Give Your Community Something They Need
Mar 10, 2015 Ellen Bowers
Barbie Turner opened her store, Be The Boutique, in early 2008. When asked what she did to attract people in the beginning she laughs, “Not enough.” But obviously she’s been doing something right to still be in business nearly seven years later.
Be The Boutique stocks a curated inventory of eclectic clothing, shoes, jewelry, handbags, accessories, household items, and gifts for all ages and occasions, but especially for women and babies. Beyond fashion items that you might expect in a women’s boutique, they offer things you might not have known you wanted prior to seeing them, like specialty cocktail napkins, special-order colorful stairway carpeting, and colorful totes and pouches to take to the beach or swimming pool. They also offer edible treats like gourmet popcorn and cupcakes, supplied by another locally-owned business, Scouts Treats (named after proprietor Lisa Moyer’s great, great, great Aunt Pippa Scout).
Turner often adds something to the experience and feel of shopping at Be The Boutique, which you won’t get from the chain stores; something that makes it seem personal and cozy. It might be cookies and champagne for Valentine’s Day, or simply a photo on Facebook or Instagram showing you the cutest things which were just delivered to her shop.
Aside from the big box stores which try to carry all the basics, most of the big chain stores are brands, with their own designers producing everything in a certain style. In contrast, individual shops like Be The Boutique stock a little of this and a little of that—the cutest or brightest from a range of brands and designers, often including a few unique items from small producers and local artisans.
Turner says Be The Boutique participates in block activities (special shopping days and sales events coordinated with neighboring businesses), runs small ads in magazines and newspapers, and “does a lot of social media.” She also occasionally provides unusual offerings like her mid-February wellness event where a professional guest in her store offered customers chakra balancing and other wellness procedures, or her mid-December in-store spa service provided by a guest stylist. But her value lies mostly in being a local place for her community to shop and find fun, expressive, and unusual items that fill their needs and brighten their lives.
When running a small local business like Be The Boutique, you have to balance your purchasing between the kinds of things you know your customers already like, and spicing up your inventory with new items and styles you hope they will like. The better you know your community, shopping patterns, fashion trends, and each customer in particular, the higher your profits can be because you will have less leftover inventory that has to have its prices slashed. Sometimes you place a bet on your knowledge of clientele and surprise your customers, but sometimes you ask—like when Turner posted to her social media following the question of which shoe styles they wanted her to start carrying.
Turner says it’s important when opening a business to remember that you are not doing it for yourself, you have to offer something people need and hope the community supports you. She chose to stay in her community, rather than set up in some place like a strip mall because she wanted that community base. Members of Turner’s community really enjoy having a local boutique where they can have fun shopping and find things they love.
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