In recent years, there has been a steady decline in department store sales forcing many stores to close multiple locations. With the rise of online shopping and a consumer shift to different shopping styles, many retailers have struggled to keep their doors open.
At the same time, some smaller retailers and more specialized boutiques are seeing great success. One growing retail trend of late has been scalable boutiques – think stores like Francesca’s and Anthropologie. These are technically chain retailers, but they have a unique “boutique” feel to them that attracts consumers in mass quantities.
While older generations saw the rise of department stores and successes of retailers like J.Crew, younger generations are often looking for a different shopping experience altogether.
Boutiques offer a level of personalization that isn’t generally matched by larger retailers. From customer service to product offerings, boutiques have a way of making their guests feel special. There’s just something appealing about having someone in the store to serve as a kind of personal shopper and help pick out the perfect gift without as much pressure as you may feel in other retail stores.
They also see success because of their individuality and limited quantities of various products. Many shoppers are out to find something that no one else has – because you wouldn’t want to be caught wearing the same outfit as someone else! By only carrying a few sizes of a shirt or a few options of candles, the guest will feel like they get to express their own individuality while knowing that what they’re purchasing is unique.
Running a popular and profitable boutique may be a goal for many small business owners, but there’s even more value when you can scale your concept and turn it into a chain. In order to do this successfully, it will be important to ensure your brand image remains the same across all stores.
Your locations should carry the same products and brands, and your customer service associates should be similar across all of your locations. To offer limited quantities is actually easier once you’ve scaled, because you can purchase in bulk (which is often cheaper) and distribute the products across all of your locations.
Today, it’s nearly impossible not to have an ecommerce site if you’re a retailer. And boutiques aren’t excluded from this just because they are generally smaller operations. Your site should feature the same products as your brick and mortar locations, and the overall website should convey the same atmosphere a guest would experience in store.
Your ecommerce site doesn’t need to be overly sophisticated but should exist to reach your consumers who aren’t near one of your locations, to allow in-store shoppers to purchase something their nearest location is out of, and to reach new consumers. With social sites like Pinterest and Instagram, there’s a good chance your products could be seen across the internet and you’ll want to make sure everyone is able to easily purchase from you.