"As a store owner on Charles street I have seen in a short time a number of small businesses close.... Some new shops have opened, but this kind of continuous change can lead directly to the concerns expressed above. Please remember, liking the idea of small independent shops is simply not enough. You must patronize them regularly or they will go away. If every local found a way to take 5% or 10% of their budget already in use and spent it locally the impact would be fantastic."
Over the past few months I've been researching different Boston neighborhoods so when we finally set up shop we will know we are in the best place we can possibly be. I've lived in the city since 2004 so I've seen lots of shops come and go, some of them were amazing, but I can't help but wonder, why didn't they last? They were so great! And that's how I stumbled across the above article, and so it's with that that I cautiously move forward. Boston is a tough market. Whenever I'm in New York for business people say to me "you're from Boston? you're doing this in Boston?" And sometimes I can understand why, we've been a bit slower to jump on the bandwagon with certain things and I guess we aren't exactly known for being "fashion forward", but I honestly think it's changing. But with those changes the demand to live here goes up and then of course, prices go up. And that makes it more challenging for small business to enter the marketplace. So over the past year I have been trying to save and plan for what the next version of rennes will look like.
This season in particular I have received many emails asking if items will go on sale. Sales in stores happen on a pretty regular basis, usually about 3-4 months after a new collection launches whatever product is left will start at 30% off, then 40%, 50%, 75% - you get the picture. And that's all fine and good, stores need to move along merchandise and will sell for cost or usually less and that's just how it is; and we (myself included, hello marsell shoes!), have all been known to enjoy a good sale when we can find one.
But with that said, I have a growing concern about small businesses in ecommerce, and small businesses in general. I've heard from a few different people that this season has been slow, myself included. It seems we all expect constant sales all the time, and if we want something that's not currently on sale, we can easily sign up for the mailing list and get 15% off or email the website and see if they will give us a discount. I think larger stores can keep up with this, but smaller ones can not - some of our merchandise needs to be sold for full price, or a few years down the line, we won't be there anymore. We need to put things on sale so that we move our product along, but not so much as to make the sale price the norm. So I wonder, do frequent sales actually impede sales? Do they affect other stores' sales? Do sales diminish perceived value? I don't have any answers, but they are things that have been on my mind a lot lately.
The one idea I've had in opening a brick and mortar is that I want to make it feel like a very special unique place, something that doesn't exist everywhere. My plan is continue to run the online store as usual, but I really look forward to those tiny in person details that is trickier to replicate online. For instance, the smell of leather which most everyone who walks in the studio mentions - there is no scratch and sniff website yet I think? (That's actually a horrible idea, nobody should do that).
Any thoughts? Ideas? Feel free to comment below.