According to store staff, selling more apparel and inspirational gifts at boutiques and inspirational stores requires “inspired” personalized customer service, staff knowledge, and of course, solid display technique. Social media often plays a part as well.
Shops offer their advice on how they appeal to their customers and elevate sales of these items, and also describe their best-selling gifts and apparel.
At the 3100-square-foot Vision Quest in Phoenix, Ariz., Front Desk Representative Nicole Rosdahl related that crystals are “wildly popular. We have a ton of different crystals, we have someone who goes out and mines them in the area and in Mexico.” The careful sourcing of these crystals adds to their sales appeal. Also popular as gifts are incense, candles, sage, and books; however, two other top sellers are more unusual. “We offer gift cards for our psychic readers. People indicate an amount for a reading for an incredibly special gift. We also have a Kirlian photography photo booth here that allows people to photograph their aura. That is also a top seller as a gift.” Kirlian photography captures electrical coronal discharges by bringing UV light and infrared light into the visible light spectrum.
Rosdahl said that each of these items makes a popular gift because so many of the store’s customers are seeking the insight they offer, and want to share that insight with others.
Vision Quest’s top selling apparel items are more prosaic. “We have T-shirts and tank tops that sell very well, but our tote bags are the top seller. They have lovely Celtic knot work,” Rosdahl noted. “The totes are big enough to hold notebooks and books, but beautifully made, with the knots, and symbols on them. Totes are popular in part because they are in-fashion, in the same way that a brand like Michael Kors handbags are fashionable. And many people like to have a way to keep the books and notebooks they use for their spiritual practice in one place.”
Selling more apparel items is all about creating an attractive display, according to Rosdahl. “Out of all the things we have in the store, apparel is the one thing customers don’t need to ask a lot of questions about.” Increasing gift sales is a different matter. “It’s about establishing a one-on-one rapport and a personal connection with people. I really go off the energy of the customer, and because I have had a lot of metaphysical education, I can usually lead them to what they want as a gift, or for themselves.”
Laurie Russell, manager of F.C. Ziegler Company Catholic Art & Gifts in Austin, Texas, revealed that selling more gift and apparel items depends upon having “excellent customer service. When you can provide that, and you have the follow-through to understand what the customer is asking for, and make sure they have what they need when they leave the store, that’s where great sales start. And of course, product knowledge is also important. But even if you aren’t knowledgeable, follow-through is the key. You can refer to catalogs and our website.”
Along with stellar customer service, Russell uses social media to raise sales of gifts and apparel. “We have a strong Facebook presence, and people do pay attention to it. Every time I blog about our St. Joseph real estate kit, for example, we have many realtors come into the store.” Russell’s final suggestion for improving sales is to have a diversity of ways for customers to buy items. “People can come into the store, they can call us, or they can order directly online. Having those choices is very important, too. But customer service always comes first when it comes to improving sales.”
Russell’s store does not carry a lot of apparel items, but veils are a best-selling item for her. “There has been a real resurgence recently where women feel called to wear a veil. It’s something intimate and personal; it doesn’t even mean that they are attending a Latin mass.” The veils are so popular in fact that Russell is trying to get in more varieties. “The Spanish mantillas, the infinity veil, and more traditional veils are all popular,” she said. Russell believes the popularity of veils is reflected in the fact that they serve as a “shield from the rest of the world. There’s a sudden intimacy in wearing one, and it’s there to remind you to stay focused on the Mass.”
When it comes to gift items, saint medals are enormously popular and varied. “Everyone loves the saints, you don’t have to be a Catholic to love them,” she pointed out. “The price point is also appealing, we have medals from 75 cents to expensive, solid-gold medals. They can be worn on a chain, tucked into a pocket, or tied onto a gift package. They’re great gifts, great reminders that we can relate to the saints as human beings who did heroic things.”
Back in Phoenix, Ariz., Michael Erwin, owner of Fantasia Crystals, finds social media key in improving his shop’s gift sales. “We don’t have an email list, so we rely on our website and social media to bring people in and let them know what we have in the store. Even more important is once they are in the store, making sure our one-on-one customer service is strong. We let people know what items are new, and what items may be important to them.”
Erwin terms crystals and minerals his top selling gift items. “So many people are tapping into the energy in crystals. They make an awesome gift for friends and family,” he attested. He added that the popularity of individual types of crystals ebbs and flows. “Amethyst and rose quartz are certainly the most popular overall.”
Moving from inspirational shops to boutiques, personal customer service is still key for selling both apparel and gifts. Kate Myers, co-owner of the 800-square-foot KiND Apparel Company in Manhattan Beach, Calif., explained. “We’re very grass roots, we don’t want to be in your face. It’s all about knowing your merchandise and talking about the stories behind our items, where they are sourced, who makes them. You need to learn about what you are selling and create a sense of awareness with the information you’re sharing.”
The boutique shop offers sustainable fashion and donates a portion of their profits to charities that they support. “Letting people know that we can consume and do good is important,” Myers attested. The shop also uses social media to let customers know about new items and charitable causes.
“Our top selling apparel items are probably children’s hoodies. They have fun, unique pockets in the back such as a golden heart or a fox or wolf. And they’re all made from 100 percent organic cotton, by hand. They’re accessorized with friendship bracelets, too. Our tank tops that feature the words ‘We are all one kind’ running down the spine do well also. Customers like the message, and having a design with the words down the back or along a sleeve are the most popular pattern.” Myers cites the reason for the appeal of the hoodies is in part because of the “fun elements of the pouches and the friendship bracelets.” The message on her shirts is highly relatable and inspiring, which draws customers to purchase these items.
When it comes to gifts, Myers finds individual friendship bracelets, hats, and a KiND doll to be top sellers. “The KiND doll allows people to immediately give back. When you buy one doll, another is given to someone who wouldn’t otherwise be able to have one, for example a child in a hospital.”
At the 600-square-foot Nathalie Seaver Boutique in Los Angeles, Calif., Owner Nathalie Seaver said the best way to sell more apparel is through strong displays and store placement. “I happened to move an item from one place in the store where it had been sitting for a month, and when I moved it, it sold immediately. There is a funny voodoo, you move something and it seems to call out to people,” she laughed. “Along with display, personal service is also extremely important of course.” With gift items, Seaver finds personal contact in the store and social media online to be key elements when it comes to improving sales.
“I’ve definitely sold things because I posted them online, and people came in to see them. But more important than social media is in-person social interaction. People come back to my shop because we pay attention to what people want; we listen.”
Seaver said her best-selling apparel item is a “silk blouse that I designed. I have a really good sense of fabric, and it has a classic silhouette that looks good on a lot of different body types.” She added, “It also sells well because it’s unique. It’s not something you can find in say an H & M store.” Her top-selling gift items vary with the seasons, but she said strong sellers include jewelry, stuffed animals, and French-style table cloths. “One gift item that always does well is something that we make exclusively for the store – maple cheese boards. They look like vintage Provencal cheese boards, but they’re made locally and can be customized in any size. The uniqueness of this item is what makes it so popular, and our ability to customize it.”
Overall, personal customer service is the top way to improve sales at both inspirational stores and boutiques; best-selling items may be varied indeed, but selling more apparel and gifts is above all else about the best possible, personal customer service.