Updated: Michelle Lam, Co-founder and CEO got back to me explain why the product was delayed and when customers can expect their orders. The short explanation is that demand outstripped supply by amounts the company never anticipated. The long explanation os a good lesson for all entrepreneurs. Go read it.
Online bra retailer True&Co, which launched last week using a predictive model to help women find the perfect bra without ever visiting a store, is having trouble delivering its products. The site sent emails to people who have already ordered citing an “overwhelming response,” and promising to notify users of a delivery window.
Meanwhile, people trying to order bras on Thursday were unable to, and received an error message. As the Internet crosses over into the real world, it’s not just websites that have to be prepared for a launch, but the entire supply chain. I’ve reached out to True&Co for details, and will update with any response, but here’s what we know.
The company, which offered shoppers a five-question quiz that helped them find the perfect bra without ever having to experience a tape measure, launched on May 30 at the D Conference. I covered the launch and also ordered five bras just to see if a predictive model could do what people in a store could not. After ordering I received a flurry of emails welcoming me to the site, letting me know the online store was opening soon, and finally, one confirming my order. My credit card was charged a $45 fee as part of my order the following day.
But yesterday, after hearing nothing from the company for a week, I received the following message via email:
Since we launched last week, we’ve received an overwhelming response from all of you. We’ve been working hard to schedule a delivery window for your orders, and you will receive an email next week letting you know which delivery window you belong to.
Today, when a colleague tried to order from the site, she had her original login and password information rejected, and when she tried to request her password, it failed. After she went back to her welcome email from the launch day, she made it into the site and was able to select her bras and begin checking out. However, after she entered her credit card info, she got the following error message:
It’s unclear what the issue is holding up deliveries for True&Co. Online retailing is hard. The company sources its own bras from “boutique manufacturers,” as the founders told me in our original interview. Perhaps those manufacturers couldn’t keep up with demand. Even Apple has encountered that problem. Or maybe the bras are there, but the people to sort and pack them are not.
So far, the moral here is that it may be easy (or at least easier) to scale a business that is entirely online, and hard to scale a business that has to deal with real-world goods. But as technology continues to cross over into the mainstream and improve more mundane aspects of our lives, startups may have to take a lesson from True&Co. — if we can discover what’s holding them up.