Lessons Learned Owning & Running an Online Boutique
Running an Independent Boutique vs Direct Sales
Exploring sales, profits, customer satisfaction & personal happiness......
A little over a year ago I was happily involved in a clothing direct sales business. I was in the top quarter of all reps for sales and I was growing fast. I had just paid off one of my credit cards with my profits from the holidays and I was read to grow to the next level! Maybe even be able to quit my full-time job and work my boutique only!
A lot of that excitement was quickly deterred when as I tried to grow, I wasn't able to fulfill the demand I had from my customers. I regularly sold out of new inventory, especially in my curvy sizes before I was able to fill the demand I had. I knew if I were able to bring in higher quantities I would have been able to nearly double my sales right away. Well my growth was not in line with the company I was involved with and as I researched how to open my own boutique, I realized this was what I needed to do.
After about two months of planning, changing my business name and license, researching wholesale purchasing and vendors,ordering inventory to kickoff my new boutique, I was finally ready to go off on my own. I was able to offer higher quality items, lower price points, and more variety of styles in addition to accessories, jewelry, footwear, and more! I bet some of you reading this think, wow she probably kicked off her boutique and was able to make way more money that way....
Here is where the lessons come in - I had to do a lot of work to earn the trust and loyalty of my customers who had purchased from me with the other company, many people just buy what they know..... so I lost a lot of regular customers because they weren't interested in brands that were new to them, and inventory is purchased in packs versus open sizing and quantities. There is more to consider when ordering, and figuring out quantities. Shipping is expensive - as much as I wanted to offer Free Shipping for every purchase, it was just not feasible to keep the business going. It took me about 7 months to get back to the sales numbers I had been reaching before I left direct sales, and I have spent the last 5 months working to retain my customer base and reach new customers.
January thru the end of April has been all about growth, learning, and working to build the foundation to get to the next level. My customers who have stuck with me have been amazing, some from before I left direct sales, some found me along the way, and some very new and amazing women are the heart of my boutique business. I know I say it, but without the people who are supportive, whether through sales, referrals, or supporting on social media, I wouldn't be as successful as I have been. My appreciation for each of my VIP gals is tremendous! I can't wait to share with them as we grow together!
My goals are big and I hope to learn more about creating my own line/brand and manufacturing so I can offer my customers and other's in the US a great product with a fantastic fit that comes in a wider size range XS-5X. I am so excited for this next level, but I know it is going to take building my current business so I can grow.
Stay tuned for more behind the scenes Boutique chatter!