Shapings.com is an on-line business that started out in 1995 as a physical store located in Ontario Canada, founded by Nicole Safko. They added Internet sales to their business in the fall of 2000. Shapings sells a wide variety of shapewear, bras (store only), girdles, panties, fine hosiery, and corsets. They have become one of the worlds largest retailers of fine European pantyhose, stockings and fashion hosiery, with 99% of all items in stock ready to be shipped to customers all around the globe.
I had an opportunity to interview with Robert Safko, the director of Shapings.com. Here’s what he had to say:
T4M: How much of your business is from buyers in the USA, and do you know how most customers find out about your website?
Robert: Our US customer base is roughly 55% of our sales. Being online for over 11 years now, the search engines do rank us quite high for specific search criteria. We have many repeat customers from the US and with many other sites linking to us.
T4M: Do you get many inquiries from male customers about tights? Are inquiries worldwide, or concentrated from certain countries?
Robert: Yes, we do receive inquiries from all around the world from men. At least 1 inquiry per day asking about tights for themselves and what we can offer them to suit their needs.
T4M: You feature tights made specifically for men, but do you find men buying women’s tights as well?
Robert: Quite honestly, the male market is on the decline. This is quite disappointing, as many manufacturers have had requests from men to make a male specific tight/pantyhose that men can call their own. But for some unknown reason, now that there have been many options available over the past 10 years, men have not really embraced this market as predicted. For example, Gerbe of France, being one of the very best hosiery manufacturers in the world, invested in a full male line using their high quality yarns. This was quite the step forward for the male hosiery market and made tights for men a serious item, not some kind of fetish novelty. Just recently, Gerbe has discontinued the full men’s line due to lack of sales. This could have been due to their relatively high price, yet Gerbe has been selling to women for decades with the same price point. Because of the many styles that women have to choose from, men do purchase women’s tights all the time. It appears that there just isn’t enough of a Men’s selection for the needs of a hosiery product for men, be it support, warmth or enjoyment.
T4M: What tights brands/styles are popular with men who are buying for themselves?
Robert: This is hard to say. We don’t know for sure if our males customers are buying the hose for themselves or for a female, unless they talk with us or send an email stating that it is for themselves. There are very few brands made for men with a limited amount of styles and all brands feature different styles. So when you put them together, it makes up a well rounded selection for many tastes and functions, and thus making sales evenly spread throughout these styles/brands. Men are quite private when it comes to buying tights for themselves, so we can’t answer this question accurately.
T4M: What tights are proving to be popular for women who are buying from the USA? Do they tend to favor any particular brands?
Robert: Again, without interviewing each internet customer we can’t know for sure how many men or women are buying them specifically for themselves. Sometimes this brands sells well, then the next month another brand sells well. It makes for a very difficult buying forecast.
T4M: What are some upcoming hosiery brands that you plan to add to your product offerings?
Robert: At this point we can’t say due to competition privacy but we do have a new Italian brand that we are meeting with.
T4M: What qualities do you feel make it attractive for USA customers to buy from Shapings?
Robert: We feature great pricing for imported hosiery, quick turn around time for order dispatching, shipping based on current postal pricing, a wide range of sizing and colours and bulk discounts. This goes for any country, not just for the US and no plan is set in place to determine a US marketing strategy. Our company is 100% Canadian, but we ship globally.
Here are Shapings.com we make sure the products we sell are of fine quality. We just don’t put any product on our site just to sell it–it has to be good enough for our standards. Forget the marketing; we concentrate on what is in the package and if it’s worth the cost. Our high resolution photos help the customer with the finish and look of the product, as this is what people need to see when purchasing hosiery, especially when you can’t feel the yarn first hand.
T4M: What are your thoughts about the emerging awareness of men wearing fashion tights?
Robert: Personally I feel this is a fashion statement that only can be brought to the mainstream by major designers with a celebrity endorsing it. Women are followers in this manner. So, if Prince William starts wearing tights with his kilt, then you will see it in male magazines as the new fashion and men will be confident knowing that a famous male is sporting tights. For now, it would only work in certain cities that is known for it’s fashion forwardness. The awareness is only with certain websites experimenting with it, but if you ask anyone on the street, they won’t know of this fashion concept. If a man was wearing tights be it fashion or basic, the same person won’t look at the fashion, they will only see a guy in a pair of tights and wonder why he is “cross dressing”.
Men must be prepared for comments or stares when wearing a fashion tight, as do women in the case of eye catching hosiery, as most people will notice the fashion dressed leg over any other piece of clothing, no matter what high fashion brand you are wearing on top. Tights/pantyhose will always be the eye catcher. It would have to come down to many men sporting this fashion before it becomes a daily sighting, but most men are just too afraid to step out and be centered out or stared at. Men are placed in a society of conformity and if you step outside of that conformity you become a spectacle, where as women are free to express any fashion without suspicion or prejudice.
Robert, thank you very much for your insightful and candid responses. I hope our readership enjoys it and takes a moment to browse the vast hosiery selection at Shapings.com. Good luck with your business in 2012!