Wood's of Morecambe - Crown jewels of underwear
Did you know the Queen Mum's underwear came from Morecambe? Stephanie Bartup goes to Wood's of Morecambe to investigate<br/>PHOTOGRAPHY BY KIRSTY THOMPSON
THERE are some things you just don't mention in polite society, and the Queen Mum's undies probably come near the top of the list. But, at the risk of being sent to the Tower, I can't resist revealing that the our late,great favourite royal bought her vests from a lingerie business in Morecambe.We always knew she was a sensible lady.
'To say we supplied to her is our proudest claim,' says Nick Race, managing director of Woods of Morecambe. 'Her favourite items were the John Smedley woollen vests.' The British-made vests, bought by mail order by her lady-in-waiting, are available in Merino wool and Jesmeda cotton - perfect for life in a draughty palace. So good, in fact, they were used on an Everest expedition.
While such traditional items will keep out the cold, are they good enough to resist the icy blast of recession? Well, so it seems judging by the legion of fans who buy from Woods.
'We're actually seeing a continued rise in profit - we had a 30 per cent growth last year,' he says. 'I think it's because lingerie is one of those items that ladies need, which makes them feel good about themselves and makes them look good, too.'
Wood of Morecambe is a family business which has been trading in the town since the end of the First World War. For over 30 years, it has been in the Race family and Nick believes that their seafront location has been crucial to their success.
'We moved to the promenade about ten years ago, having been on Queen Street previously.We're now in a position in the town that is more visible,and our relocation was timely as the nearby statue of Eric Morecambe was unveiled around the same time.'
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Years of popularity with locals and tourists has allowed Woods to take the underwear industry by storm - they now offer mail order catalogues, personal fitting in store and have developed a website,Woods-Online.
'The website was introduced in 2000, after I went cap in hand to my dad for �3,000 to build it. Now the online side of the business accounts for around 30 per cent of sales, and we expect this to increase. We're now working on introducing video instructions to help ladies measure themselves at home.'
In store, once popular corsetry is being swiftly replaced by more modern 'shapewear', and Nick makes sure he keeps up with the trends by stocking all the popular brand names. But not before they've been tried out first.
'Our most popular lines tend to be brands such as Fantasie, Triumph and Vanity Fair. But we only stock styles that we know fit well, and they are all tested before we decide to carry on stocking them.'
Nick, who has been managing director for five years since his father retired, has also made sure he and his team support many underwear-inspired fundraisers. 'One campaign that we're involved withis our Big Bra Amnesty, which will see thousands of bras being donated by the ladies of Lancashire for distribution to women in developing countries where they are desperately needed.'
And Nick has made sure that the shop is hard to miss if you're strolling down the promenade. 'We've just got a huge new sign displayed across the corner which says 'The Bra Shop'. It does exactly what it says on the tin!