News — December 8, 2016 at 8:26 pm

True & Co. Sells an $18 Bra Set for $46: Can a Markup Be Too High?

by
true-and-co-trove-bra-set

The subject of pricing is perhaps one of the most emotionally fraught topics in the lingerie world. Consumers are often convinced they’re paying too much for lingerie, while brands and retailers frequently believe their margins are too small. Furthermore, it is true that margins in the lingerie industry are among the narrowest in the fashion world; an absence of automation combined with specialty fabrics and high R & D costs all contribute to lingerie being incredibly expensive to produce…far more than a t-shirt or a pair of jeans.

However, it’s also true that a knowledge gap exists which is easy for savvy brands to exploit. Lingerie, as an industry, receives very little media coverage. A few a strategic press releases, a bit of shiny branding, and an intimates company can largely convince the fashion press of whatever it likes. There simply aren’t enough experts in the niche with enough background information to disagree.

Recently, while compiling items for TLA’s annual holiday shopping guides, I ran across a rather noteworthy example of the pricing/knowledge gap phenomena, and I want to use that to open up a discussion regarding retail markups and how pricing influences customer expectations.

As of this writing, True & Co. has the set shown at the top of this post listed on their website for $46. That doesn’t seem like such a bad price, right? It’s eyelash lace and swiss dot mesh for under $50 – perfect for holiday gift giving. Except…the actual retail price for this set is a LOT cheaper, and I do mean a lot. Made by Leg Avenue, the 2-pc. Swiss Dot Cage Set typically sells for $18 – less than half of True & Co.’s price.

true-and-co-leg-avenue

Suddenly, that great price seems like less of a bargain. To be more explicit about it, that $46 price can even feel like a bit of a ripoff, especially since the True & Co. set is final sale.

Before we go any further, I know markups are a part of doing business. Retailers have to price things over wholesale (basically, the cost of what it takes to make something) to cover marketing, photography, tradeshows, websites, electricity bills, salaries, and so on. Quinne covered this in incredible detail in her “Why is Lingerie So Expensive?” series. Therefore, I’m not asking if companies should markup their products at all. They absolutely should. Rather, I’m wondering how much of a markup is too much?

I wrote to True & Co. directly to ask for clarification before writing this post, and was told the higher markup for these pieces has to do with researching, sourcing, curating, rebranding, and repackaging them. I was also told the prices for these items in particular included the expenses of their Creative Director and the costs of reshooting them with a well-known fashion photographer and New York model. I was also told the $18 retail price is actually the wholesale price, which, unfortunately for True & Co., is simply not the case.

trashy-com-screenshot-leg-avenue-bra-set

My issue with this kind of pricing scheme, no matter what True & Co.’s justifications may be, is that it contributes to the disconnect many consumers already feel between what they pay and what they get. Just as there are size breaks in the lingerie industry, there are also price breaks. People have rightfully different expectations regarding quality, fit and sizing as an item increases in price.

By positioning an $18 lingerie set as a $46 one, those expectations are potentially being tampered with. That has profound – and depressing – implications for how consumers may view the industry in general and, in particular, the trope of “overpriced lingerie.”

I’d like to hear what you all, as lingerie shoppers, think of cases like this? Are you unbothered, especially if, as the saying goes, “Ignorance is bliss?” Or would you be disappointed to discover you could have found this set for much cheaper from another retailer? Do you believe markups significantly over the recommended retail price are deceptive or is that just a part of doing business in this day and age? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Original Content Provided by The Lingerie Addict

28 Comments

  1. lia says:

    December 11, 2016 at 1:38 pm

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head again. Markups are fine and necessary. But selling an $18 set for $46 is remarkably misleading. Who is going to be satisfied when they receive it and are expecting higher quality? They’ll likely feel ripped off and return it, possibly to never shop there again. I have never purchased from them and hearing this means I never will.

    Reply

  2. stephie says:

    December 10, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    I dont understand. Is this a Leg Avenue set? or a Leg Avenue knock off? maybe it is made with slightly better materials?
    On their about us page, True & Co claim the designs are their own and done by the former designer from the Lake and the Stars.
    I think an interesting post would be how “brands” actually buy wholesale from places like Leg Avenue and then try to make it seem like it is a designer piece. To me that is dodgier than the mark up.

