A harsh reality that is weighing on so many small to large business owners in the apparel industry is the necessity to close the doors to their brick-and-mortar stores. How have we come to this and is it really a bad sign? We are not financial analysts by any means, but as an apparel wholesale vendor to brick-and-mortar retail we have definitely felt the desperation and massive change that is occurring in the retail market, especially the fashion one. With articles from the NY Post titled "Retailers are closing faster than you think" and another one from CNN Money in February, 2016 stating that " Store closings are the hottest trend in retail"- these headlines have to cause every single brick-and-mortar retail owner some level of anxiety and panic.
When we released our 11:11 Convertible Jacket a few months ago, part of our sales and promotional strategy was always to introduce it to existing and potential new retailers. We went for a simple email introduction and within a month were hit with the most "I will be closing the doors to my store" replies we've ever gotten. Small retail stores that appeared to be doing OK at the beginning of 2015, have made a complete 180 towards closure. So we now have to ask why? Can we fix it?
Just like any other industry there are co-dependable circumstances that build and advance a business, so there isn't a single key factor that has led to this mass closing- It is rather a combination of outside and inside elements that have clashed or come together to create the reality we are faced with now. We've decided to put together some logical (in some cases, opinion-based) explanations to why brick-and-mortar fashion stores are closing at such a fast rate, and why is it happening at this point in time.
Amazon: Plain and Simple.
Amazon is aggressively taking over every industry with its efficient eCommerce platform having a massive affect on the fashion industry. First and foremost, Amazon has expanded it's fashion department on a large scale creating an easy-to-browse, next-day-shipping platform that is difficult to compete against. Customers simply like the ability to shop from the comfort of their home. This is a time when eCommerce is completely focused on consumer-satisfaction and makes it extremely easy for the customer in question to not only browse the product easily but also receive it the next day with the click of a button. Amazon has also introduced video to it's fashion section, which gives Amazon vendors the ability to display the actual movement and fit of an apparel product. To compete against all the effective options Amazon offers is a massive undertaking for brick-and-mortar stores. Needless to say there is also the issue of price...
High Rental/Maintenance and Made In the USA Costs
Owning a brick-and-mortar store does not require just an initial high monetary investment- there are continuous business maintenance costs including fixed costs like rent, electricity, store maintenance and major initial investments when bringing in new products every season. These costs often reflect the final retail price of the product. Think about this: If you shop for a specific product at a store in New York City, chances are you will be paying about 20% less for the same product at a store in North Carolina. The real estate and maintenance costs in NYC are simply much higher then in NC and store owners have to make a profit margin to pay their employees and keep the business open, which can eventually reflect in the final retail price. Case in point: the closing of Scoop NYC, a darling of women's high-end contemporary apparel in New York City. Along with other stores like Intermix, Big Drop and Kitson, they closed all of their locations stating high rental and maintenance costs. Even with their unique assortment of new designers, they couldn't compete with lower price points and maintain high costs of daily operations. The real problem is that, the consumer has gotten very tech savvy about finding a bargain. They could be looking at a product they're really interested in your store and ordering it on their phone in real time from a cheaper-priced online source. And guess what? The online source does not require high rental and physical maintenance costs so they are able to offer that product at a cheaper retail price.
The other cost issue we've been seeing recently is the wholesale prices that come with a Made in America tag attached. If you own a smaller store, you probably can't order high quantities of products especially if you don't know how well it will do with your customers. Your best option is to work with smaller brands that produce lower quantities and don't ask for high minimums. The problem is that low minimums for a wholesale vendor based in the US is that : 1. Their overhead cost for manufacturing is very high and 2. Because, they produce lower quantities, they have to manufacture in the US (since producing oversees requires a minimum of 1000s of pieces per size). The store owner is faced with no other option but to carry a higher priced product in order to maintain quality and uniqueness, and compete with other stores in the area. Taking all of this in consideration, a lot of brick-and-mortar locations simply don't stand a chance when it comes to the competition they face online and the customer's constant need for bargains.
The Need For Fast Fashion And Bargains
It all comes down to the customer and what he/she needs. What customers need in this fast-paced, tech-age is for fashion companies to move at an extraordinarily fast pace to meet their needs. The stores that can run fast, offering fast turn around and low prices are usually surviving the race. The stores that fall behind are forced to close their doors. It's just the reality we live in now. Fashion consumers do not look to splurge on high-priced, timeless pieces but rather constantly update their wardrobe at the speed of light with trendy, low-priced items. In an age where trends change at a fast rate, the costumer is keeping up in a smart way, understanding that lower prices will allow them to replenish their closet faster and always stay in trend. However, even some of the largest retailers like JC Penny, Sears and Macy's can't keep up, being forced to close dozens of low-performing locations across the US. That might make some smaller store owners feel better, but it certainly doesn't fix the huge up-hill battle they face.
eCommerce Has Evolved Into a Brick-And-Mortar Eating Monster
eCommerce has really changed in the past few years and we're not talking just Amazon. Apparel department stores and even smaller clothing brands have come up with creative ways to get their products into customers' hands. Companies like Wantable and Stitch Fix have made shopping for clothing online less risky and a lot more personable by offering personalized clothing boxes allowing customers to only buy what they want once they receive it and try the options in the privacy of their own home. Online shoppers are no longer just settling for high resolution pictures- They love to see video capturing fit and movement before they take out their credit cards. A website that does this well is Joyus.com which not only displays its apparel products through video, but also discusses these styles in detail. eCommerce has become so personalized, it's beginning to feel like we have a store right in our living room. Why would we need to get in the car and drive a distance to look at a limited selection of items when the entire apparel industry is just a click away? It truly is bitter-sweet but unfortunately, it is what we are moving towards...
