Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Is Any One Else Bothered?!

By: Erin Hall @ Boutiquing

In the last two months I visited Dallas, Texas and Tulsa, Oklahoma. Now you must understand, I love going to new places, I love to experience the culture, the food and the shopping…ohhhh the shopping. But my travel excitement was instantly quenched when besides the dry, flat landscape; I realized it looked so similar to Orange County. Everywhere my eyes landed, it was the same visual, shopping center after shopping center full of large retail and food chain stores. I began to question the anger rising up on the inside of me. Why was this bothering me so much??

I was bothered because these large chains are pushing out the mom and pop small businesses. Everywhere you turn a small business is closing its doors while another T.J. Maxx opens up. You must understand I’m an avid supporter of small businesses, partially due to principal and partially due to selfishness. I like supporting someone’s dream, time and passion and that’s what I believe small business’ represent. I get excited when the owner/chef of restaurant personally comes out to my table and introduces himself and his food as if you were dining in his own home. I get excited when I’m able to purchase a one of a kind vintage Vatican coin necklace in a small boutique while the owner tells me about the designer whom hand makes each piece.

I am bothered because I think we are being robbed of experiences, connection and originality in exchange for systems, streamlining and profits. I don’t want to travel to a new city just to eat and shop at the same places I can at home. I want to create memories and acquire unique pieces. I want to wear jewelry that is noticeably different. I want to eat food that takes my taste buds on a journey with new flavors; I can’t do that in a sea of mass-produced locations.

A friend who is from Tulsa and an avid shopper recommended Utica Square in Tulsa as a shopping destination, so of course I eagerly anticipated my arrival. In my mind I pictured a cute little section of downtown Tulsa littered with one of a kind shops. As we parked in front of Starbucks instantly my excitement turned to disappointment when I saw Banana Republic, Saks, Pier One, Bath and Body Works, White House Black Market, American Eagle and Ann Taylor just to name a unique few (I can be quite facetious). There are great products in all of these stores, yes, but I wanted a boutiquing experience and I was irritated because I didn’t know where to go to find what I was looking for.

That’s the problem! The small businesses are hard to find. They don’t have a budget for large websites or expensive retail locations. They aren’t on Google and the hotel concierge doesn’t know where to find them. As a manager of 3 upscale boutiques in Orange County for five years, I know how hard it is to connect a searching customer with a unique boutique. I myself would become so frustrated when looking for new shopping ventures outside the mall. So here is our mission, to locate, promote and detail all boutiques, big, small, hidden and known. Starting with Orange County and then expanding, we will not stop till you know where to find all the best boutiquing experiences. Help us keep "Boutiquing" alive and well by supporting the boutiques and informing us of any that have missed our list.


  1. Erin,
    Good luck with your optimistic thoughts on boutiques. The fact is that most boutiques are opened by girls who have some money but no operational entrepreneuer experience. The only stores strongly surviving in this economy are the ones run by experienced business pros who knows how to run a small business. "We can buy cute clothes and sell them" would not cut it in this real economy. Do all these girls know what a "cash flow" is? "sell through"? "Turn rate"? Hey if you don't know your numbers, your business will dwindle faster than you can say AIG. By the way, customers don't come back to boutiques that are shaky.

  2. Anonymous,

    I thank you for the reflective response and appreciate your comment regarding the necessary business strategies often overlooked by boutique owners. I know several boutiques that didn’t last long enough to order a second round of tag attachers because they were nothing more than the gamble of a girlhood dream from someone with money to blow. I think we all know personally at least a dozen women who have made the comment, "I have always wanted to open a boutique!" Many of these women love to shop and think owning a boutique would just be an extension of that love and why not get paid for it. The fact is, nothing could be further from the truth! The time, energy, business savvy, capital and organizational structure required to maintain a successful boutique is brutal even with a masters in business.

    It is apparent in this economy that after the dust settles, the boutiques still standing will no doubt be linked to business women who creatively and strategically connected with their customer and forced themselves to think outside the in point..check out this recent article on the OC Register.

    I think you are right when you state, "customers don't come back to boutiques that are shaky". When I revisit a once bountiful boutique to find huge spaces between hangers and sparse display cases a red flag arises in my mind. I start to ask the real question “Are they going to be around next week!?” I have passed far too many once adorable boutiques to find an empty building and sadly the amount of vacancies will only continue. However, I remain optimistic about boutiques and their involvement in the retail marketplace. The superstore phenomenon is here to stay, but we all need to remember there is room for the little guy. My hard earned dollars feel better spent to support a family I may know, and keep the bustling neighborhood I live in from turning to vacancy city. My feeling is, if I love what a boutique is doing, and I have a need or desire to buy what they are selling, I will. And I will not hesitate to share my experiences with others, we all could use a little more community in our lives during these emotionally draining times.

  3. Happy Birthday! The BEST to you and keep doing the good work!

    ADANIAS Boutique