    Reply

  3. stephie says:

    December 10, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    I dont understand. Is this a Leg Avenue set? or a Leg Avenue knock off? maybe it is made with slightly better materials?
    On their about us page, True & Co claim the designs are their own and done by the former designer from the Lake and the Stars.
    I think an interesting post would be how “brands” actually buy wholesale from places like Leg Avenue and then try to make it seem like it is a designer piece. To me that is dodgier than the mark up.

    Reply

  4. Lady Libertine

    stephie says:

    December 10, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    I dont understand. Is this a Leg Avenue set? or a Leg Avenue knock off? maybe it is made with slightly better materials?
    On their about us page, True & Co claim the designs are their own and done by the former designer from the Lake and the Stars.
    I think an interesting post would be how “brands” actually buy wholesale from places like Leg Avenue and then try to make it seem like it is a designer piece. To me that is dodgier than the mark up.

    Reply

  5. Cora says:

    December 11, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    It’s a Leg Avenue set that’s been rebranded. And I agree. That was one of my early issues with another lingerie startup, Adore Me: http://www.thelingerieaddict.com/2013/06/adore-me-lingerie-review.html

    Reply

  6. Lady Libertine says:

    December 10, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    Unfortunatly, this is an extremely common practice. Most clothing, actually, most consumer goods on the market are made for pennies by exploited people. I don’t believe it’s right, but I’m also surprised people are still shocked that this is happening. Everything you buy is marked up more than it should be, to gain disproportionate profit for one person or company. $18 is still a rip off in my opinion, the poor person who made it is lucky to see 18 cents of that. If you don’t want to see your lingerie being marked up 1000x between the person who made it and the person you’re buying it from, try buying directly from the person who makes it. There quite a few vertically integrated lingerie companies. That way you know what you’re buying is exclusive and you won’t find it anywhere else cheaper. Always check where something you’re buying is made. You can assume pretty much anything made in China is basically worth of pennies. I do not think it ethical for companies to charge twice the suggested retail price, or take mass produced crap and slap their own labels on it (which I have also seen often), but this is just a reminder for consumers to be more aware. The more you were willing to pay that much for something made in China, the more retailers will stop making anything domestically themselves. Can you blame them if they know you will pay the same price for something that costs them a 10th as much to make? Increasing profits is just smart business to them, it’s up to consumers to keep companies accountable by educating themselves about what they are buying.

    Reply

  7. Cora says:

    December 11, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    I think assuming everything made in China to be worthless is a pretty bold, and quite frankly, inaccurate, statement to make. We’ve talked about the issues with that claim here: http://www.thelingerieaddict.com/2016/09/made-china-bias-made-usuk-lingerie-always-better.html

    Reply

  8. MiskiDwie says:

    December 10, 2016 at 1:51 pm

    I might be mistaken, butttt…. I think that the original piece is *actually* from Wink Gal, not Leg Avenue, and retails for $9.

    Reply

  9. Cora says:

    December 11, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    Wink Gal sells a bra alone similar to this one (although the cut of the lace is different) for $9.90. There is no coordinating panty for the Wink Gal piece.

    Reply

  10. Tabitha says:

    December 10, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    This is a really bad business model that ends up hurting consumers and the industry. I stopped buying my lingerie from Victoria’s Secret, Frederick’s of Hollywood, and similar retailers because the prices eventually became so high, and the quality became so low. I’ve even had sales clerks advise me to shop for a lingerie item at a different store or from a different company, (when out of earshot of their employers), because the item was priced too high.
    So, after a couple of experiences like that, when an unassuming consumer comes along and sees a lingerie item at a “boutique” and/or “ethical” lingerie manufacturer, (e.g. Bluestockings, etc.), he/she may automatically conclude that this company is just like V.S., etc. and selling low quality merchandise at astronomical prices Furthermore, the way that lingerie companies steal each other’s designs and/or create “knock-offs”, further infuriates consumers who buy an article at one price, only to see it later being undersold elsewhere.
    I wish that more manufacturers would come together to inform the public about these practices, and work together to drive out these unscrupulous companies, raise the excellence bar for the entire industry, and display some respect for consumers everywhere. But until then, I guess that clueless consumers will keep on buying those diamond and other jewelry encrusted bras every ear after the annual televised runaway show of “heavenly” models showing off their latest lingerie just in time for Christmas buying, while much of the industry remains guiltily silent!

