Welcome to the competitive world of maternity lingerie (yes, seriously!). If you think that making pretty undies for pregnant women sounds like a nice, cosy little lifestyle business, think again. Valued at £38m by Mintel, the maternity underwear market is still dominated by Mothercare and M&S (think 2-packs for £29) but there are over 30 luxury, niche brands trying to secure a piece of the pie. Each month, I’ll pick a brand and show you how they differentiate themselves from the competition in order to survive.
Agathe et ses Princes (yup, bit of a mouthful) is about intelligent design and fresh, pretty prints that feel timeless. Launched 4 years ago by Caroline Gerney, this Belgian brand has built its reputation on providing a great fit via a unique nursing feature. Their nursing bras are all underwired – this doesn’t seem to be a problem on the continent, where midwives don’t really exist – allowing them to design cuter, less bulky undies. If the bras weren’t underwired, they’d look a bit old fashioned (think Vichy and Toile de Jouy prints), but less fabric and a lower neckline means they feel vintage and pretty instead. A magnetic strip runs inside the cup, opening it from the centre front outwards (a bit like those zips of old) and allows easy, discrete feeding. It’s a real USP, so retailers are happy to stock their collections as something ‘different’ alongside existing brands. Their timeless design also appeals to a wider customer base – important for small boutiques who can only stock a few styles!
Their other key strength is in good stock management. As the lingerie is made in North Africa (where CMT manufacturing means small minimums and short lead times) it allows them to replenish quickly, ensuring that their customers (the retailers) are never out of stock. Happy customers = good business!
Agathe et ses Princes also offer a fantastic, personal service. Caroline Gerney, a woman with great energy, refined taste and fabulous networking skills manages to generate real loyalty amongst her customers. Crucial, when other brands are constantly tap-tapping on the door (see Mamae…).
At the top end of the price range (around €65-75), this is a collection that really does have added value; unique design, great service and beautiful packaging. How would you rate them?