Teeze Magazine

Mom’s Tupperware Parties Were Never Like This!

by Wendy Lewis

The Growth of Home Lingerie Parties

teeze-logoSales of lingerie and glamour apparel continue to increase across the country due in part to the media where it’s now routine to see runway models in skimpy lingerie on TV shows ranging from Entertainment Tonight to VH1 and commercials from Miller Lite to Coors. It’s also due to an increase in the number of outlets where women can purchase frilly fashions, from the proliferation of Victoria’s Secret stores in malls from coast to coast to the increase in boutiques selling glamour apparel to the increase in adult stores that now have erotic apparel sections. Add in the hundreds of glamour apparel websites that do mail-order business and the number of point of purchase opportunities is greater than ever.

Oops, we forgot one–home lingerie parties, the latest trend.

While the percentage of ladies who can debate pocket-rocket brands without blushing is on the rise, a sizeable portion of lingerie-buying females just don’t feel comfortable discussing intimates with the attendant at their local adult store.

The rising popularity of Home Lingerie Parties may provide the antidote for boutique-fearing females. These parties are taking the intimate business back into an intimate atmosphere: the privacy of one’s own home.Like an adult version of a Tupperware party, lingerie party hostesses gather a group of friends together to share lingerie styles, discuss novelties, and with any success, earn either a dividend or free gifts on the side.

Rina Valan, who has been in the business of home lingerie parties for more than 20 years, attests to both the demand to bring a lingerie-buying outlet to women, and to the profits it can garner. Her company, Fantasia Home Parties (www.fantasiahomeparties.com), serving women only, was created to “allow women to enhance their sensuality and unleash their wild side, without compromising their reputation, through the privacy of a home party environment.”

Along with that vision, Fantasia Home Parties have enjoyed long-lasting success because of their “female-minded” approach. Valan’s parties capitalize on the idea that for many women, the romantic overture leading up to intimacy is more important than the act itself. The Fantasia experience imitates the romantic encounters her customers fantasize about: the parties last the duration of a languid, sensual evening, and are paced the same way.

Upon arrival at the party, attendees are given a “menu” of erotic items, which begins with tantalizing “appe-teasers” (including mood-setting items like silky sheets and bath accessories), and continues through several courses of “meals,” concluding with a selection of luscious, edible “desserts,” like flavored lubricants. There’s even a “culinary institute” offering educational items, and the menu’s “lighter side” features erotic gag gifts and games.

Using a “menu” to describe the merchandise immediately puts the items on familiar, comfortable ground with customers‹an essential component of any home lingerie operator’s success. Says Valan, “It gives buyers a premise. When we discuss the items as if they were kitchen utensils and gourmet ingredients, women who may have felt wary about purchasing suddenly see the items as the necessary tools to complete that gourmet meal.”

Christine White, founder of five-year-old Boudoir Baskets, reiterates the importance of tapping into this particular market’s mindframe when conducting a party. “A lot of women invest in our services because they feel awkward shopping at retail outlets, for whatever reason. To really tap into their buying-power, the hostess needs to make the entire evening a practice in self care. Show the buyers, many of who have been conditioned to take the back seat in life, how invaluable personal pleasure is, and you can basically guarantee huge sales, says White. The presentation is about the products, of course, but it’s also about teaching women that its perfectly normal to use them.”

Valan also believes that women are “social shoppers” by nature, and will purchase in greater amounts amongst friends. “The parties basically level out the playing field, making every woman recognize that the items are both common and useful, which enables them to purchase in confidence.”

Valan says that her company’s parties differ from others in that she offers a full range of items, from lingerie to novelties, produced by more than 20 different manufacturers: a virtual boutique-in-a-van that caters right to your front door. “And the suppliers we use love us,” she raves. “Where else are their products going to get that type of attention? We let our customers, try, taste, touch and feel our products, and that hands-on experience sells. Products don’t get promotion like that sitting on the shelves at a boutique.”