So what will physically happen to brick-and-mortar stores in the next decade? A reasonable prediction is that these spaces will still be valuable but will not serve the same purpose. They will be heavily blended with eCommerce and will most likely turn into large dressing rooms and warehouses where customers could make returns/exchanges or try on items they found online.
The fashion industry, just like any industry, is attempting to merge with technology at a fast rate. This combination has to be extremely functional, subtle and be something the consumer would potentially need in his/her daily life- that is simply what good design is all about, right?
The most common commingling of fashion and technology we've seen in recent years is various methods for charging your electronic devices, such as your tablet, smartphone, gaming systems directly from your clothing, without the extra need to carry cables or portable chargers with you. How do you do that? Using solar panels. Sounds like a great idea right? So why doesn't every jacket, dress and blouse have this useful technology installed already and why haven't we seen these items invade the market yet? The answer to this complex design problem is simple, and we'll go into some detail explaining why we think so bellow:
1. It Is Expensive
It really comes down to the price point. When you weigh the dollar amount to the need for the product it becomes not-worth-it to the consumer. In other words, as much as I like the concept, why would I spend over $500 for a regular clothing item that charges my phone when I can get a portable charger for $8 at the drug store. Yes, it will take some extra effort on my part to charge the device but it is a smarter purchase when you think about the odds of your phone loosing battery. In addition, there is huge competition with Apple's Iphone and other devices that have already introduced a Battery Save mode which works pretty well in maintaining your smartphone's battery throughout the day, minimizing the need for outside charging devices- and, it's technically free!
There is definitely a pricing issue with technology infused apparel and it is not the product designer's fault either- It's nobody's fault really. the problem is that we can't get discreet, solar panels at a reasonable wholesale cost yet, and the manufacturing cost of these clothing items is through the roof. By the time it gets to the consumer, the cost has tripled and many people cannot afford the luxury of purchasing an item as such.
2. It is not aesthetically and functionally easy to wear yet
If we're going to spend a lot on techno-apparel we want it to offer top-notch comfort and make us "look good" for lack of a better term. The fact that clothing should increase our confidence and be flattering will always be a reality as long as we remain human. This factor has proven to be true throughout history, it is today, and will be for as long as we wear clothing. The issue with solar panel clothing at the moment is that the need for larger panels creates a bulky, almost overly-futuristic look the average consumer is not yet comfortable wearing. We simply don't have the right developments to incorporate solar panel technology into apparel in a discreet, extremely functional way. For example, if we had access to a small chip technology that used solar energy to build enough power for charging our devices fully, and this chip technology would come at a reasonable cost, we would most likely see this used very often across the market. We are simply not there yet. Instead, we have to settle for the use of a larger solar panel surface in order to achieve full charge. As a result, we have to settle for heavier, bulkier, and less comfortable clothing.
3. Other industries can offer a more affordable, reachable solution
We mentioned the Battery Save mode on your smartphone as a solution for fixing the battery problem. This comes at an all-inclusive cost to the smartphone user, and in fact, works pretty well. There are also simple solar charging tablet and smartphone cases that also come at a reasonable cost and can actually get rid of the need to ever charge your phone by cable. Unfortunately for the solar apparel industry, the probability that these will be the norm for charging our devices in the near future is very high- the clothing industry simply cannot compete. It is very likely that unless tech science comes up with a very subtle but powerful solar charging method that can be incorporated into apparel at a low cost, the idea of charging your devices with your clothing is slowly going to be overtaken by other industries. That is not to say that the apparel industry can't bounce back with advancements in product design and customer satisfaction. In fact, the clothing industry can simplify and solve problems in the consumer's life by more mechanical means. For example, a good convertible clothing item that is comfortable and wearable can sometimes be a simple answer to a complex problem. Every industry has its own strengths and weakness, but the apparel industry will always have an upper hand in the art of textile use.
It is truly a challenge to maintain a good steady flow of income when you first open your clothing boutique. You've worked really hard on your vision and invested a good chunk of money in your dream, but getting lots of customers to walk through that door is easier said than done. Of course, location is everything, especially for a clothing boutique. Naturally, if your store is in an area with lots of foot traffic and locals love to shop at smaller specialized stores, you're in luck! You wont have to invest too much time in outside marketing, although you should always attempt to build a strong brand even with a good location. On the other hand, if your store is located in a town where boutique shopping is not a common practice and huge department stores take the lead, it will take a little while to get a following. Even with all your marketing efforts, you have to be very patient because they wont pay off right away. Sometimes it can take up to 3-5 years to really become established and build a strong, regular clientele.
We've put together a few ideas of some extra marketing steps (that will cost you little to no money) you could take to further advertise your store and increase word of mouth in your area.
1. Build google places and yelp profiles right away and encourage the customers that had a good shopping experience to write a good review for your store. As an extra thank you, you can do a free giveaway or offer a discount for the customers that write a review. Remember of course that the review should be genuine, so if you feel that one of your customers has truly had a pleasant experience in your store and found exactly what they were looking for, kindly mention how much a review would mean for a small, local business like yours. People love supporting small businesses in the community and they will most likely support your request. Google places is important for your online local listings. When someone searches for "clothing boutiques" or "gift shops" in your area, your store should be one of the names that pops up. It is no secret that customers are relying more heavily on the internet and you should use it to your advantage.
