Do you feel like a geek when you walk into a boutique? Do you get that feeling that, even when the sales people are super nice, that they are checking out what you are wearing? Do you feel like you are going to break into a cold sweat when you look at the prices? Are you afraid that if you don’t buy something you will look rude or poor? Are you afraid the whole store is going to be size 0 and 2s?
You may be suffering from Boutiquephobia and I’m here to tell you it’s okay. I may spend a lot of time in tons of different types of stores but trust me when I tell you I get it. I never stopped foot in any store with the name boutique in its title until I was 23 years old. When it came time to go shopping for my wedding dress I went into one high-end place and I totally freaked out when the saleswoman followed me into the fitting room to help me get dressed. Their idea of personal attention felt like a personal invasion of my space. After that I went to David’s Bridal where I could help myself and not feel nauseous when looking at the price tag. Let’s face it, boutiques can be totally intimidating. The salespeople usually look very pretty and very put together. By nature a boutique is small, so you have that awkward thing when you walk in where there is someone behind a counter, or out the floor, and then there is you. It is not a comfortable silence. It’s awkward, like being on a long elevator ride with a stranger. And usually, when they ask if they can help you, or if you are looking for anything special, your mind goes blank and you stutter something out like “I’m good! I’m just browsing! I just have few minutes…” And then you are back to awkward silence or random banter about the weather. Leaving is just as awkward. I don’t know how many times I’ve felt rude just walking out, especially empty-handed, but I have felt just as strange saying something like “Bye! Thank you!”
These are just some of the reasons that a client will contact me to go shopping together. I’m a buffer. I’m the friendly hotel concierge, (you know Barney from the movie Pretty Woman), who will only take you to safe places (and no this doesn’t mean that I think you are a hooker). I make sure I test drive each store to make sure it is a good fit for my client with regards to style, price and fit. I have built personal relationships with the stores that I believe are the best of the best in terms of being genuine, knowledgable and above all else, nice. Plus, at the end of trying one clothes, both the boutique and my client know that I am there as a final say. It’s kind of like Chris Harrison on the Bachelor. I’m going to go behind the fitting room curtain with each client and discuss which one gets a rose and should come home to your closet. I’ll tell you what I think is a good buy and what I think you should skip. You don’t need to feel weird if you try on 33 things for 2 hours and you only buy one, or even none for that matter. I absorb all of that because I’m advising what I think is best for you.
On the other side of all this I can give you a little behind the scenes gossip. I worked at Elizabeth Maar Boutique for 3 years full-time as a manager and for 7 more years part-time. I saw women come in who looked homeless but would spend 3,000 at the drop of a hat. I also saw women who arrived in their brand new sports car and would try on 20 items and leave them all on a crumpled heap on the floor. My point in telling you this is so that you can trust me when I tell you that the salespeople at a boutique are really not judging. They have enough experience to know that a millionaire and a maniac can look exactly the same. They’ve also been treated like the hired help by a more than few bad apples and we don’t like it either. They work in a boutique because they don’t like the pressure of pushing sales to make commission. They work at a boutique because they want to help. They study the brands, the fit and the styles. They are there to save you time and assist you if needed. If you are just browsing? Totally cool with them. You may think they are just standing there staring but honestly you can’t imagine the amount of constant work that goes into working and/or owning a store. There are always things to be priced, things to be cleaned, clients to be called, inventory to be organized. If you are browsing they go right back to the million things on their checklist that they need to do on their shift. And although they may present themselves like Becky With The Good Hair, please know that it is part of their job to take their time on their appeareance. If they look a mess you are not going to want them to wait on you. If they look too pulled together you also might not want them to wait on you. Give them a chance and you’ll find out that just like you, they are worried about their thighs, arm jiggles, and if they want to spend their money on a new outfit or if they want to get that money back in their paycheck.
And what about that owner/salesperson conundrum? Some shoppers feel extra stressed to buy if it is the owner of the store that is helping them. Please don’t. Any small business owner will tell you that they want you to LOVE your purchase. They too know all too well that feeling of buying something that you felt guilted into, only to see it hang in your closet unworn. Those items scream regret and make you avoid going back into the store. Plus there is that whole Vidal Sassoon if-you-don’t-look-good-we-don’t look-good thing. They don’t want to send you out with a new shirt that is too big and pants that are too small. That’s bad advertising. They want you to buy something only when you think you look and feel great. It’s one thing to have a salesperson tell you that something looks good, but it’s another thing entirely to make sure you feel good in that piece of clothing. Even if 100 people tell you they like something it doesn’t matter if you still don’t like it or you aren’t comfortable. Honesty is the best policy because it creates trust and loyalty. Trust and loyalty create customers who are happy and want to come into the store. The clothes are one thing but the service and atmosphere is what makes or breaks a boutique. The internet has changed the game entirely and retailers, both big and small, know this. But the internet will never know that you have 3 kids and are self-conscious about your belly. The internet won’t remember that you won’t wear shorts and you like things with sleeves. The internet won’t recall that you bought a shirt last year that is a perfect shade of red to go with a new floral print skirt. Personal service cannot be automated, it has to be built, by hand, and it has to be genuine.
Want to try out a boutique with me? You’re in luck. This Tuesday, on June 20th, I will be starting a short-term residency of sorts in one of my local favorites, the No. 109 shop in Kennett Square. Heather, the owner, is away on vacay and she tapped me to come in so we could play. Heather and her staff are wonderful, and I’m already a huge fan of bringing my clients in to shop her amazing array of stylish and colorful picks. My existing clients will get a private VIP discount, and I will be raffling off a 1 hour gift certificate that you can only be eligible for by stopping by and signing up.
Here are my days and hours for when I’ll be crashing 109:
Tuesday, June 20th – Friday, June 23rd 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Monday, June 26th – Friday, June 30th 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
109 West State Street, Kennett Square, PA
Can’t make any of those times? No worries. Send me a text or email and I will work around your own schedule for a personal appointment. Out of the area? Call or text me and I’ll send you pics and prices. Short on time? Call me ahead and I’ll pre-pull based on your needs. All you have to do is come in and try on. Easy-peasy.
Oh and if you just want to stop in and say hi? That’s totally cool! The door will be open. There is NO PRESSURE to buy anything. I mean it. And if you want to bring me a latte from Philter (it’s right next door!!) that’s cool too…just saying 😉
I almost forgot to mention…Heather gave me exclusive access to her back room. What’s in the back room? Off season or last season orphan items that are up to 70% off. It may be June but I will be busting about cashmere and fur because I want you to be able to take advantage of these deals.
This dress? It’s $50. Kate P. – if you’re reading this is the one I told you about!!
*Insider Tip – Bring a (Clothing) Friend
You know that lonely item in your closet? That thing you bought but it just doesn’t seem to have any other friends in your closet? Maybe it just needs to find someone else with the same interests (or colors). Bring in your lonely item and I’ll help you find it a friend. Buying something you love is fun, but being able to complete and/or make an entire outfit is a blast. Too often we buy the item but we have no outfit. It’s kind of like buying a a really good salsa but never buying any chips. The salsa will sit there and eventually you will wonder what that smell in your fridge is and then you will throw it out. Don’t let your clothes become expired salsa. Buy the chips and have chips and salsa!