It’s been a year since I signed this lease and opened the store on wharf street. 90% of the time I love it: it’s like having an open studio. I can work all day and not feel lonely because people come visit. I’ve learned so much about why certain fits and styles sell well, and I’ve come to better understand my customer. (women, creative professionals, upper income brackets, 35-60, urban [most are new york or boston])…
Some of the things that have surprised me: people in portland love my clothes (voted best women’s clothing shop in the phoenix) but most of my actual sales are to out-of-towners. I’m sure this is partially price-point…$200 for a dress is cheap in a bigger city but expensive here. I’ve also been pleased that the clothes are attractive to women older than my generation.
The most important part, for me, about having a retail store is that I don’t have to SELL. If I were focused on wholesale, I’d spend a chunk of time either at tradeshows or contacting buyers and trying to get them to look at my stuff. Instead, I spend my time in my studio, and people can come in if they want to. And my interaction with customers comes with a very light touch (it’s mostly “hello” and, if they seem open “where are you from?”).
The other good part is that my work and home are separated, even if only by a few blocks. (or, more realistically, one block. It takes me two minutes to walk home.) Sewing is, unfortunately, a stuff-intensive process. I wish it were simpler, but unless I used one type of fabric, in one color, with no trims (i.e. zippers, buttons)…it’s hard to keep a handle on the excess stuff. Because I don’t want to throw out that quarter yard of beautiful silk! It might make a lovely collar someday!