Working with Boutiques

By Jennifer Von Deylen

I own a sewing machine, but I don’t know how to operate it. I recognize good fashion, but  I couldn’t draw you a sketch of it to save my life. I lack numerous skills that disqualify me from becoming a fashion designer, but I have never had an interest in that path.

What does interest me is the business side of fashion; I love the challenge of it. Like anyone I have strengths and weaknesses, but I have figured out what I do well and have focused my career in that direction. Give me a big empty space with white walls and I can create a store. I have the skills to get people to come in the front door. My name is Jennifer Von Deylen, and I own IndySwank; a small, independent boutique that provides designers with a place to sell their products. We also sell vintage clothing, locally made accessories, and art. Through my experiences, I have gained some insight into how designers can work successfully with boutiques.

If you’re an independent designer/crafter, when working with boutiques, it’s important to remember that you are in a competitive situation. At IndySwank, I receive phone calls or visits every day from people inquiring about how to sell their merchandise in my shop. There is also an entire world of wholesale suppliers just a Google search away. Since IndySwank’s business model includes supporting local designers, you do have an advantage over wholesale suppliers. But keep in mind that a boutique has to carry products that sell. The boutique owner has to determine what will work and who will bring that merchandise in.

Boutique owners have to ask a lot of important questions when considering new products for their shop. Is the construction up to par, in terms of quality? Will the merchandise sell? How quickly will it turn? Can I make a profit? Does the product fill a void in my existing inventory? Is the product on trend? Does the designer market the product? Does the product match my boutique’s demographic? If not, will it bring in an additional demographic that makes sense for my business? Does it fit my shop’s brand image? Can the designer produce enough product to consistently fill out a display? Is the product over/under distributed? Every boutique owner has their own criteria, but most evaluate products in the same ways.


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