Lingerie shop in Brunei sees strong demand for under garments

With most clothing stores in Brunei expecting to see a decline in their sales come April when a more conservative dress code is set to be enforced, Lili Yong of Lili Lingerie is projecting the opposite.

Yong's projection is that women may turn their focus on under garments from outerwear, and she said that next month may see her business "really take off".

"My business partner told me that this is what happened in Saudi Arabia, and that they do more business with the country than anywhere else," she said.

Lili Lingerie saw a 15 per cent growth in sales in 2013 despite the closure of the Airport Mall branch.

Yong said that lingerie does not have the same sales trend as clothing stores, explaining that while her friends who own clothing stores recorded some of the worst sales in February, her shop fared better.

"February is one of my best months. Maybe for clothing, people have come back from holiday and it was after the Chinese New Year celebrations, so many people were probably trying to save on shopping," she said.

She explained that under garments are a necessity for women because a it would give them confidence from having the proper support.

A good fitted bra helps women with back aches, chest pains and a number of other ailments that could cause harm to a woman's well being and health, she noted.

The decision to close her second branch in the Airport Mall was mainly due to the fact that the store was just breaking even, Yong said.

"There were a couple of reasons why we closed. All our regular customers still prefer the branch in Kiulap because of the parking, whereas in the Airport Mall, they had to go through the traffic jam and finding parking was difficult for them," she said.

Initially, she opened the new branch to target a younger group of customers and to be more accessible to existing clients.

"Over at the Airport Mall, we had window shoppers and students, and we could cover the operation costs. But in business, we don't talk about covering our overhead costs; it is important, but it is not the aim," she said, adding that entrepreneurs go into business to make money and to turn a profit.

"If business is not coming in and you are just surviving, that isn't business, and I'm not into just surviving business," she said.

One of the things that will change in April, said Yong, is the marketing strategy of the company.

"We would have to be careful how we do it and what works best in Brunei is social media, so in that realm we can still do what we do. But the advertising in the newspapers would be different," she said.

Lili Lingerie currently uses Instagram and Facebook, where it has "not so many followers" on Instagram", but more than 2,800 followers on Facebook.

Yong also said that she will be marrying corporate social responsibility and marketing efforts.

Yong currently has a "bra drive" that allows customers to donate used or unwanted bras to the store. The clothing articles are donated to women in the villages who cannot afford them.

"I've thought about this campaign for a long time, because a lot of people have a lot of bras in their cupboard, which they either grew out of due to pregnancy or weight changes," said Yong.

Yong is now looking for partners or non-governmental organisations that would be able to direct her to villages that would want the donations.