2. The Products you carry should be part of your marketing and advertising strategy.
You should think of every decision you make in your business as directly or indirectly affecting your store's reputation and advertising. We're not just talking about exceptional customer service but also the products you carry. You wont know what works well at the beginning so you should try different apparel styles, accessories, a good mix of gift products and see how your customers react. However, don't forget to stay organized and create a pleasant environment for every person that walks in. So where does the advertising come in? Well, once you find the brands or products that fit best with your customer base (you'll know what it is because they will buy it), about 60-70% of your inventory should be a similar assortment to what is proven to sell best: this will be the bread-and-butter of your boutique. The other 40-30% should be very unique products from new designers or experimental, innovative brands that will add a sense of discovery to your store (try the 11:11 Convertible Jacket, a jacket that transform into a bag). You should also replenish your assortment often so that people simply don't get bored. It is these innovative products that will keep your clients coming back to see more. Be consistent in adding new, unique products monthly. It will take some time, but eventually you will benefit from the positive word-of-mouth swarming around in your area. Your products and daily operations can eventually become a free form of marketing and advertising if you're passionate about your products and play your cards right.
3. Come up with a unique free gift or gadget that has your store logo and info on it and give it away for free at the register. Yes, this will take a bit of time and financial investment on your part but people love free stuff! We're not talking about giving away just anything... the trick here is a small, inexpensive object that could serve some sort of daily purpose for all customers. Surely you've seen many new restaurants already use this concept by giving away either branded match boxes or branded small bottle openers- whatever it is, customers wont throw it away and will always remember the business. Retail stores haven't been too keen on this idea but it actually is a goldmine for marketing over time. We suggest you start doing some research on what your giveaway product would be? Think of something small but useful that you can put your store logo and information on. Perhaps its a little stand for a smartphone, a small game, or maybe a unique wine cap... Do some research and see what you can find at a reasonable price (don't forget to buy these items wholesale in bulk). Once you've chosen your giveaway product, do some research on a local digital service that could get your info printed on every one of the items. Kindly, offer them to your customers once they have completed their purchase at the register. Not only will this help them remember your store, it is also a great way to add a personal touch to the conversation.
4. Team up with other businesses in your area and host an event at your store. In the small business world, small business owners should stick together. You should always be open to building a strong relationship with the small stores in your area, even if they sell a completely different product. You should also build a relationship with your local schools, yoga studios, gyms etc. Why? Because chances are, the customer that shops for clothing and accessories at your store is probably a regular at your local gym and buying food at the organic shop next door. If they have been in business longer than you have, they probably have a larger following. You should team up with the businesses in your community and brainstorm some mutually beneficial events you can host at your establishment merging the two industries you both cater to. For example, you can team up with the wine store across the street to host a wine tasting and fashion event at your store- offer a small discount for all new customers! Everyone will love the free wine and you'll get many new faces browsing your shelves at the same time. This of course takes some planning and dedication on your part. The first event is always the most nerve-raking but we promise, it will pay off in the long run by increasing your presence in the community.
It doesn't matter whether you own a small clothing boutique or a big department store, you should always be on the look out for something unique to offer your customers. It is true that often times in the clothing industry, it is difficult to find something that really stands out at a good price point. Clothing manufacturers are always attempting to reach the masses by focusing on more trendy, fast fashion markets while the indie brands offer innovative products that, due to manufacturing costs and low production minimums, are very expensive. So does a savvy store/boutique buyer like you do? Get a little creative. We understand the challenge of maintaining low costs while still offering top notch quality and innovation in the apparel industry. Although you already have your go-to brands that you know work with your customer-base, it is highly recommended that you bring in a new product(s) or a new brand(s) at least once a season. This not only adds freshens to your assortment, but it keeps the regular customer coming back to replenish your closet. If bringing in a new clothing line is too expensive because of their minimums or you simply can't afford the risk or don't have the space, we recommend bringing in one or two innovative products that will truly stand out (do this especially around the holiday season!). To make it just a bit easier for you, we've put together a list of 6 products you should consider carrying in your gift/clothing store or boutique this year!
The glow in the dark dress
Although this is a product for a younger audience, there is no reason why you shouldn't be able to sell them in a store that caters to the more mature woman- The key is to focus on the garment's quality and its style. Here's the thing, every woman attend events or goes out every now and then and needs a fun cocktail dress in her closet. This dress just takes it to the next level and if you're the girl that loves some (positive) attention, this is a must for you. The cool thing about this product is it can work both as a cocktail/night dress because of it's ability to come to life at night, as well as a more casual work dress (it only glows in the dark!) making it so easy to transition from day to night. It is fun and stands out, reminding us a bit of the technological influence taking over the fashion industry in the upcoming years. Anything that makes us literally glow is a winner for us!
The Garter Pocket
The Garter Pocket is perfect for the girl that isn't a huge fan of carrying her purse everywhere, especially when out grabbing a drink with friends (or out dancing!). It works with skirts and dresses and is subtle and sleek. This, logically, is not a product that you can use with pants. However, it's not something that you need when wearing pants anyways because most pants have pockets, where as dresses, not so much. It is also a product geared for the younger customer that enjoys going out and is smartphone-inseparable. If you're looking for something fun to offer your customers that wont break the bank yet make a good addition to any gift, we recommend this simple yet effective item.
The 11:11 Jacket: A jacket that transforms into a bag
One of our proud inventions, the 11:11 Jacket gives you the ability to transform your jacket into a fully functional bag during transitional weather. It is probably unlike any other convertible garment because it maintains its authentic look and function whether it's in bag or jacket form. The design is subtle yet its function is extremely effective. Unlike many other convertible clothing items on the market, the jacket is neither bulky nor too heavy, maintaining a traditional look with a revolutionary function. The transition steps are intuitive making it an easy product to sell to the masses. In a world where new convertible garments retail at over $400, the 11:11 Convertible Jacket is less than half that price!
