder time finding their size and have fewer options, if they find an $80 bra, they’ll buy three and not even blink if it’s a bra that really helps them feel like they can go run a marathon.”
Says Haizen, “The price/value equation continues to be important as there will always be the relationship between high quality performance fabrications, design details and price point. Brands as well as retailers should offer a range of styles that fits within their price point philosophy and reflects their brand values and addresses the specific needs of their customers.”
How often should consumers buy a new sports bra?
It depends on how much it is worn and how well it is cared for. “You shouldn’t put a sports bra in the dryer, but people definitely do,” says Hanks Doyle. “Over time the elastic breaks down — you will lose support after a while.”
Anywhere from 6 months to a year, maybe more if not used that often is a good rule of thumb. “Having at least three sports bras – one on body – one in the wash – one in the drawer - allows her to easily rotate them and extend the life of each sports bra,” suggest Haizen. “As well, taking good care of the sports bras will also extend the support and comfort she depends on. Depending upon how many sports bras you own and/or rotate on a regular basis and how often you wear each style during a week, the need to replace a style can range approximately from 6 to 12 months.”
A good indicator that it’s time to replace a sports bra is “when you have tightened the band from the loosest setting (when new) to the tightest setting after months of wear,” points out Haizen. “That means the elastic in the band has lost much of its recovery power. Consequently, the band no longer has the strength to hold the bra firmly on your body as you exercise. A loose band can lead to chafing and painful skin irritations. The same can be said for the straps. If the back slider adjustment is not staying in place and constantly needs to be repositioned, then the elastic in the back strap has most likely stretched out enough so it no longer properly supports the weight of the breasts in the cups.”
Bottom line, says Haizen, “if you can no longer adjust the bra to minimize excessive breast movement or if you experience pain during high impact activities, then it’s time for a new, supportive, properly fitting Anita Active Sports Bra. It will be one of the most important pieces of your active gear!”
“Bras have gotten sleeker and lighter over the years, with cleaner lines and fewer seams which means more comfort. You’ll see bonded edges and cleaner lines and that usually equates to fewer chafing points. There have been some cool technologies and innovations with fabric. Anita does an amazing job with their fabrics and their bras are supportive and soft. They are very lightweight and quick-drying and I love having their bras in the line. They have a great shape, but they are also really supportive.”
— Molly Hanks Doyle, Title Nine
What’s New from Anita Active
The latest addition to the Anita Active assortment is the Performance WireX Sports Bra #5599 that has a band-less underwire up to an H cup. It is supercharged with two features that raise the bar for maximum support, uncompromising comfort, and sleek style.
1. It has an encased underwire attached to the OUTSIDE of the bra. This prevents irritation to the delicate under bust skin and cradles the breasts for extra stability during workouts.
2. For versatility, the bra’s front and back adjustable padded straps can be worn normally over the shoulder OR crossed in the back to be transformed into a racer back.
Another new standout is the PERFORMANCE Sports Bra #5566. Don’t underestimate its simple construction and style. It delivers all the support, comfort, and breathability required for workouts up to cup size G. It is the sister style to the Performance WireX #5599 as they both feature finely perforated, stretch materials with a delicate yet firm piqué lining.
And Anita Active continues to release new colors and prints in its bestselling sports bra styles that include: Air Control DeltaPad #5544 up to cup size H; Extreme Control #5527 up to cup size H; Momentum #5529 up to cup size H; and DynamiX Star #5537 up to cup size G.