    Reply

  11. Tabitha says:

    December 10, 2016 at 1:15 pm

    This is a really bad business model that ends up hurting consumers and the industry. I stopped buying my lingerie from Victoria’s Secret, Frederick’s of Hollywood, and similar retailers because the prices eventually became so high, and the quality became so low. I’ve even had sales clerks advise me to shop for a lingerie item at a different store or from a different company, (when out of earshot of their employers), because the item was priced too high.
    So, after a couple of experiences like that, when an unassuming consumer comes along and sees a lingerie item at a “boutique” and/or “ethical” lingerie manufacturer, (e.g. Bluestockings, etc.), he/she may automatically conclude that this company is just like V.S., etc. and selling low quality merchandise at astronomical prices Furthermore, the way that lingerie companies steal each other’s designs and/or create “knock-offs”, further infuriates consumers who buy an article at one price, only to see it later being undersold elsewhere.
    I wish that more manufacturers would come together to inform the public about these practices, and work together to drive out these unscrupulous companies, raise the excellence bar for the entire industry, and display some respect for consumers everywhere. But until then, I guess that clueless consumers will keep on buying those diamond and other jewelry encrusted bras every ear after the annual televised runaway show of “heavenly” models showing off their latest lingerie just in time for Christmas buying, while much of the industry remains guiltily silent!

    Reply

  12. Cora says:

    December 11, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    I really don’t see the industry or manufacturers coming together in this way. The industry as a whole still sees online shopping as inferior to the “real” business of brick and mortar, and there’s very little industry-wide education or enrichment going on, especially with regards to marketing, branding, advertising or other such topics. It’s an insular industry that, by and large, doesn’t understand the value of speaking directly to consumers (unlike, say, the beauty industry). While I understand it might be impolitic for most brands to speak up directly about specific cases like this (and I wouldn’t expect manufacturers who benefit from these practices to speak up at all, of course), I do wish there was more education regarding how to recognize quality lingerie or how to better understand the price-value equation. There’s a tremendous knowledge gap when it comes to both of those concepts.

    Reply

  13. Red says:

    December 9, 2016 at 12:11 pm

    Lol Cora, your diplomacy is admirable. This is a completely deceptive scheme that preys on the ignorant buyer and has nothing to do with genuine or reasonable mark ups but lining their own pockets on the cheap.

    Reply

  14. Red says:

    December 9, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    On a somewhat unrelated note, are companies or brands scared of damning articles from you? I’m curious how much revenue power your readership holds over sites like this one.

    Reply

  15. Frankie Huang

    Frankie says:

    December 10, 2016 at 11:04 am

    I’d like to know the same thing. After writing to True & Co with the URL to this article, I haven’t heard back at all. I bought this very lingerie set and demanded answers. Ladies…what can I do to drum up some attention? Not just for my own frustration but so that this company is held accountable?

    Reply

  16. Cora says:

    December 11, 2016 at 1:21 pm

    I would share it with people you know. I truly believe educating consumers about their options and how to become more-informed lingerie buyers and wearers is the key here.

    Reply

  17. lia says:

    December 11, 2016 at 1:40 pm

    Maybe try reaching out on social media like twitter, facebook, or instagram? Sometimes they may be more receptive there in order to save face. Best of luck!

    Reply

  18. Frankie Huang says:

    December 9, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Damn it, I literally *just* purchased that Swiss Dot set like 12 hours ago! I’ve written to True and Co citing your impressive article and demanding a refund

    Reply

  19. Beth says:

    December 11, 2016 at 5:37 am

    In the UK we have the distance selling act where we can cancel an order 14 days after making it if purchased online /mail order do you have something similar?

    Reply

  20. Cora says:

    December 11, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    While looking at what the FTC has to say would definitely be an option, we don’t really have any nationwide laws like that here. Consumer Rights’ laws vary by state, so the first step would likely be reviewing the California Attorney General’s website regarding refund and return policies.

