How do you know when you’ve found a great lingerie store? There are so many factors involved — brand selection, pricing, atmosphere and, most important, personal service from a well-informed and caring staff.
But perhaps the best indicator of a top lingerie boutique is that its customers wouldn’t shop anywhere else.
Best of Intima magazine also provides some guidance with its unique, industry-sponsored Best Shop Awards designed to identify the leading independent lingerie retailers in the U.S. BOI’s parent, the Network Dessous press group, holds a similar competition each year for shops in Italy, Germany and the UK.
The 2010 awards were handed out earlier this month at a gala dinner in New York, where five boutiques were named winners from among 151 nominees. Winners received a very handsome mosaic sculpture (below) from Ravenna, Italy — so if you spot one in a store window, you know you’re in good hands there!
Before we get to the list of 2010 winners below, a few thoughts on what these awards represent.
The BOI Best Shop Awards aren’t a “people’s choice”-style award; winners aren’t chosen by the public or even their peers. Instead, winners are picked by an 18-member international jury that includes executives from some of the biggest names in intimate apparel — both mass-market and couture. This year’s jury included such diverse brands as Cosabella, Wacoal, Panache, Empreinte, Diesel, Hanky Panky and La Perla (Josie Natori of Natori and Sonja Winther of Chantelle were also among the panel).
The jury makes its choices from nominated stores that have been reviewed by BOI evaluators during on-site visits. This practice itself — a third-party evaluation of retail distribution points — is crucial to the brands and sets both the BOI awards and the lingerie industry itself apart from many other retail sectors.
Why is this such a big deal? For many brands, especially high-end imported luxury brands, independent boutiques in America account for a huge chunk of international sales — for some, it’s 40% or more of annual sales. Thus, it makes enormous sense for discriminating lingerie brands to follow small private shops closely, encourage and support them in improving the customer experience, and honor those who do an especially great job at it.
You can get a sense of how the industry answers the question “what makes a great lingerie boutique?” by looking at the Best Shop Award categories. It’s interesting to note that the award categories don’t include sales volume or market size — creating an equal playing field that encourages innovation and vision from small retailers everywhere in the country.
Without further ado, here are this year’s honorees and their categories. You can follow the links to see the stores’ websites, although if they are in your region, you MUST visit in person!
BOI also handed out some “special recognition” prizes meant to acknowledge diverse aspects of the retail lingerie industry:
The picture below shows representatives from the five main category winners, and was supplied by Pampered Passions Fine Lingerie.