Growing Your Boutique
As a boutique owner or manager, you have both your own unique, special flair, and also the routine skills and responsibilities of a business manager. To grow your boutique, you can either work on what makes it special, or work on the business.
To understand this, picture your boutique as a float in a big parade. On top, every float is different – with its own theme, colors, and sense of wonder. Underneath, each float is just a big flatbed truck. Your boutique is like the top of the float. Your business is like the truck underneath that keeps you rolling along in the parade. A successful business is a beautiful float with a solid truck underneath!
Making Your Boutique Even More Special
Let's start with the fun stuff, first. Give yourself a half an hour to go shopping – in your own store! Take a notepad, and write down ideas as you go. Picture yourself as your own best customer. Get out of the store and walk around the block. Look in your window. What do you like? What would you change? Come in and browse. What do you like? What would make it even more wonderful? What has got to go?
Take notes, and now you have your plan for making your boutique special at the physical level.
But there's more than that. When we talk about what makes a business unique, we look at three levels:
Physical: What's in stock? What is the color scheme and style? Is it too crowded, or too empty? Is anything unappealing?
Emotional: How does the store make you feel? How does it smell? Is there anything especially beautiful? Relaxing? Exciting?
Mental: How do you greet and help your customers? What expertise can you share with them so that they get what they want?
You don't have to do this alone. Sit down with your team, and even with your best customers. Over tea or coffee, ask them what makes the shop special, and what would make it even better. Most likely, they will be polite or nervous. Tell them you want to improve, and want their ideas. Then say something like, "I already know I need to ditch that big ugly rack in front. I'm just wondering if there's anything else." Once they hear that you are ready for change and want specifics, their ideas will flow!
Once you know your strengths, you're ready to make your shop even more special for your customers.
Small Changes, Big Changes, and Special Changes
Make each change in three steps: Prepare, do, follow-through. To prepare, draw a picture and write a plan of what it will look like when it is done. Then make a to-do list. What will you throw away? What will you move? What will you buy and bring in?
Then do it, step by step, checking off your to-do list as you go.
To follow through, step back. Is there anything that would make it better? Do it. Is there anything to clean up? Do it. Did you get any new ideas? Write them down. Then invite your customers in!
It's best to start small. Work with changes of appearance and stock. Fix problems.Put in a new corner, and see how people react. Keep what works, and drop what doesn't. In the meantime, just the fact that there are changes will keep the browsers coming back until they become customers.
You can make a big change, such as a whole new display, or even an expansion or a move, following the same steps: Prepare, Do, Follow Through. One café owner I work with used to shut down his café for three weeks each year for a full cleaning, renovation, and redecorating. Once he started making written plans, he was able to close for just one week. He ended up with $8,000 more net revenue each year as a result!
Special changes are the sales and events you run to bring in new customers. There are three keys to success:
- Style: Make sure your event enhances your strengths. If you offer a relaxing, lavender-scented, candle-lit shop, then make an arrangement for a massage therapist to bring her chair in for massages once a week, and have a drawing so that one is free. On the other hand, if you like to excite your customers, then give them a drawing for a free getaway weekend!
- Timing: Plan and prepare well in advance. Be ready to market a special 3 months ahead. It may sound crazy to plan Christmas in September, but it works!
- Details: Pay attention to detail. Imagine every step from the customer's perspective. One great moment makes a wonderful day. But one bad moment – one frustration – means losing a customer, probably forever. Pamper and delight your customers, or make it free and easy for them. But make sure that absolutely nothing is a hassle.
And this brings us to our final point: Let's improve the business side of your boutique.
Fix Your Business
Now it is time to turn our attention to the flatbed truck under the float – to the mechanics of the business under your boutique. Every retail business has these elements:
- Selection and stock: Make sure you have what your customers want, and it is ready for them to walk in and buy.
- Marketing: Let the world know you are here, and bring in the right ladies!
- Sales: Help them shop and choose, with a flawless fun experience!
- Customer service: Prevent problems. When you can't prevent problems, apologize, fix the problem, and be generous without giving away the store.
- Finances: Plan your income, expenses, and cash flow, and fix any glitches. Then don't forget to pay your taxes!
- Staffing: Build your team, and help them get better and better.
- Continuous improvement: Taking care of yourself and your business, and making things better and better.
If your business isn't working, think like a doctor. You wouldn't be happy if a doctor gave you pills before asking what was wrong. So be sure to diagnose before you fix. If sales are low, don't blame your salespeople. Maybe they're doing fine, but your marketing isn't reaching the right people, or you don't have the stock your customers are looking for. Listen to your team. Listen to yourself. Then fix what's broken.
How do you fix it: Prepare, do, follow through.
With many small steps or a few big steps, you can boost your boutique to be the best!