    Reply

  21. Cora says:

    December 11, 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Please let me know if they respond!

    Reply

  22. Katie says:

    December 9, 2016 at 10:58 am

    The lingerie world seems to be split into big name established brands, indie brands and online brands with silicone valley crazy investment and valuations with huge promotional spends. It’s unfortunate that unless you are in the industry and/or are a Lingerie Addict then you’re unaware, with the latter, that most of your money is going into marketing (creative directors, big name photographers etc) instead of the actual product.

    Reply

  23. Thursday says:

    December 9, 2016 at 5:53 am

    This is not the first time I’ve seen a low-end brand of lingerie sold at a massive mark-up. I find that one of the reasons I want to be familiar with offerings at the low price end of the spectrum is so I can avoid situations like this, and I will run a mile from vendors who do so. I agree that it’s so problematic because the quality-price relationship in lingerie is already so opaque to many consumers, so to pass off a Leg Avenue quality piece at more than double the recommended price is short-sighted profiteering. At under $20, who will be surprised when this set only holds up for a couple washes? If you’ve plonked down almost $50 instead, you’re going to pretty disillusioned and less likely to plonk down similar money again for a piece which has been made to a higher quality. This is a phenomenon that particularly annoys me when cheaply made plastic boned bustiers are sold at ridiculous mark-ups as “corsets”, and the uneducated buyer finds them horribly uncomfortable and doesn’t understand how anyone can wear a corset!

    Reply

  24. Rebecca says:

    December 8, 2016 at 10:56 pm

    This honestly comes off as intentional deception: trying to pass an item off as higher quality than it is, in order to make a nice profit. I’d even wager a guess that the fashion photographer and model were hired to take new, glamorous photos, specifically to make the lingerie seem more expensive than it is. I also think that more educated lingerie consumers might be more susceptible to falling for this sort of deception: to me, $48 is cheap for a lingerie set. So if I bought a set for that price and found the quality to be low, I would not be surprised/blame True & Co for selling me a cheap product, since I “knew” what I was getting into. Whereas the completely clueless consumer might be genuinely disappointed by the quality, underestimating the cost of lingerie in general.

    Reply

  25. Robin M. says:

    December 8, 2016 at 10:45 pm

    As a customer, I find both weird and annoying the (seemingly downscale) practice of re-branding… esp at the low end for the Leg Avenue type of product that is akin to fast fashion. Give label credit to the designer- enough is enough. As Google image search improves over the years it wont be ANY secret that a dozen “brands” or stores claim the exact same look is their own.
    I find the below response from the store in the article to be really stupid and complete B.S. “I” the consumer did not ask for a previously packaged/labeled garment to be “re branded”.
    RE:
    “markup for these pieces has to do with… rebranding, and repackaging them…expenses of their Creative Director and the costs of reshooting them with a well-known fashion photographer and New York model.”
    I want to pay fair price for the garment- not the ego or the hoodwinking going on with rebranding. The rest seems completely un-necessary to the design, manufacture and distribution. I want the garment to be made ethically, and preferably by a company who gives a try to sustainability. The 100% purposeful blurring of who created, mass produced and is now claiming to be the brand for the garment is anything but the transparency that fashion and lingerie needs to bring to the public.
    In short, I am starting to have a preference for stores that I feel comfortable are a short chain length from the true manufacturer. This I test in a way when I ask questions of the store re: product specs, asking them to ask the brand label. In some instances (including French manufacturers) I can get answers via email as a consumer.
    In the $46 vs $18 example, I highly doubt I would pay the high end based on the seemingly limited construction & very high percent of garment being elastic strips. I think many people are being influenced by the cheap (cost & production) of China… e.g. when you see thongs like the above on Amazon, Ebay, etc for $2.99. There are now many factors contributing to consumers who refuse to believe that price and production have anything to do with each other.
    As a small-cup petite, I stay away from retailers and brands who only have S/M/L. (I agree with the poster who was also frustrated by sites never saying exactly what body size a S/M/L relates too!). I like to selectively spend with designers/manufactures who have enough care to explore fit, feel & quality by TRYING to make a range of sizes because they have personal design investment (beyond money) in the garments. To me, a label or store that only has a S/M/L plus a pathetic lack of care in customer service and poor consumer experience seems “cheap.”
    Maybe that makes me a lingerie snob, after being a collector for many many years. But if I have a gut feeling that the garment was made on the cheap, then I don’t want the rub off feeling of being cheap. (i.e. that someone in a sweatshop made this & the roof will fall on them and kill them).
    The entire clothing industry screws around with price- dynamic to day/time/volume of searches. The fatal flaw= consumers dont see the correlation of price paid to price made.

