Retail 101: The Girls in Grey

Photos by Maddie Scarpone

The Girls in Grey began as an online boutique two years ago, and has since blossomed into an extensive collection of trendy women’s wear. After a few pop-up shops and requests from customers to be able to try on items before purchasing them, they converted their studio and storage space into a beautiful shop and opened their doors to customers a few days a week. In this Q+A, owner Rachel Huffman talks about what it’s like to run a small business both on and offline.  

Name: Rachel Huffman

Store name: The Girls in Grey

Store address: Stutz Building 212 W 10th Street Suite d-285 Indianapolis, in 46202

Store website: www.thegirlsingrey.com

Store Instagram: @thegirlsingrey

When did you open the store: September 2017

Number of full-time employees: 1

What do you sell in your store: Women’s clothing

Previous jobs/ventures: Musician, Professional photographer

Evelyn Allee: Why did you decide to open your own storefront?

Rachel Huffman: Our space at the Stutz was originally just a convenient location to store our merchandise and fulfill orders from. It made sense to have all of our apparel close by for photo shoots since I have a photography studio here as well. I have always loved the Stutz building and decided it was the perfect place to open up our space as a storefront as well. We have so many local girls that shop with us and we had received a lot of feedback about their desire to try things on before purchasing. This space works really well for me because I am not committed to normal retail hours (I have 5 kids!) but I am able to ship from this space efficiently plus have customers in the store as well. I’m currently open by appointment Tuesday -Thursday, and open every Friday from 10-6.

EA: Do you have an online store as well?

RH: Yes

EA: Which came first the online store or the bricks and mortar store?

RH: Online

EA: List five skills/qualifications that you think are important to have before launching a storefront?

RH: Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, merchandising, the ability to appreciate different customers style.

EA: What’s the most effective marketing tool that you’ve been using recently?

RH: Live Sales

EA: What’s more important when opening a storefront: Location, having a nice cash cushion or having a lot of retail experience? Why?

RH: I think I’d have to go with the cash cushion here, in the boutique world you have to spend money to make money! This is why growing online is also important to me. With my limited hours, I have to be prepared for slow days and find ways to still meet my sales goals.

EA: How do you decide which vendors/products/brands you want to carry in your store?

RH: Everyone who shops our store comments on how soft everything is! I love buying trips because I get to see and feel the clothes in person before I buy them – I have several vendors that carry the basics I’m looking for and I know they’re going to be comfortable. I do try to make time each trip I make to Market to see a new vendor.

EA: Do you work with vendors on a consignment basis?

RH: No

EA: Do you carry any local vendors/brands? Why/Why not?

RH: I don’t, but that’s something I’m hoping to change in the near future. I personally absolutely love supporting other local businesses and would love to do that as a retailer.

EA: What’s the biggest challenge you face in running your business?

RH: Making financial decisions that result in a profitable store. How much to buy, sales, etc.

EA: What advice would you give to anyone thinking of opening their own storefront?

RH: Know your “why” and make sure you’re truly passionate about it. It’s that passion that you have to tap into when you’re exhausted or sales are down.

EA: What advice would you give to an up-and-coming brand looking to build a strong relationship with a retailer?

RH: Back your products 100% and make sure to treat your retailers as a valued customer.

EA: Are there any online resources that you regularly visit to help you run your business better, or keep up with the latest industry trends?

RH: My site is hosted through Shopify and I have found some really great resources on that platform. I do a lot of research and I also look at other boutiques to see what seems to be working for them. At the same time, I think your most important resource is your customer – find out what they’re engaging with, what makes them shop- and try to keep them coming back. I am so thankful for the customer relationships I have.

Photos by Maddie Scarpone