In today’s competitive retail climate, a new brick-and-mortar boutique needs to stand out, build a customer base practically overnight and keep operational costs to a minimum…all while being fashion fabulous.
Dylan Star, which just opened in Santa Barbara, California, hits all three points with a clever co-retailing approach: it’s co-located insidea popular hair salon (with its own entrance). This increasingly popular concept is helping new stores amp up quickly, and help existing stores save on costs.
Boutique owner Erica Brown, who was and still is a hair stylist at Salon U, tells Accessories how the co-retailing idea came about and how it will boost business going forward for both parties.
“I’d wanted to open a boutique for a while and had been working on some locations but they fell through for one reason or another,” Brown explains, noting the tough retail climate and record number of empty storefronts in her Santa Barbara area. “One day I was shampooing a customer’s hair at Salon U and looking around our large salon, and I realized that there was a lot of empty, unused space. So I came up with a business plan, presented it to the owner, and now I lease a 500-square-foot space within the salon for Dylan Star.”
Since the boutique has no walls per se inside the salon, the space feels larger, and also permits customer flow from one retail operation to the other. “I definitely want to get my own clients through social media and advertising, but for now there’s an instant customer base from the salon to come check out Dylan Star,” says Brown. “We haven’t done any cross-over boutique/salon discounts yet, but that’s definitely an idea, especially for new salon customers.”
To buy merchandise for her boutique, Brown flew to Vegas for MAGIC for the first time. She personally selected each item to reflect an array of stylistic options to take shoppers from day-to-night, including: Bohemian, professional, casual, and feminine, all with an emphasis on excellent fabrics. At WWDMAGIC, Project Womens and POOLTRADESHOW she assembled a fashionable yet affordable merchandise mix that offers a welcome middle range for Santa Barbara’s State Street, a blend of high-end boutiques and corporate department stores.
“Nothing at Dylan Star sells for more than $175 right now, which is a leather weekender from LoveStitch,” she says. All our denim is under $100. Shirts are $27 to $75; and our most expensive brand is Show Me Your Mumu.”
Accessories comprise about 25% of the mix, featuring, to name a few: sunglasses from Quay Australia, jewelry from sister brands Amano Studio and Beijo Brasil, which are both made in Sonoma, California (“It’s always nice to sell local designers!), and jewelry brand BelJoy Haiti, which employs women from Haiti. While the merchandise mix is mostly for women, Brown added burnished flasks from The Sneerwell, which she found at POOLTRADESHOW. “I loved these and thought it would be nice to have something for women to buy for their guys!”
Brown is steadily building her Instagram following, bringing followers on her journey to shop shows and open the store.
A FASHION/SALON EXPERIENCE
The retail space has two separate entrance doors, one with the Dylan Star logo and one for Salon U, but as there are no walls, both operations can share customers. “When you’re here, you feel like you’re in two different spaces but it’s very easy to do a walk-through–even when your hair is processing with color on it,” Brown says.
And while many fashion boutiques do much of their business on the weekends, Dylan Star follows the salon’s hours and is closed on Sunday and Monday. “It works for me, because then I can go to LA and do more shopping for the store if need be on Mondays.”
The store had a grand opening the middle of September with complimentary tacos and margaritas and music by DJ Flea. The event will be the first of several themed nights that Brown intends to instigate, including several pop-ups to highlight local designers as well as men’s clothing lines.
At least the women know where to get their hair done before the event!