These come from a company called SlapSee and it's a huge favorite of ours. It is not a secret we, at Doina Alexei, love functional design that is done well, and these awesome glasses fit the category perfectly. If you stop to think about all the instances we wear sun glasses and need to briefly take them off when we enter a building or the clouds move in temporarily, you will feel the need to own a pair. They transform from sunglasses to wrist band in just a couple of simple steps and come in both women's and men's styles. The secret is in the sprung steel arm of the sunglasses that literaly clips to your head and wont fall off- sheer perfection for any sporting activity. These flexible steel arms can then be claped to just about anything from hangers to bike bars to ankles and beyond. This is garanteed to be a well sought-after product in your gift or accessories boutique. Its highly funtional, universal nature will keep your customers coming back for more. Additional good news? They are affordable! Check them out at SlapSee
Yoga Work Pants
A must for every working woman. These are comfortable yet extremely flattering on any body-type and the good news is you can't tell they are made of the most deliciously stretchy and comfy knit fabric. Our winner when it comes to both quality and design is Betbrand- offering a collection of yoga work pants that will have everyone at the office fooled (in a good way!). The reason why we love Betbrand's work pants so much is first and foremost the attention to detail in their design process: They feature belt loops, a substantial waistband with a center button on the front, decorative faux welt pockets on the back and a v-shaped addition on the sides for added comfort and structure. They are the perfect imitation of work pants but because of the high content of spandex, they feel and stretch exactly like your favorite yoga pants.
The Flip Belt
This clever idea is a replacement for the traditional jogging/running arm-bands and pockets. It is a simple idea that has taken the active wear industry by storm with hundreds of retailers in the US in a short period of time. The Flip Belt is a stretchy and very durable tube-form belt that houses anything from your phone to keys, ID and wallet while keeping everything from moving around thus maintaining comfort. The construction and fabrication eliminates discomfort and chafing during physical activity, earning this product high points in our book. If you own an accessories, apparel and especially active wear store give this product a try- your customers will love it! Check it out Here
We often, if not always, find ourselves overwhelmed by our daily responsibilities. We carry so much stress and emotional weight with us each day, that unknowingly we hinder our success and ability to live a happy life. The saying "these mountains you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb" is true for every single one of us. Why do we allow our negative thinking to take full control of every aspect of our lives, and why is it so difficult to let go of it? Yes, we each experience heartache, financial stress and social pressures, but how do we stop them from completely taking over? The key to happiness is acceptance and living in the "now", but putting this plan into action is much more difficult than it sounds. It is human nature to be lost in thought and it is not easy to escape when everywhere you turn you are confronted by the hectic realities of life. That is not to say that true happiness is impossible to attain- start your journey to an emotional cleanse by simply taking a few days off and spending them in nature, far away from the sounds of the bustling city. Here are three things that you'll learn at the hands of mother nature:
There is something so much more powerful than what we are.
Do you ever think about how small we actually are? Think about the Universe and the size of our planet in relation to it- In the big spectrum of things we are quite unimportant, aren't we? That means that all our problems and especially our habit of blowing them out of proportion are also not as important after all. The lesson here is to look at the bigger picture, the vastness that surrounds us and teaches us that the problems that eat at us every day are negligible in size and meaning when compared to the infinite space around us.
There is a more meaningful (and powerful) life outside of work and responsibilities.
The truth is, if you don't allow yourself to have a life outside of work and your daily responsibilities, be it with your thinking patterns or physically, you get burnt out quite quickly and end up hurting both your health and your ability to ultimately maintain a quality work flow. When you retreat into nature it allows you to escape and recharge- after all, we are a product of nature and it is nature itself that can give us the energy that is the best for our mental and physical health. When you're surrounded by fresh air and the powerful sound of other living things around you, you realize that taking a moment to just breath and re-center will allow you to re-charge and see things clearer.
You can simplify your life.
Spending a few days in nature will prove that the simplest things in life are actually the most powerful. We spend probably about 80% of our lives worrying and thinking about things that, in reality, don't matter in the end. There is a great saying: "If it won't matter in 5 years, don't spend longer than 5 minutes worrying about it" - Unfortunately, the opposite is true for how we normally live our lives. When you observe the patterns of nature, you come to realize that all other living things grow and change along with their natural environment. Plants and animals adjust to weather patterns, and learn how to go with the flow. It is us humans that try to control nature (which is impossible to do by the way), to transform it into something that could benefit our material gain or simply disregard it. When you spent some time in the massive presence of a purely natural environment, you realize that it's unlimited power has the ability to overwhelm you in the best kind of way.
Take a deep breath, stop worrying, and plan a few days in nature- it is the most affordable yet best investment in your well-being!
We are now in the age of innovation- We are pushing the limits of technology and everyday you hear of a product or innovation you didn't even think could be possible. Every industry is now merging with some aspect of technology. Manufactures and designers are attempting to find ways to facilitate the consumer's life and get the most use out of every new product. Of course, the fashion industry is just as much affected by this massive surge in technology and smaller apparel companies along with bigger corporations are adopting a technological approach when designing for the future.
We've seen many apparel brands attempt convertible clothing, but there are a few reasons why we still don't see them on the shelves of big department stores: Curious to find out why? From the experience of designing and manufacturing our own convertible jacket to bag, the 11:11 Jacket, we'll tell you a little about the challenges convertible clothing faces both in the design and manufacturing process and in the final stages of distribution and customer satisfaction.
