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Gill Linton: Dear Retailers, Take A Walk

It’s not a good time for fashion retail. So, why is it that the owners of Dear 55, a boutique in Manhattans Lower East Side have upgraded and...

Gill Linton
Gill Linton on August 4, 2009.

When I asked about how the vintage clothes will work with the antique and vintage furniture, Moon passed the question over to Heja, and for a few minutes they chatted away in Japanese, which only made the experience more authentic and fascinating for me.

Heja explained that,

“We always mix and match very modern clothing with something vintage and we think the same thing for the furniture. Itʼs always about the combination of things, how things are put together is very important. Weʼre giving people ideas about how to style themselves and their homes, not selling just a product.”

Moon continued, “Consumers are looking for more out of a retail experience, thatʼs how I felt running Dear 55, these people are coming here not just for clothing, they really love talking with us and taking time with us and styling together, they love it”. When I asked him if that makes more money, “Of course, itʼs why they keep coming back”. Dear currently doesnʼt have a website, they’re thinking about it, but as Moon points out,

“We’re not that kind of people, I want you to come to my store and talk to me directly, we like it this way”.

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And thatʼs the +. Moon and Heyja are passionate about styling and ideas more than selling product, but that doesnʼt mean theyʼre not also very savvy business people. Catering mostly to the fashion and creative arts crowd, they have no plans to become a big corporation. Their strategy is Ê»small-niche-profitableʼ, and when I asked about their pricing strategy, itʼs easy to see just how profitable theyʼre going to be; Moon laughed when I suggested itʼs an emotional one, but eventually agreed itʼs a good strategy to have – hereʼs why.

The prices at Dear are very reasonable, considering they are all one of a kind. Ranging from $125 to $1,400 for clothing and $120 to $1,500 for furniture, prices are based on cost, plus how hard it was to find and how much love, care and attention went into the design and manufacturing of each piece. Moon explained that, “If something catches my eye I just get it, even if itʼs off the street”, like the $385 lamp shade they found that Heja carefully covered in antique lace. They run a low cost, high mark-up business, which is of course a very good business to be in. What youʼre paying for is the lace and the idea, not the lamp. The real value is their time and creativity.

“People come to buy from us because they like our aesthetic, our taste, the way we dress, the concept of the store. Those little things add up and thatʼs when it all becomes one, not just the clothes themselves”.

I suggested that theyʼre really in the service business; Moon agreed, “Yes, I believe it is like that”.

So, with the big retailers in the state they are, what one thing can they learn from Dear that keeps people coming back?

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What is interesting to me is that they are the antithesis of how large retailers operate. A recent trip to London to discover new and innovate retail ideas for this article was disappointing. Itʼs obvious that large fashion retailers are great at flashing their pants with creative window displays, Selfridges, for example, was very impressive. The window got me in the store, but if you told me I was in Bloomingdales, Iʼd have believed you. For stores like Dear Rivington+, itʼs whatʼs inside that counts, choosing to blend into their communities with a discreet shop front and to over deliver on a very creative and personal shopping experience. There are no strategic planning sessions involved, itʼs just in their DNA. I asked what inspires them;

“Everyday we walk around just to look, watching people. Even though weʼre doing nothing, itʼs very important, it inspires what we do”.

So, Dear retailers. Take a walk.

Dear Rivington+ is at 95 Rivington Street, New York, New York Tel +1917 213 9858

Gill writes about the business of fashion for Mpdclick – a leading commercial online fashion trend forecasting service. To discover more, please visit www.mpdclick.com.

Gill is the co-founder of The Joneses. Contact her at Gill@thejoneses-nyc.com

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