By Genie Davis
Whether its hats, socks, footwear, handbags or sunglasses, accessories represent a big wave in sales for coastal stores year-round. For this article, store owners and staff offered their tips on the best way to sell more of these items.
Maurices in Hood River, Ore., is a branch of a national women’s fashion chain. The store’s First Assistant Connie Williams said selling more of these items is focused on display, marketing techniques, and social media. “We sell a ton of jewelry, we have purses, we have wallets, and shoes. We do a lot of social media posting; honestly that is your number one with any type of retail exposure now because the cost is almost zero. We also have regular store displays that we change on a frequent basis – that makes a good difference. And we do email mass- marketing.” And finally, she noted, “I’d say another important element is our credit card, which is exclusive to our store only. The card is a huge sales-promoter, because it offers a 10% discount every time you use it in the store or online.” She said, “You’re also eligible for extra discounts and sales using the card at any time. So, it pushes people into the store; it’s really a fantastic value for our customer base.”
Williams related that displaying accessories is “all about creating a story. When you come into my store, if you didn’t have an idea of what you want, I have put an idea together that you can choose and is appealing for everybody, regardless of style and type and height.” The store’s accessory merchandise is purchased through the chain’s buyers, who attend fashion shows to find popular choices.No buying is done in the store. “Our company’s team does that, and we base our stock and quantities on what our customers are asking for when they come in.”
In Cannon Beach, Ore., at Dena’s Shop on the Corner, Store Manager Erin Olson said her top tips to sell more accessories are display and customer interaction. “A lot of it is how our marketing works in the store; and then it’s all about how we interact with people. We also have an email list that we send to people who repeatedly come in, it goes out weekly and shows new outfits and new accessories to wear with that outfit.” Her in-store displays include a line of mannequins in the window, clad in fully accessorized outfits, and the use of flat walls, hat racks, and table displays that utilize stands of varying heights. To find merchandise, the store makes good use of building relationships with its vendors. “A lot of our reps we’ve been working with for years. We’ve been here 20 years and they know what we need. We place orders with them directly, and we will do trunk shows with them where they are able to show more of the products they have to our customers. That helps us get to know them.”
Located near Lake Union in Seattle, Wash., Baby & Co. Buyer and Owner Jill Donnelly said selling more accessories at her 1000-square-foot store is due to a combination of factors. “One isn’t exclusive to the other. We use display, social media, and personal interaction.” In terms of display, the store pairs complete outfits together with accessories, and additionally shows accessories separately. “We have scarves all hanging together, socks in an area by the shoes, and jewelry in a case. But I feel that the execution of how to wear accessoreis – showing our customers my point of view – that is critical, and special to this store.” To find the best merchandise for her shop, Donnelly reported, “I go to my given fashion markets; I find the thing that grabs me and stands away from the rest. Obviously, I am influenced by the season; some are more accessory-heavy than others. For example, we carry more scarves in winter and more bling jewelry in the holiday season.” She added, “I am a curated boutique with a personal point of view that is directed at the customers I’ve been serving for the last forty years. Vendors know what I am looking for.”
At the 1600-square-foot In the Country Boutique in Langley, Wash. on Whidbey Island, Owner Cynthia Tilkin termed display “number one” when it comes to increasing accessory revenues. “We are located in an old house, and I use a lot of furniture such as round tables with clothes on them, warm lamps, and multiple non-commercial-looking stands from antique stores. I find beautiful plates and I put jewelry, hats, and gloves on them.” She said maintaining her aesthetic takes time. “I’m often here late at night doing displays, because people take them apart during the day, and I have to put them back together.” Tilkin finds merchandise at trade shows. Vendors do come in and talk with her directly as well. “Building a good relationship with vendors personally is very important,” she stressed, emphasizing that is the way vendors will learn to suggest what fits best in a store.
In Mendocino, Calif., at Fancy That, Sales Associate Dawn Bristow, speaking for Owner Harriet Bye, said sales lift through display, accessibility, and one-on-one exchanges with customers. “We explain how to put outfits together, including scarves and necklaces; we keep the accessories throughout the store both paired with outfits and next to the counter as like-items. There is nothing in a case. Everything is open so they can touch it.” According to Bristow, “Trying accessories on is encouraged. We also have a display wall and items on the shelves with clothing.” With that in mind, she said her best display advice is, “Pair accessories with clothing to show customers what items look good together.”
Bristow explained that Bye attends trade shows to find new merchandise. “It goes in cycles,” she attested. “We’ll try a new line that she’s seen at shows; some are lines we have had for a long time, and their vendors know our store and location. We are getting in more accessories now that we ever have, including hats, handbags, and gloves.”
Overall, display is always key in selling accessories – especially when pairing accessory items with clothing. Also important is interacting with customers, using social media and email, and simply knowing what items to carry that are most appealing to customers. All are key elements to boost accessory sales.
Saying Hello for Higher Sales
Greeting customers is uniformly recognized by boutique coastal shops as important – but just how customers are greeted varies by store, according to retailers interviewed for this article.
At Maurices in Hood River, Ore., the store’s First Assistant Connie Williams said, “Absolutely we greet them – the customer first is our number one priority. The first and immediate training for all employees is to make that absolute genuine connection when the customer comes through, and understand by their body language what they are looking for and what makes them comfortable or uncomfortable. If you don’t feel good when you come in our store, you won’t come back. My job is to make you feel good.”
At Dena’s Shop on the Corner in Cannon Beach, Ore., Store Manager Erin Olson attested, “We keep a greeting really casual since we are on the beach. They are here on vacation. But we always greet them at the door. We let them know if we have sales, and if they have been here awhile, we offer water or wine while they shop. And we always make sure a sitting husband is taken care of. We also love dogs, so we are dog friendly.”
By the bay in Seattle, Wash., Jill Donnelly, buyer and owner of Baby & Co. said, “I started in 1976 at Nordstroms. I believe manners matter, service wins the game, and that will never change. We greet our customers and we say goodbye as well.”
Cynthia Tilkin, the owner of In the Country in Langley, Wash., agreed with Donnelly. “We greet and say goodbye, because the cash area is near the front door and I see everyone. My store is very residential-looking, people feel they are coming into my home and that’s how we treat them, super warmly. We never say may I help you. You never want to ask them anything they can say no to; you always say things they can say yes to, or just a cheery hello.”
And at Fancy That in Mendocino, Calif., Sales Associate Dawn Bristow, speaking for owner Harriet Bye, said, “We just say welcome or ‘hello there,’ but we always greet them. It is very important. If we make our customers feel comfortable, they’ll feel more comfortable to shop.”