A good convertible garment starts with one important factor: The idea can be grand but the way it operates has to be extremely simple. It has to look and feel like what the consumer is already comfortable with. The hardware and elements used to make the conversion have to be simple and subtle as to not completely intimidate the consumer. It is here where many designers go wrong- they think in terms of their unlimited imagination and too much into the future. The final product then becomes something that we love to look at but we have a hard time using or wearing. Unfortunately, we can't look that far into the future, we have to lower the radius a little and take it step by step until more is revealed to us.
Along with too much ambition comes the need to make things as complex as possible- A dress that turns into 20 different styles is a great idea in theory but when it comes to the use of it, it becomes too complicated for the user. It is also something that is not easy to sell in retail. If, as the designer, you are the only one that can easily convert it to all the different styles and your potential retail partners can't, you will have a very difficult time getting this item into stores. Again, simplicity is key- every single person that gets their hands on your product should be able to easily use it to it's fullest potential. It is much better to have maybe 1 or 2 simple-to-use but effective conversions then a dozen options that are confusing to attain. We'll use the 11:11 Jacket as an example: It has only two conversions but both function well, are easy to transition, and look and feel authentic whether in bag or jacket form.
Another aspect of designing good convertible clothing is the use of trims and hardware. Not enough attention is paid to minimizing bulk and weight. If you're using hardware designed for heavy duty luggage for example, it might weigh down your clothing item and turn the consumer away from using it. When designing convertible apparel one should stick to hardware that is limited to the apparel industry- stay away from heavy duty trims and add only the necessary- Simplicity remember? Same goes for the use of too many large pockets that add bulk. We get it, you're trying to increase functionality but you are risking adding too much bulk and ruin the wearability and aesthetics of a clothing item (especially in women's wear). Your potential customer might shy away from wearing something with too many pockets and additions that jeopardize the flattering aspect of a garment. After all, clothing should make us feel confident, beautiful and maintain a constant level of ease and comfort.
Ah.. We've finally come to the most important- the bottom line. Cost is an important key factor for why we still don't see many convertible garments getting mass distribution. A retailer can admire your item for its innovative spirit and interesting design, but if its retail price falls between $350-900, it will be very difficult to sell a significant quantity of it. It is also a higher initial investment on the part of the store, which makes it a more risky product. That being said, it is very expensive to manufacture something that is complex. If your item requires many elements that must be pieced together in a complicated way, the cost will be through the roof especially if it's made in the USA. Striking the right balance of functionality and simplicity will maintain a lower cost and make your product more reachable by the masses, which is every company's goal when launching a product.
Learn more about the convertible jacket-to-bag
If you own a store or boutique, the right setting and decoration is essential for establishing your brand. Setting up your store to be easy to browse is just as important as creating a unique visual experience for your customers. The decorating items and furniture you bring in plays an important factor in making your store memorable to the consumer and attracting them back into the store. Often times, if you have a really tasteful, unique setup, your customers will feel tempted to bring friends and family with them on their next visit which means building more clientele for you!
If you have a great eye for curating products but are struggling a bit in the interior design department, we've put together a comprehensive list of basic ideas that will get you on your way to creating the perfect (and most individual) setting for your store or boutique.
1. Use Unique Lighting Fixtures and Installations:
This is a huge part of what will give your store it's ambiance. You will first want to decide the lighting mood that fits best with your store: does it feature dimmer lighting or is it a bright open space? It all has to do with the kind of products you're selling and what fits best with your brand. Once that's decided, it's time to shop around for unique lighting fixtures or installation. Many stores make this the focal point of their space, which means it really has to stand out. Find the perfect spot in your store where it will stand out as the customer enters the store. Choose somewhere central if its a single large chandelier, and above the register or display racks if you're opting out for multiple fixtures. At the end of the day, you decide what works best for your space- it should make a statement without becoming overwhelming.
2. Find a Unique Way To Display Your Products.
At the end of the day, the focal point of your store is the products you carry and you should pay special attention to how they fit into your space. Think of your products as the most important objects in your store- they need to be enhanced by your decor but not overwhelmed by it. Your furniture and decorations should be in the foreground and there just to set the right mood- the eye should go straight to the merchandise. That being said, they should be displayed in a clever way. You could go in two directions here: Stay clean and minimalist or do something completely unexpected and imaginative. There's some really interesting racks and shelving you could find on the market, but also don't shy away from building something yourself.
3. Use The Walls As Your Canvas
Don't neglect the walls in your store. They make a great canvas for adding something unique especially when you are limited on space and can't use any large installations or furniture. If your store is a little tight, you can use the walls to create an illusion of space while simultaneously adding character to your decor. Even if you own a larger space, having empty walls can sometimes create a cold and void atmosphere. Interestingly, painting the walls or adding unique patterns softens up the setting making it feel more comfortable and homey. The trick however is not to go overboard. You should be doing this as a last step after you've already added your furniture and light fixtures- look around the store and see what area feel a little empty. You can then use the wall in the immediate area to add something that will go well with the rest of your decor. If you have a small separating wall in your store you should make it pop with some interesting prints or paint it a completely different color.
