True&Co’s models never predicted it would be this popular

Earlier today I wrote about online bra retailer True&Co delaying delivery of its products to customers, and wondered if a supply chain issue was at fault. It turns out that the supply chain was an issue, but only because the demand for the service outstripped what True&Co thought would be a full year’s supply of inventory.

That’s right: the company went through what it thought would be a year’s supply of inventory, plus all of its contingent inventory, during its launch last Wednesday, according to co-founder and CEO Michelle Lam. She explained that the demand, which was in “six-digit numbers,” was so high that it surpassed the founders’ most ambitious plan, and even the contingency supplies they had arranged with their suppliers. It’s the kind of flubbed launch that many entrepreneur would kill for.

The net result is that customers who ordered during the launch will face delays that could range from a little as a few weeks all the way to mid-July for a small portion of customers. “We want to make sure we ship the boxes that are right for each customer and are taking the extra time to do that,” Lam said. “How long depends on [bra] size. Certain suppliers that are completely out have to go back to manufacturers in Asia to get the product, but for most sizes we will get over the bulge in the snake over the next couple of weeks. For others it will take until mid-July.” She said the company will inform customers of their delivery window by early next week..

Aside from hitting a clear demand for an easier way to buy bras — True&Co’s service offers women the chance to answer a few questions and its predictive models then select the “perfect” bras so women never have to go into a store — Lam said she’s learned a lot about communicating with customers. She admits that waiting almost a week before telling customers about their order status was probably a mistake, but says they did it because they wanted to be able to tell customers exactly when they could expect their orders and were waiting to figure out that information. “We were being super careful, and buttoned up,” Lam said. “We didn’t want to budge once we said that we would deliver, but that did leave our customers in the dark.”

And part of the time spent figuring out delivery windows is making sure the orders are processed correctly and the company delivers the right bras that do fit the customer, Lam said. “This [a huge launch] is not success,” she said. “Success is when the customer loves her bras and she never has to go into a store again.”

As for the problems my colleague reported accessing the site this morning, Lam says that may have been an unlucky coincidence. She said the company had been waiting to push out new code for the site until demand had subsided a bit, and this morning was when they were doing so. In short, like many an entrepreneur before her, Lam experienced the perils of success, an unlucky coincidence and learned a harsh lesson about communicating with customers in about a week.