Q&A with Hanky Panky CEO Brenda Berger

The intimates retailer's CEO discusses creating a safe space for customers, recycling and delivering a unique in-store experience — complete with a thong wall.
Elizabeth Christenson
Editor, Retail Leader
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This summer, digitally native lingerie brand Hanky Panky opened its first store in New York, offering an immersive shopping experience and exclusive in-store products. With greater physical store expansion targeted for the years ahead, Retail Leader Pro tapped Hanky Panky’s CEO Brenda Berger to talk about the brand’s unique in-store design, building community and recycling (yes, recycling) lingerie.

Retail Leader Pro (RL Pro): You just opened your first brick-and-mortar location — how does Hanky Panky view the role of the physical store? Why is now a good time for your brand to roll out physical stores?

Hanky Panky Brenda Berger
Hanky Panky CEO Brenda Berger

Brenda Berger: We are proud of our decades of successful partnerships with department and specialty stores. We are experiencing growth in e-commerce, and are accelerating our global expansion. We built a brand women can always trust, uplifting their physical and emotional well-being, creating products that will deliver on quality, comfort and fit. It is now the time to not only meet them in real life, but to build a deeper connection to be with them in their journey toward a better understanding of themselves. There is nothing more intimate than the intimates category. We needed a safe space for customers to come, learn, engage without taboo or judgment. I am also convinced that when the economic environment is more challenging, this is the right time to invest, transform and differentiate your brand.

RL Pro: Can you describe the immersive and social-sharing elements of the store experience?

Berger: There is a dramatic thong wall, which features our iconic thong in all the colors and prints we are known for. The design is open and inviting. Special touches include customized display fixtures that are in the shape of the “y” from our logo and are meant to mirror the design of our thong waistband — which is our innovative design feature that we are known and loved for. 

We also wanted to bring our conscious craftsmanship to our customers. We are proud to support New York savoir-faire, and we know our customers love Hanky Panky for our superior quality and durability. We brought our colored threads from our facility in Queens, New York, and we will offer customization regularly in stores.

Lastly, we wanted to create a physical space that transforms into a space to gather, learn, lift and be lifted up.  

RL Pro: What inspired the idea of the open closet experience for the store? 

Berger: The inspiration for our first retail store is that very first moment each morning when women open their closet and choose their first layer, their underwear. That intimate moment when they decide how they want to feel all day. Emotions and senses will drive this decision. Our first store is a 600-square-foot, feminine, playful and premium open closet where everyone should feel like home in a safe space where they can let their feelings lead their experience.

RL Pro: What role will the brand’s loyalty program play in-store? 

Berger: Our loyalty program is relatively new. It was important for us to show our appreciation to all our very loyal customers. We want to continue developing it with special attention, gifts, exclusive events and, even more importantly, purpose. Our expansion is based on us always remaining true to our values, and we will integrate even more of our sustainability and philanthropy efforts into it. In-store, you can easily enroll into our loyalty program with the help of our associates or on our digital screen and earn points for every purchase.

RL Pro: Can you share some details on how the relaunched recycling program will be integrated in-store? 

Berger: We are very excited about our LingerieCycle program. Since the relaunch in April, we have been seeing great engagement. Customers do not know what to do with their old underwear. They most likely end up in the landfill. It is our mission to improve the industry’s impact. While only online for now, with a playful experience and impactful narrative, we are raising LingerieCycle’s awareness in the store through activations. For example, we had a LingerieCycle mobile unit touring the West Village during our store's grand opening. By the holidays, LingerieCycle will be available in-store every day. Customers will be able to break up with their “ex”-underwear, recycle them and earn points toward getting new ones they will love.

RL Pro: Can you expand on how your stores will bring direct contact between the brand and its community?

Berger: On top of our exclusive shopping events for our community, we will build a bridge between online and offline. For example, we will host a series of community events with speakers, ranging from female health experts to sexual wellness coaches, and stream it live online to our broader community thanks to our innovative livestreaming technology. Customers will be able to interact and ask questions without judgment either from their home or directly from our store.

RL Pro: Any info you can share yet on where future stores will be located?

Berger: We are looking into several markets based on where our customers are. California, for example, will be on top of our list.

RL Pro Rapid Round:

For this last segment, we asked Berger to fill in the blank for these rapid-fire questions below…

The future of in-store experience is: Conversational and experiential.

The best career advice you ever received: Stay scrappy and always be curious about brands and businesses outside of your field of play.

Piece of media (podcast, book, movie, etc.) that’s inspired you recently: “Coaching for Leaders Episode 585: How Top Leaders Influence Great Teamwork with Scott Keller.”