4. Make it feel like home:
Your store or boutique should be inviting and make your customers want to stay longer. When the ambiance in your store feels relaxing and refreshing, people will want to come back just to experience that feeling again. Of course, this atmosphere is created by a combination of factors like music, smell, colors etc but you can always step it up a notch by bringing in some furniture and elements that will remind your customers of home. For example, if you own a clothing or accessories store, a beautiful wall installation that resembles a dresser with multiple mirrors can remind your customers of their own bedroom where they feel comfortable to try things on and play with different styles. It is also highly recommended that you bring in a unique seating arrangement- maybe there is a beautiful love seat or a printed chair that fits in perfectly with the theme of your store, or perhaps you saw some beautiful large ottomans that will make a corner of your store feel like home. Whichever one it is, a small (not too big) seating area that is incorporated beautifully with the rest of the decor will feel inviting and remind everyone of home (including the employees).
5. Use The Merchandise As Part Of The Decoration.
Give customers the allusion of what the product will look like once they take it home. Incorporating your products with the furniture and set up of your store creates a deeper connection between consumer and product. It allows your customers to visually imagine that product in their own home and how they could potentially use it. This of course is most commonly used in furniture and home decor stores but there's no reason why you shouldn't be using the same idea whether you have a clothing boutique or a gift shop. Display your accessories and jewelry on a dresser-like structure with a mirror, or fold t-shirts and sweaters on a shelf as someone would at home. Variety in how you display your products and the interaction between them will create a beautiful space that your customer can relate to. If you have a gift shop create a few small displays using some of your products: Perhaps you sell books and some kitchen wear- throw a few books on a small writing table with a beautiful tea cup next to them. This will create a story which will connect your customers to the products in a more personal way.
6. Don't Neglect The Register Area
So after a good amount of browsing through your beautifully decorated store, it is time to check out at the register- This is your opportunity to leave a lasting impression. As well as a friendly staff, you should invest in a custom register counter that fits in with your store's theme. You don't need to go overboard, but you definitely want it to incorporate nicely. The register should be extremely easy to find and have enough space around it to give your customers the ability to build a comfortable (and not confusing) line should they need to. The way to make the register space more inviting is either by having a beautiful light fixture hovering over or displaying an interesting statement piece on the wall right behind. Whichever option you pick remember to always keep the area inviting, open and visually pleasing.
Looking for more unique finds? Check out the 11:11 Convertible Jacket- a jacket that transforms into a bag.
Wouldn't it be awesome if you didn't have to worry about bringing a jacket or a cardigan when you go out somewhere because your purse can warm you up? It sounds like a crazy idea but we are entering an era when products are no longer serving just one purpose. People want to get the most use out of what they buy and kudos to them- You should always invest in something timeless that serves more than just one purpose. In the fashion industry specifically, innovations are now introduced every season that merge our lives with technology, offer us new fabrics that are easy to pack and carry, garments that are completely waterproof, and gadgets that are easily integrated with our daily wear. Convertible clothing is still a new idea, but as we explore our busy lifestyles there is a real need for it. We've considered the 11:11 Convertible Jacket and an exploration into it's multi-purpose use as a convertible garment. Is a convertible garment something we need or simply something we want? Currently, convertible clothing is something we want as a fun, additional item in our closet. In the future however, it will be something we need in order to keep up with advancements in other industries like technology and science. There will be a true merge of industries where you, the consumer, will be the focal point.
So without further ado, we give you 5 situations when your 11:11 convertible jacket will make your life a little easier (and perhaps more fun!)
1. Wear it when you're out shopping:
It is no secret that women love shopping. Yes, even those that are not the biggest shoppers sometimes get an urge to replenish their wardrobe or home. Picture this: You planned a full day of shopping. You leave your house pretty early in the morning since you have to make some pit stops along the way. It is a little chilly in the morning so you grab a jacket. Your first hour or two goes great until the sun decides to make an appearance and kicks up the temperature about 15 degrees. You have your shopping bags, your purse and now you have to carry your jacket also (while sweating up a storm). You parked your car pretty far, or if you live in a big city, you took some form of public transportation there. So what do you do? Well, it's really not a big deal right? You just carry everything and get used to it- I mean women have been doing it for years. Because we are so accustomed to it, it seems like just a minor inconvenience. Here is a perfect moment when a convertible garment could step in and make our lives just a little bit more comfortable. The 11:11 convertible jacket can be transformed into a fully functional, durable and roomy bag so it gives you the convenience of carrying your shopping bags, purse and jacket on your shoulder. Problem (or should we say inconvenience?) solved.
2. Wear it when you go out to dinner, a movie or a party.
Ok, so you know when you're looking really cute: You have your favorite little dress on, cute shoes and you're not willing to ruin the look with a cardigan. You risk it and you go out on the town only to come out of dinner or the party feeling like summer turned into winter within a few hours and that cardigan you ignored earlier seems like a missed opportunity now. Here's another inconvenience right? We deal with it all the time, so we already know we should just run to the car as fast as we can and it will all be over soon. So we suffer and endure the circumstances because again, we're used to it. It is just another situation in our hectic lives where a little bit of comfort could go a long way. The 11:11 jacket would be a life-saver not only in those grueling moments of cold but also when you get to the car and have to wait even longer until the heat sets in. A convertible shoulder bag that looks and feels like a regular purse is easy to wear with something that is dressed up and you wont have the inconvenience of carrying a jacket on your arm as you're mingling and having a few drinks.
3. Bring it with your when you're traveling.
If you're traveling to a new place, the weather always catches you off guard even if you've looked it up multiple times before arrival. We never really adjust to a new place until we've spent a little time there, and when it comes to a different weather cycle, there is an especially long adjustment period. You're feeling warm one moment and cold the next but you have all these things planned: from sightseeing to shopping to taking in a show. Perhaps you're there for work, in which case, you'll have to run to that meeting or conference soon and you're already carrying too many things to bother with bringing layering pieces to take on and off through altering temperatures during the day. Well here it is- another inconvenience, and again, we're too used to it to bother us. Needless to say however- it is not what we would define as comfortable. With a convertible jacket to bag (like the 11:11 Jacket) you can make the switch really easy whether you're feeling hot or cold, being also able to carry some of your extra shopping that wont otherwise fit in your purse.
