The Future of the Retail Industry – 4 Strategies to Survive and Thrive

The past year has completely upended wholesale clothing companies and retail fashion boutiques. Whether you consider this Retail Apocalypse 2.0 or you look at this as its own uniquely devastating effect on retail fashion businesses big and small, COVID has taught us a great deal. 

We learned that traditional signs of commercial strength like company size, years in business, name recognition, and multiple retail locations were not good predictors of survival. Instead, intangible qualities like business agility and creativity have proven far more valuable for surviving these crazy times and are shaping the future of retail fashion. Let’s look at four strategies for wholesale boutique clothing and retail fashion not just to survive but thrive in the times of a global pandemic and beyond. 

#1 Simplify the Supply Chain

The perils of intricate and snarled supply lines came to a head during the pandemic, with wholesale clothing supply often stuck halfway around the world from demand with no way to get them to meet.

Fashion companies who relied too heavily on outsourced manufacturers had nothing to offer customers looking to build out their athleisure wardrobe during quarantine. At the same time, those focused primarily on U.S.-made wholesale boutique clothing found ways to prosper. 

A shorter supply chain offers additional benefits like improved relationships and communications with your suppliers. It enables you to make use of the latest information and industry trends. It also allows you to remain more agile and responsive to customer feedback. When you sell out of one style in a flash, your U.S.-based wholesale clothing supplier may be able to send you more. 

Buying U.S.-made clothing also ensures that workers are well-treated and well-paid while making for a smaller carbon footprint. These are essential considerations when customers are growing more concerned about ethical business practices and sustainability.

#2 Building Relationships

Think you can’t compete with giants like Amazon? From Gen Z to Baby Boomers, 3 in 4 customers prefer to spend their money with small, independent businesses, according to a 2018 survey from the small business loans platform, Funding Circle. It’s even more true today.

Build relationships with your customers and ensure they feel welcomed in your fashion boutique. It’s what everyone is hungry for, and Amazon can never match that personal touch. 

Harness the power of social media to connect with your customers. No more crystal-ball gazing to divine their desires — ask them!

Ask questions, create surveys, engage with them where they live. Build your brand and listen to the response. If your favorite wholesale clothing suppliers use fun shots of their styles, post them to Instagram to gauge your customers’ response even before you place your order.

If someone shows great interest in a specific item, notify her when the shipment arrives with a “Just thought you’d want to know…”. A small personal connection can reap big rewards.

Raise your visibility on social media with location-tagging promotions or giveaways. To enter, have customers post images of themselves on social media wearing the clothing they bought in your store, tagging your store name and location.

The more your store gets found in user’s social media feeds, the more others will find it and come to your store. Just remember to like and comment on each post. Remember to keep the “social” in social media. When you’re building relationships, don’t leave anyone hanging.

Your customer wants to feel good about spending her money. When she feels seen, heard, and valued, she will buy. 

#3 Old Fashioned Service Pays Off

A PwC Consumer study shows that 49% of shoppers have made impulse purchases after a positive service experience and that consumers will pay up to 18% more for upscale products after a positive experience.

These positive personal experiences are at the heart of a retail fashion boutique’s future success. Build opportunities for personal interaction and service into your business plan to connect with customers and keep them coming back.

When someone asks, “Do you have this in blue?” instead of “No,” answer, “We’ll find out if it’s available for special order”. Even if she doesn’t take you up on it, she’ll appreciate the gesture. If she does, check the availability with your wholesale boutique clothing supplier.

Find ways to adapt to modern changes while continuing to provide old-fashioned personal connections.

Click-and-go curbside pickup has been a boon to both boutique owners and shoppers during the pandemic. But what about service or upsell opportunities?

When filling an order for pickup, prepare a second bag with a few select items for the customer to consider. “If you have a moment, I think this jacket is wonderful with the two tops you selected.” Or, “This necklace just came in. It isn’t even online yet, but isn’t it perfect with that dress?”. 

#4 Create Experiences To Bring People In

Connect with neighboring shop owners to create collaborative experiences that attract people to your storefront and theirs. A nearby shoe shop may have cute footwear to accessorize some of your best looks. A makeup store might offer skincare samples or tutorials.

A coffee house or smoothie stand can provide yummy refreshments, inviting shoppers to linger. Get creative. Perhaps a pet store would let you set up a chinchilla-petting station!

Consider offering in-store workshops that tie in with your product line. The plethora of YouTube tutorials makes clear that people want to feel more confident in many areas concerning personal style.

Offer expert guidance on topics like dressing your body type, mixing patterns, or making bold color choices that work. You could offer meetings with a stylist or author. Workshops are great opportunities to connect with the local community and to publicize it on social media.

Success for fashion boutiques in these tumultuous times will combine new technologies with old-fashioned customer relationships. Harness these strategies and build the future for your fashion boutique’s success.

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Ryan Ninow

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