Lisa Reeves, owner of Intimate Boutique & Novelties Home Parties Orders (www.intimateboutique.com), says that her Houston area parties have become a huge hit, especially for girls’ night out, bridesmaid, and bachelorette parties. She brings a brimming case of goodies to parties, including a wide variety of lingerie, lotions, and toys, and then invites the ladies (or couples, in some cases), to sit back and relax while she describes the merchandise.

Reeves highlights the selling points of her wares, but doing so while shoppers are eating, drinking, and relaxing with friends really softens the blow of a sales pitch. Often, the audience doesn’t see the event as a buying opportunity at all, but an opportunity to explore and ask questions they never would have otherwise.

Reeves buys the items in bulk from an internet wholesaler. She is able to secure a large portion of each party’s profits by using a networking sales approach: a hostess organizes the list of invitees, and earns free products and discounts based on the total amount of merchandise sold at the party. She can then contract additional “hostesses,” and so forth. Even as the middle-man, Reeves makes a retailer’s commission, and has to put little money into promoting the parties. Having cornered her local market niche, Reeves relies on repeat business and word of mouth to keep her company growing – which it has.

And her company isn’t alone. Secret Soiree (www.secret-soiree.com), headquartered in Iowa, has representatives in at least five states, and continues to expand. Vice President Melinda Nasers believes her company is on track to become number one on the home-party circuit because of the incentives they offer their representatives. After more than three years in the business, the company’s founders have discovered that they can offer better prices to their customers and give a greater cut to representatives by continuously researching the market for sale-priced and out-of-stock items.

That also means that their inventory is always changing, which draws repeat business. “Anyone interested in becoming a representative should research home lingerie companies on the web. They will find that Secret Soiree offers a large profit percentage for reps (25 percent), while requiring very little effort. All our consultants have to do is familiarize themselves with our concept and products (Secret Soiree provides and instructional training video for representatives), and then go to the party and take orders.”

There are no pyramid-sales tactics; every hostess makes her own earnings. “We handle all the billing and shipping. Whether they want to make the parties their main source of income, or an occasional money-maker, we offer the best overall package.” With their representatives usually booked at least a month in advance, the approach is working.

Each company has their own incentives for representatives, though. Fantasia offers the same cut to their reps, plus a free gift for each party hosted, as well as vacations and other bonuses. Valan says that Fantasia puts major emphasis on training their representatives. District managers for the company offer continuous training sessions, ensuring that their representatives are always aware of new products they have added to their line and are constantly refreshing their sales techniques.

Boudoir Baskets makes selling and training easy for representatives; an Internet site allows representatives to run their own affiliate sites off of the company’s home website, so that each representative can continue to sell and resell to customers via the Internet long after the party is over.

The L.A.-based company implements a few other strategies to increase sales and set them apart: all of the lingerie they offer comes from one major distributor, Shirley of Hollywood, which guarantees that they will be able to secure wholesaler’s rates and pass those savings on to customers. On the novelty end, Boudoir Baskets (like other companies) purchases items through a variety of wholesalers, depending on who is offering special rates and discounts. More than a thousand items are offered at the Boudoir Basket parties; as White quips, “variety is the spice of life, and if (customers) can’t get it through us, they’ll go elsewhere.”

toypartyWhile Valan of Fantasia has seen the intimate industry’s product line grow from a tiny selection of black-and-red teddies into an enormous empire of erotic and exotic luxuries, she says her customer base, though larger now, is basically the same as it always was.

“Both today and twenty years ago, it’s moms, daughters, cousins… it could be Ms. America… who is buying. There is still a huge number of people who would love to purchase lingerie and novelties, but would rather do so in privacy.” The product demands, however, have shifted slightly over the past two decades; Valan estimates that about 75 percent of her sales were in lingerie when she started the parties two decades ago. Today, novelties consume a much larger portion of sales.

White, at Boudoir Baskets, says lingerie is still a huge seller, though, emphasizing that plus-sized lingerie accounts for the greatest massive portion of her sales, and is her single greatest seller.

For more information, contact Fantasia: 1-800-77-PARTY or www.fantasiahomeparties.com.