4. Wear it to work.
We always bring extra things with us when we go to work in the morning. We have our files and tablet in one hand and coffee in another while we're juggling our purse on one shoulder and maybe simultaneously picking up lunch, in which case, you'll need a third hand. On top of all the things we already do every morning, we deal with unpredictable weather forcing us to always bring a back-up jacket or cardigan with us (because we didn't already have enough to worry about...). Having something like a convertible jacket-to-bag would allow us to compress some of the things we already carry in the morning like files, tablet, notebooks, phone etc. into one by putting everything in this extra shoulder bag (when not used in jacket form). Again, efficiency is key. A convertible garment like the 11:11 Jacket can give you the extra hand you need every day in your busy morning routine.
5. Use it as an easier way to carry a jacket when not in use.
We've left the obvious for last. You might say, well how lazy have we become that we can't just throw our jacket over one arm when we're not using it? The truth is, the devil is in the details and in this case, the small inconvenience details. The problem is that we usually don't just carry only our jacket on our arm- many times we have other things we're dragging around with us (especially of you have children) and having an extra thing that drapes on your arm and constantly needs to be adjusted causes little annoyances (admit it, you've been there...). It's not just about the amount of "stuff" we have with us all the time, our daily activities are just as important. It's kind of difficult to use both your hands and arms if one of them is occupied by this voluminous fabric draping over it. Efficiency and comfort is key, and something like a convertible jacket to shoulder bag gives you that extra help during the small, but essential, moments in life when a little comfort could make a huge difference.
They say opposites attract and when it comes to opposite fabric combinations you might stop to think if it applies there too. We all love creatively styling our tops and bottoms and layering with tailored blazers and sweater cardigans, but what about a clothing item that is constructed of a fabric combination that does not mix - in theory. We personally don't believe in that rule... but there's probably no rules to follow in fashion anyways. We've seen interesting combinations of texture, drape and shine beautifully intermingling in one garment- the trick is to create a balancing act among all elements so that it stays interesting but does not compromise comfort or functionality.
In this instance, we are going to share with you why we think chiffon and sweater knit mix so well together. One of our best sellers for fall has been a simple yoke blouse that features this combination.
Perhaps it goes against natural instinct but when you combine a bulkier, textured sweater knit with something so delicate as a chiffon there is an interesting balancing act that takes place. Using our blouse as an example, the yoke portion at the top is the part that gives the garment the structure and wear it needs while the chiffon print at the bottom creates a softer edge and adds great flow to the blouse. The addition of sweater to chiffon creates versatility and allows for a more casual look. Vise versa, the chiffon dresses up the sweater giving it a little bit of sophistication. The combination of these two opposites creates a multifaceted look that allows you to wear it in a business as well as casual setting.
There is also a tactile and visual quality about these two textures intermingling- it invites you to get a closer feel while creating a look that is pleasing to the eye. There is something about the mix of complete visual opposites that allows our brain to create a strong symmetrical allusion.
If you own a clothing store or boutique, apparel and accessory trade shows are a must when it comes to finding the newest, most unique products. We suggest that you visit one (or a few) in your area and always travel to one (or a few) in another city if you can. This will give your store a more competitive assortment and help you generate more sales over time- customers love a store that offers something new consistently! If you won a small store, you are always competing to offer something that is unusual and innovative and the more trade shows and showrooms you visit the broader your choices become. We've done some research on your behalf and compiled a comprehensive list of womens apparel trade shows that you should be visiting on your next search for the perfect products and brands. Pick a few that are closest to you or that you can travel to. Try to visit both larger trade shows and smaller fashion fairs.
Side note: Always look to bring in a new designer or brands every season, it will add freshness and more excitement to your store:
Coterie: (New York, NY) Taking place at the massive Javits Center in NYC twice a year in September and February, Coterie is the place to go if you are looking for the newest and most contemporary in apparel. It is a great platform for both young brands as well as already established ones. It includes a combination of some of the most popular names in both women's apparel and accessories. Even though it is the largest apparel show in NYC it allows you an opportunity to network with all the designers and brands directly in a buyer-oriented atmosphere. It is a massive show so don't forget to bring your walking shoes!
TMRW: (New York, NY) This is a show that is held twice a year in NYC along with Coterie. It is a more private, intimate gathering of the newer contemporary brands. The event showcases designers of the future displaying the most innovative and high-quality styles. It is a more intimate setting, allowing the buyer to really network and connect with each designer individually.
Fame NY: (New York, NY) It takes place three times a year also at the Javits Center in NYC and it is geared towards junior-contemporary wear at great margins. This is a perfect show if you are seeking young apparel at higher re-stock rates. It is more of a fast fashion market where brands like Steve Maden, Glam and Lumiere flourish. Footwear is also a big component of the show. The set-up including booth decorations and music creates a fun, high energy atmosphere perfectly emulating the junior marketplace.
EDIT: It takes place at the Javits Center in NYC and as the name hints, it is a carefully edited and curated group of emerging and already established brands. It caters to more luxury and advanced contemporary brands and it offers higher level amenities and a sophisticated atmosphere. Quality and uniqueness should be top-notch so if your customer seeks quality at a higher price-point this is the show to attend. However, keep in mind that attendance has to be approved and often times they are by invitation only. Department stores and vetted specialty stores are specifically targeted to attend and presented with high quality look books and materials as well as personal phone calls from the Edit development team.