    Reply

  26. Robin M. says:

    December 8, 2016 at 10:45 pm

    As a customer, I find both weird and annoying the (seemingly downscale) practice of re-branding… esp at the low end for the Leg Avenue type of product that is akin to fast fashion. Give label credit to the designer- enough is enough. As Google image search improves over the years it wont be ANY secret that a dozen “brands” or stores claim the exact same look is their own.
    I find the below response from the store in the article to be really stupid and complete B.S. “I” the consumer did not ask for a previously packaged/labeled garment to be “re branded”.
    RE:
    “markup for these pieces has to do with… rebranding, and repackaging them…expenses of their Creative Director and the costs of reshooting them with a well-known fashion photographer and New York model.”
    I want to pay fair price for the garment- not the ego or the hoodwinking going on with rebranding. The rest seems completely un-necessary to the design, manufacture and distribution. I want the garment to be made ethically, and preferably by a company who gives a try to sustainability. The 100% purposeful blurring of who created, mass produced and is now claiming to be the brand for the garment is anything but the transparency that fashion and lingerie needs to bring to the public.
    In short, I am starting to have a preference for stores that I feel comfortable are a short chain length from the true manufacturer. This I test in a way when I ask questions of the store re: product specs, asking them to ask the brand label. In some instances (including French manufacturers) I can get answers via email as a consumer.
    In the $46 vs $18 example, I highly doubt I would pay the high end based on the seemingly limited construction & very high percent of garment being elastic strips. I think many people are being influenced by the cheap (cost & production) of China… e.g. when you see thongs like the above on Amazon, Ebay, etc for $2.99. There are now many factors contributing to consumers who refuse to believe that price and production have anything to do with each other.
    As a small-cup petite, I stay away from retailers and brands who only have S/M/L. (I agree with the poster who was also frustrated by sites never saying exactly what body size a S/M/L relates too!). I like to selectively spend with designers/manufactures who have enough care to explore fit, feel & quality by TRYING to make a range of sizes because they have personal design investment (beyond money) in the garments. To me, a label or store that only has a S/M/L plus a pathetic lack of care in customer service and poor consumer experience seems “cheap.”
    Maybe that makes me a lingerie snob, after being a collector for many many years. But if I have a gut feeling that the garment was made on the cheap, then I don’t want the rub off feeling of being cheap. (i.e. that someone in a sweatshop made this & the roof will fall on them and kill them).
    The entire clothing industry screws around with price- dynamic to day/time/volume of searches. The fatal flaw= consumers dont see the correlation of price paid to price made.

