By Ali Cudby
Welcome to the fourth installment of this series on branding in lingerie. Today we’ll be talking to Claire Chambers, Founder & CEO of the amazing Journelle stores in New York City.
If you are new to the branding series, you can take a look at previous articles about Lingerie Briefs, Secrets in Lace and INVISTA/Eurovet. The goal in these articles is to offer lingerie retailers diverse perspectives on branding from an array of industry leaders that you can apply directly to your business and foster growth.
Journelle is a luxury suite of retail stores in New York City, with three locations strategically found on the Upper East Side, Union Square and Soho.
AC: How do you characterize the Journelle brand?
CC: Journelle was born out of my strong belief that beautiful lingerie should be an everyday affair. Journelle actually comes from the French word “journellement,” meaning “daily.” We love a special occasion and carry plenty of lingerie to fit that bill, but we also believe in everyday lovely. This doesn’t always mean the laciest or most extravagant set, but it does mean that everyday, every woman deserves to look and feel her best. This idea of “everyday lovely” has become our central brand promise.
AC: How did you determine your brand positioning?
CC: It was an informal process, but it was largely based on my own experience (and dissatisfaction) shopping for lingerie as a 25-year old in NYC. I never felt that the sales staff or the atmosphere were as lovely as the lingerie I was buying. Eventually it became an obsession of mine to try to fix this, and that’s when I began more formally polling others to see if I was the only one – and I wasn’t. No woman wants to feel anything but her very best when shopping for lingerie and that idea is something I really tried to harness when planning Journelle.
AC: How do you broadcast that branding to customers?
CC: Everything that goes into Journelle is intentional. We’ve determined a visual aesthetic, as well as a brand voice and strive to ensure that they’re both maintained, while of course adapting them when and where necessary. You’ll see little things that make Journelle what it is. For example, we use a specific shade of purple, we love peonies and we’ve even bottled our favorite Linden scent into a Journelle branded lingerie wash. We have a saying around the office that everything that comes out of us should be “Journelle-ized.”
AC: What’s a key lesson you’ve learned along the way?
CC: I think something I’ve learned is the importance of consistency of experience. Branding doesn’t only refer to the visuals you see on our website or the copy in our emails; it refers to the entire experience and atmosphere of Journelle. The robes in our fitting robes and the layout of our stores have to be consistent – but what matters even more is the consistency of the interaction between our customers and our team members. Over the years, the feedback that has, therefore, come to matter the most is about the whole experience. When people rave about that, we know we have it right.
AC: I admire the fact that your stores are in neighborhoods with very different vibes, but still evoke that Journelle brand. How did you balance keeping branding consistent while also giving each store a personality that matched the demographics of their neighborhoods?
CC: The key is balance. When opening a new store, we’re very aware of the entities that make Journelle, but we of course want to keep in mind our new surroundings. We might change up the merchandise a bit or hold different types of events in each of the store. It’s important to listen to our customers and what they’re looking for.
AC: Do you have criteria that you apply against your open to buy numbers that speak to your branding perspective?
CC: We present a refined and highly curated collection of lingerie – not an overly exhaustive selection. At the beginning of each buying season, we decide on the key looks, colors and we’ll even craft a story about that season. This helps us maintain a point of view on what we’re buying. We also balance fashion pieces (which we refresh often) as well as core pieces, which are pieces that are tried and true staples. If we see a certain style or color or fit doesn’t do [as] well, we’ll re-consider for the following season. We never disregard any feedback we get on our merchandise and that helps us make choices on what or what not to stock.
AC: What advice would you offer to retailers in thinking through their brand?
CC: I would say that the most important thing is making sure you are being honest with yourself about what you want your brand to be versus what is actually happening. As a former management consultant, I am familiar with the many brand strategies that are so well-planned and intentioned, but which never become a reality. You can really only build a brand by delivering on your brand promise, consistently, and that takes a lot of hard work, humility and a consistent interest in your customer’s experience and satisfaction.