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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Confessions of a Baby Boutique Owner- Part 2

Yes- I am taking the big leap! After 18 months of operating an online baby boutique- I have decided to take the plunge and open a "brick and mortar" boutique. Why?, you ask. For the following reasons:
1. I realized after much analyzing and careful thought that an online customer base is completely different than a actual retail store customer base. A good example is bedding. I have found (through talking to customers) that that want to see and feel bedding. Seeing it online just does not suffice unless they are familiar with the brand. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard "I saw such and such brand at a store and just loved it, but they were out of the pattern I wanted". Most customers who buy bedding from me are doing so because they have actually SEEN the bedding at a retail store. I could be wrong, but I think I will sell completely differently in a store than online.
2. This is a big one which may not be important to other online retailers, but is a big factor for me. One word- CREDIBILITY. Let's face it- a baby boutique that is online AND a brick and mortar is in a different league than just online boutiques. Suddenly the waters part and vendors are bending over backwards trying to sell to you. I do not think there is an online retailer out there who can honestly admit they have never been turned down for an account because they lacked the one essential- a brick and mortar store. I am not ashamed to admit that I have been rejected numerous times for not having a store. The most common reasoning I hear- "the online market is completely saturated". Yes, there is definitely some truth to that. I no longer set up accounts with vendors that you see in every boutique. My best selling items? Products that are unique and not found all over. It took me awhile to learn that you do not want all the popular baby boutique brands in your store. It is good to have some (especially when just starting out) to gain traffic, but eventually you will need to seek out lesser known brands. Which can be challenging- you need to find unique brands that will be of interest to your customers. There are tons of unique products out there but they are of little good if your customer is not interested.
3. I really miss human interaction. Working from home was a wonderful thing for me- especially after having my 2nd child. It allowed me to be at home with my children while financially providing to the family income. Plus all my inventory is seeping out everywhere and really needs a designated home.
I have been doing lots of research, updating my business plan and carefully considering how to make this work. I have found my location and yesterday I applied for a small business loan. Wish me luck as I begin this exciting, yet scary adventure. I will be chronicling my journey as I do this and welcome any and all advice and ideas. Stay tuned...............


Stephanie said...

Good luck Jennifer. I am so excited for you! I know the store will be fabulous. I just wish I lived closer so I could come by and shop!

maggie said...

Hi Jennifer! your merchandise is awesome! I am also a baby boutique owner as well as a wholesaler/importer. I dream every day with making this work, been in business since June, tell me how long did it take you to get REAL traffic and orders? how do you determine who to buy from? I'm having such a hard time!

Maggie, NJ

designsbynana said...

Good Luck Jen!!!!
I have started an Internet baby boutique and am wondering myself what the next step is...I love designing items, that are unique. So I do not know what awaits me this coming year...only time will tell. Love your merchandise!!!wish you luck!

Panda Park Boutique said...

Hi Jennifer,
Cute store! Have you opened your brick and mortar store yet? Have a great weekend!~Jill

Michelle said...

I opened a small children's boutique a few months ago. I carry custom handmade clothing, some shoes and have upscale consignment. I am trying to add some new clothing lines, but have had many companies turn me down because of the consignment being in my store. Can anyone give me any ideas of how I can obtain clothing at wholesale prices without buying direct from these companies, or do you know of companies that may sell to me in small quantities.
Thanks so much

Michelle K said...

Hi, I have started to import girls fashion sandals into the USA, I sell in small quantites and have opened a store on ebay. frillyjungleshoesusa . I have been selling them in my childrens boutique in Australia for the last 5-6 years, they are great sellers. I live in Louisiana with my husband and kids now and am wanting to build a customer base online. Anyone interested in Unique, Colorful, Glittery girls sandls that little girls will not want to take off their feet.
I also wanted some advice from any other business owners on how to start getting a customer base? Michelle