Intermezzo: (New York, NY) Held three times a year in May, January and August at the Javits center concurrently with the Accessories Circuit show. It is a great combination of contemporary, bridge, casual, denim and active wear women's markets along with easy access to a variety of accessory brands. It is a great show to attend if you have a more eclectic boutique where you offer a wide range of apparel products along with accessories- definitely a time saver.
Designers and Agents: (NY, LA) This independent trade fair is over 15 years old and it is held both in New York as well as Los Angeles at the New Mart Building in the Fashion District. It is focused on bridging the gap between retailers and designers and bringing them closer together. It has a more intimate setting where the buyer can better connect with the brand. This show gives a sense of discovery by bringing in emerging brands and newer, more innovative apparel products. It features designers from both the US and internationally, such as Europe and Japan. If you're looking to really sit down and have a conversation with the brands you're bringing in, this is a great show to attend.
Capsule: (New York, NY) This show takes place twice a year and is a great place to meet independent designers with a more progressive style. It focuses on a more high-end customer base and offers a great selection of unique apparel. It is a well edited combination of international as well as US based designers at a higher price-point for the most part. You can find some forward-thinking treasures at this show, and explore independent designers with great innovative ideas. It has a relaxed atmosphere that is very buyer-friendly and business forward. It also features some unique accessories and footwear.
Moda Manhattan: (New York, NY) A trade show that takes place three times a year and features contemporary apparel at a medium price-range. It features brands that cater to the woman anywhere from early 30's to more mature. It offers lots of great resort brands which makes it a must to visit if your store carries a selection of resort wear. It also incorporates a great selection of casual and cocktail dresses at reasonable price points from brands like Sangria and Dona Morgan. Although the show features some new designers, it is more suitable for restocking your updated classics and finding some great pieces from more established designers at a good price point.
Apparel Sourcing USA: Taking place twice a year in NYC at the Javits Center this trade show gives you the opportunity to buy directly from manufactures and suppliers around the globe. This is a show that brings both designers and retailers together in their own search for products and materials. It is also a great informative event where you can attend seminars and meet various organizations in the industry on an international scale. In addition to finished apparel (which you'll be in the search for) this trade event also offers resources for contract manufacturing and independent label development for designers, so you'll see brands also attending along side retailers. If you are looking for higher bulk orders and a great price point this is a good show to attend.
CURVEEXPO: A show that takes place in New York and Las Vegas as well as internationally in Paris, Moscow, Cannes and Shanghai that houses great lingerie and swim brands. It also features a great selection of accessories. The show is your destination for great luxury and casual intimate apparel as well as some of the best swimwear brands. It features both established designers like Donna Karen Sleepwear and Betsy Johnson Intimate and new comers both local and international. This is a perfect show to attend if you are looking to stock on sleepwear and swimwear and are traveling to New York for market week.
Axis Women's Lifestyle: It takes place in New York and Los Angeles alongside the Capsule show and it is an innovative, forward-thinking combination of brands offering contemporary active wear, swimwear, intimates, wearable electronics, and athletic lounge products. It also includes a combination of accessories and some beauty products. This is a good show to attend if you own a fashion lifestyle boutique or a gift shop focused on women's apparel and products. It allows you to get a large amount of your shopping done in one place and/or find some unique extras for your store.
Agenda: A large show that takes place in three different cities (Long Beach, Miami and Las Vegas) and it features street wear, active wear, action sports products and a variety of sporty unisex accessories and lifestyle products. If your shop caters to both women and men and it has a more sporty, hip hop edge this is definitely a show you should visit. The trade show also offers events and resources including a brand building conference, and a chance to meet manufacturers and individuals in the logistics, innovation and technology fields. This is also a show where footwear and skate brands flourish.
MAGIC: This is probably the biggest trade event taking place in Las Vegas twice a year in February and August. Although this event is divided in over 15 different portions including kid's wear, junior's, men's, footwear and accessories, the women's apparel event is the one we'll discuss a little further. This show offers great price points and includes lots of women's products and apparel from many established brands. It features contemporary and junior wear in a variety of styles and vibrant colors. This is a great show to visit if you are located on the west coast, or have multiple locations as you'll be able to order larger quantities from well-known brands. That being said, you might also come across younger brands that will surely fit nicely with your selection.
Dallas Apparel and Accessories Market: Taking place at the Dallas Markets Center, this trade show features women's contemporary and bridge apparel and accessories. If you are located in the area, you should attend this show for better quality, more luxury-oriented women's products. This is a show where you'll be able to collaborate with newer brands that offers a selection of unique styles and accessories. That being said, a large number of established brands and showrooms are also present at the show.
JF & A Chicago: Organized by TransWorld, this trade show features price-conscious jewelry, accessories and fashion all in one event. If you're in the Midwest area you should check it out! It offers great deals and the shows are organized very often, so it gives you an opportunity to restock on little items in your store. They have a great selection of affordable jewelry, scarves and other fun accessories.
Stylemax: It takes place four times a year at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago and offers a selection of both apparel and accessories. The show was recently updated with a new floor plan and includes more lifestyle brands and gifts. If Chicago is an easy place for you to visit, we recommend this show for finding the newest products from great brands in the bridge, contemporary and better markets. If you're looking for freshness and quality in the area, Stylemax is a great show to attend. They also offer great amenities for the visiting buyers including complimentary coffee and lunch as well as hotel discounts for those who are traveling.
Looking for more unique products? Check out the 11:11 Jacket-a jacket that transforms into a bag!