For this special instalment of 'Changing room chats' we are sitting down with the commander in brief herself, pant boss - Eloise Rigby founder of The Pantry Underwear.
Expect juicy questions, scintillating answers and an exclusive peek behind the curtain at one of Britain's top award winning independent underwear stores & female centred brands.
But first, a snippet fact file & intro:
Name - Eloise Rigby
Age - 32
Location - Cambridgeshire
Family - Jamie // The Husband of Pant, Finby // The Prince of Pant and Flossie // The Pup of Pant
Qualifications - University of Life, Chartered Institute of Marketing
Previous employers - Ministry of Sound, Harper Collins
Favourite Spice Girls Song - Holler
Favourite bra [@ March '22] - Satin Contour Plunge
Favourite brand [other than own @ March '22] - Girlfriend Collective
… Founder, advocate, ma, friend; these are just some of the titles that can be attached to Elly. Since starting The Pantry Underwear back in 2016 she has consistently put women and womanhood at the heart of her business and brand, from giving likeminded independent female founders a platform to ensuring an inclusive size and price range in her line up. This can be seen through our bricks and mortar stores; with her entire team AKA Pant Patrol trained in bra fitting [with no need to pre-book] including in specialist fit categories - maternity/postpartum, bigger bust, bridal and solutions underwear. Elly has created a modern safe space where women can shop at ease and where staff aim to demystify the process surrounding bra fittings by offering an informal yet informative approach. The ‘experience’ has now been ( hugely successfully ) translated online through the virtual fitting service which has received coverage in the Sunday Times Style, Stella @ The Telegraph and Grazia magazines to name just a few. 2022 is going to see the most exciting developments in the business yet, so keep an eye on this tour de force!!
During the pandemic you moved from 3 bricks and mortar stores to trading solely online - what did this shift teach you about the online marketplace and what changes have you stuck with since physically reopening?
With 'the shift' being forced and incredibly fast, I/we just had to learn on my feet. Thus a lot of our initiatives were driven by our honed in store strategy pieces, such as having a fit service that operates by the sight, instinct and experience of highly skilled staff to advise our community whenever required - this translated to our virtual fitting service, with bra fittings conducted from the comfort of your own home over secure video call with one of our in store fitters. Also to our customer services effort with the inbox, phone lines and social media being manned by our fantastic fit team. This isn't typical of trading online, but enabled us to stand out from the crowd and translate the offering for our substantial existing store customer base relatively seamlessly. Of course, we are very proud to have stuck with this strategy in our online operations since reopening.
The lockdowns also forced us into some much needed digital housekeeping including changing our product descriptions/information online to reflect our Pantry-specific fit knowledge, as well as guidance into the care of our products and even include unique product points that we would talk about in fittings, such as the use of recycled fabric or the fact that the brand is independent and female founded like ourselves! That being said, there's still much housekeeping to be done and in 2022 we are determined to improve our online offering in more fundamental ways to enable us to grow our community of Pant Pals through this storefront 'first'.
When the pandemic first struck you implemented ideas quickly that saved the business, how did these ideas come to you?
Honestly, through the sheer panic of the arrival of the pandemic, there was a lot of wine. I would step outside my back door, indulge in a glass of wine and sometimes a vogue [cigarette - not recommended, but the truth] and being by myself with a little release enabled my mind to run wild. My team were also responsible for many of the ideas that we implemented throughout the pandemic and as always.
As a founder that is incredibly hands on and involved with the day to day running of the business, how do you force yourself to step back and take time for yourself? Do you assign a certain time of the day or does it come naturally?
Unfortunately, it does not come naturally to me and I feel like a fraud even answering this question, because I don't switch off or really take time to myself. Having always felt guilty for not working hard enough or being successful enough, becoming a ma in 2022 has introduced a pang of new guilt and actually, it's forced me to prioritise something other than my work. I would say that I think I'll feel truly successful when I can take some solid time for myself without worrying about the business and I am hugely impressed by founders who can do that because it is so important, not least for giving perspective over your business as a result of stepping back!
Do you think the post-pandemic/ Brexit landscape will spawn more British based companies or will we still be reliant on predominantly overseas goods? And if so as a buyer/business owner what steps are you putting in place to ease this.
Absolutely and wherever we can [where it is both ethical and financially viable] we will rely upon UK production. Unfortunately that is impossible for technical underwear [underwired bras and seamless knickers for example] as there are no factories in the UK that have the machinery and capabilities and in some cases, there never has been.
However, we are producing our own line of wedding dresses under our sister brand, The Pantry Bridalwear, in Saffron Walden, where our bridalwear store is located. All pieces are made to measure with as little wastage as possible. In fact we use offcuts to make our brides hair ribbons and scrunchies for their maids, to try and make our supply chain as fruitful and responsible as it can be.
Here at the Pantry we are such a small team, what are some of the upsides of having a close knit staff and conversely what are some of the issues you face.
Upside: We're like a loving family. Challenge: We're like a dysfunctional family. Any small business employer or employee knows exactly what I mean, so if you can describe it better than this, please do in the comments below!
With Mother’s day around the corner, what is some of the best advice you ever received from your Mum?
Not advice specifically, but more approach. In a crisis she doesn't panic, she simply resolves. She is my stability and on this journey that has been invaluable.
Stay tuned for chats to come with Pant Pals connected to us in all sorts of ways, and of course if you'd like to suggest someone that we should chat to, please send through suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org