Owning and successfully operating a boutique is no small feat. You are responsible for every aspect of your business, from customer service to clean bathrooms. One moment you’re the janitor, the next you’re a public relations rep.
Being a boutique owner is a challenge but there are ways that you can make life easier while also improving sales. While some of these tips may seem obvious, others very minor; all have the capability to make or break your business. Whether you’re just starting out in the game, or an old pro looking for a refresher, read on for suggestions on how to be the best boutique owner you can be.
1. Identify a look, a vibe, a style. It is your duty to possess the ability to eloquently explain what your store is all about – do not risk waiting for the public to define it for you.
2. All customers are created equal. Each person who walks through your door should receive the same treatment as the person before and the person who will follow, regardless of their appearance, age, or social/economic status. Have we learned nothing from Pretty Woman? Big mistake, huge.
3. Speak up. Acknowledge everyone who walks through your doors. No need to chat them up, a pleasant greeting and a warm smile will go a long way.
4. Keep consistent hours. Set your hours and stick to them. Yes, things will be slow and boring now and then but that doesn’t mean you should pack up and go home. You will lose customers, lose publicity, and ruin your store’s reputation.
5. Mind your own business. Don’t discuss business matters with, or in front of customers. It is extremely unprofessional, not to mention no one’s business but your own – literally.
6. Think outside the box. Get creative with your marketing; fashion shows, contests, or trunk shows are a great place to start.
7. Learn the hat dance. As a small business owner, you play many roles. Some you might enjoy others not so much but either way, learn to wear different hats and wear them well.
8. Role model. Your employees are an extension of you and a representation of your store. You lead, they follow. Make sure your setting a proper example.
9. Get social. Social media is free advertising. You can’t afford not to be a part of ‘the conversation’. Understand, embrace, and execute.
10. Dot your coms. A website is an absolute must…and an absolute minimum. No ifs, ands, or buts. It’s 2011. Get with it. Blogs can also serve as a great way to drive traffic and create awareness for your brand.
11. Know the customer. Who is your ideal customer? Do they exist in your area? What would they wear? These are questions to ask before you go on a buying trip not figure out later as you stare at stagnant inventory.
12. Re-think sales. Everyone loves a good sale. Make sure you offer them frequently but be careful not to fall into “the whole store hole”. If customers hear, “the whole store is 20% off” every time they come in it loses its luster. Think themes, pre-season sales, or even referral programs.
13. Thumper Rule. You remember what Thumper told Bambi; if you don’t have something nice to say about another business don’t say anything at all – or some variation of that.
14. Neighborly Love. Promoting and supporting neighboring businesses can do wonders for your own. Scratch their back and you’re likely to receive the same in return.
15. Stay cool. Yes, there are times when business is slow. Despite your every urge to attack the first person who walks in the door, just don’t. No one likes to be smothered, followed, or annoyed.
16. Use protection. Theft is a major issue for small business. Take precautions such as properly screening employees, investing in a security system, and arranging merchandise appropriately.
17. Check yo’ self. Experience your store through the customer’s eyes. Literally walk outside, walk back in and take yourself through a shopping experience of your own store.
18. Just say “No”. Meeting requests for donations and loans will bleed you dry. Offer support in other ways such as a promotional partnership or sponsorship.
19. Be original. Shoppers look to boutiques for something different. They’re not likely visiting your store for the same merchandise they’ll find at the mall. Consider up and coming lines or quality local designers.
20. Look for the signs. Effective signage is imperative. Consider every entrance from every angle in every direction.
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