    Reply

  27. Robin M. says:

    December 8, 2016 at 10:45 pm

    As a customer, I find both weird and annoying the (seemingly downscale) practice of re-branding… esp at the low end for the Leg Avenue type of product that is akin to fast fashion. Give label credit to the designer- enough is enough. As Google image search improves over the years it wont be ANY secret that a dozen “brands” or stores claim the exact same look is their own.
    I find the below response from the store in the article to be really stupid and complete B.S. “I” the consumer did not ask for a previously packaged/labeled garment to be “re branded”.
    RE:
    “markup for these pieces has to do with… rebranding, and repackaging them…expenses of their Creative Director and the costs of reshooting them with a well-known fashion photographer and New York model.”
    I want to pay fair price for the garment- not the ego or the hoodwinking going on with rebranding. The rest seems completely un-necessary to the design, manufacture and distribution. I want the garment to be made ethically, and preferably by a company who gives a try to sustainability. The 100% purposeful blurring of who created, mass produced and is now claiming to be the brand for the garment is anything but the transparency that fashion and lingerie needs to bring to the public.
    In short, I am starting to have a preference for stores that I feel comfortable are a short chain length from the true manufacturer. This I test in a way when I ask questions of the store re: product specs, asking them to ask the brand label. In some instances (including French manufacturers) I can get answers via email as a consumer.
    In the $46 vs $18 example, I highly doubt I would pay the high end based on the seemingly limited construction & very high percent of garment being elastic strips. I think many people are being influenced by the cheap (cost & production) of China… e.g. when you see thongs like the above on Amazon, Ebay, etc for $2.99. There are now many factors contributing to consumers who refuse to believe that price and production have anything to do with each other.
    As a small-cup petite, I stay away from retailers and brands who only have S/M/L. (I agree with the poster who was also frustrated by sites never saying exactly what body size a S/M/L relates too!). I like to selectively spend with designers/manufactures who have enough care to explore fit, feel & quality by TRYING to make a range of sizes because they have personal design investment (beyond money) in the garments. To me, a label or store that only has a S/M/L plus a pathetic lack of care in customer service and poor consumer experience seems “cheap.”
    Maybe that makes me a lingerie snob, after being a collector for many many years. But if I have a gut feeling that the garment was made on the cheap, then I don’t want the rub off feeling of being cheap. (i.e. that someone in a sweatshop made this & the roof will fall on them and kill them).
    The entire clothing industry screws around with price- dynamic to day/time/volume of searches. The fatal flaw= consumers dont see the correlation of price paid to price made.

    Reply

  28. Erica of A Sophisticated Pair

    Robin M. says:

    December 8, 2016 at 10:45 pm

    As a customer, I find both weird and annoying the (seemingly downscale) practice of re-branding… esp at the low end for the Leg Avenue type of product that is akin to fast fashion. Give label credit to the designer- enough is enough. As Google image search improves over the years it wont be ANY secret that a dozen “brands” or stores claim the exact same look is their own.
    I find the below response from the store in the article to be really stupid and complete B.S. “I” the consumer did not ask for a previously packaged/labeled garment to be “re branded”.
    RE:
    “markup for these pieces has to do with… rebranding, and repackaging them…expenses of their Creative Director and the costs of reshooting them with a well-known fashion photographer and New York model.”
    I want to pay fair price for the garment- not the ego or the hoodwinking going on with rebranding. The rest seems completely un-necessary to the design, manufacture and distribution. I want the garment to be made ethically, and preferably by a company who gives a try to sustainability. The 100% purposeful blurring of who created, mass produced and is now claiming to be the brand for the garment is anything but the transparency that fashion and lingerie needs to bring to the public.
    In short, I am starting to have a preference for stores that I feel comfortable are a short chain length from the true manufacturer. This I test in a way when I ask questions of the store re: product specs, asking them to ask the brand label. In some instances (including French manufacturers) I can get answers via email as a consumer.
    In the $46 vs $18 example, I highly doubt I would pay the high end based on the seemingly limited construction & very high percent of garment being elastic strips. I think many people are being influenced by the cheap (cost & production) of China… e.g. when you see thongs like the above on Amazon, Ebay, etc for $2.99. There are now many factors contributing to consumers who refuse to believe that price and production have anything to do with each other.
    As a small-cup petite, I stay away from retailers and brands who only have S/M/L. (I agree with the poster who was also frustrated by sites never saying exactly what body size a S/M/L relates too!). I like to selectively spend with designers/manufactures who have enough care to explore fit, feel & quality by TRYING to make a range of sizes because they have personal design investment (beyond money) in the garments. To me, a label or store that only has a S/M/L plus a pathetic lack of care in customer service and poor consumer experience seems “cheap.”
    Maybe that makes me a lingerie snob, after being a collector for many many years. But if I have a gut feeling that the garment was made on the cheap, then I don’t want the rub off feeling of being cheap. (i.e. that someone in a sweatshop made this & the roof will fall on them and kill them).
    The entire clothing industry screws around with price- dynamic to day/time/volume of searches. The fatal flaw= consumers dont see the correlation of price paid to price made.

    Reply

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