Something about the salty air puts vacationers at beach locations in a buying mood. At least that has been the experience for many shopkeepers situated on strands or nestled in quaint seaside communities. People are generally more relaxed, they have time on their hands and money in their pockets so they’re more inclined to browse. Local resident shoppers frequently plug into some of that vibe as well. As the following five stores demonstrate, the ability to appeal to both demographics assures strong sales.
Over 50,000 people come over the Wright Memorial Bridge, the official gateway to the Outer Banks, N.C., every weekend during the summer months. “I have a large audience but a short term,” said Dee Trabue, who has owned and operated Mango’s Boutique in the town of Duck for 20 years. Her best advice on how to sell more apparel and accessories is to know your target audience. Northerners make regular pilgrimages to the area and Trabue has many repeat customers who have been shopping with her for years. “When I first opened, I did a tropical theme and it didn’t work. People were like, ‘Where would I wear this in Jersey?’ and you know, they were right! I learned to buy clothes that women can take back and wear in their own neighborhoods,” Trabue said.
The funky, edgy fashions women find at Mango’s Boutique transition easily from excursions and dining out in Duck, N.C., to their lifestyle back home. That’s the secret. “That, and getting them into a dressing room to try things on,” added Trabue. She also emphasized the importance of thoughtful merchandising. “Add your scarves, accessorize with your jewelry, make your outfits and above all, know who your customers are,” she said. Trabue’s habit of specializing in unique fashions not found in department stores and other retail chains keeps women coming back to her 2,000-square-foot boutique.
You could say there’s a certain transparency to Sanpoula’s, a charming women’s clothing store in Bethany Beach, Del. Fortunate enough to have windows on three sides of their 850-square-foot retail space, Co-owners Pam Layton and Sandy McNicholas take full advantage of display opportunities. “Most of our customers are either here for the weekend or they come for an entire week and because downtown Bethany is very small, they tend to walk by frequently,” said Layton. “Therefore, we try and change out our windows at least a couple of times a week. That way, customers see things they didn’t see the first time they went by.”
The windows aren’t the only thing that get refreshed regularly at Sanpoula’s, which proudly marks its sixteenth season this year. “I usually re-organize the inside of the store at least once a week,” said Layton. “I’m constantly moving merchandise around. I’ll bring things that may have been squished on a rack with countless other dresses to the forefront.” The strategy works because even local residents who stop in every other week or so always seem to find something that escaped their notice the week before.
Who doesn’t like a good fashion show? Women’s clothing store La Boutique in Clearwater, Fla., recognized an opportunity years ago and seized upon it. Since the resort community is home to plenty of organizations and different ladies’ clubs, La Boutique Owner Kathy Voutsinas approached several with the idea of staging a fashion show featuring her styles at their luncheons. She’s never looked back. Since many women belong to multiple clubs, her 1,500-square-foot establishment is now regularly asked to come perform shows during the winter months. There will often be as many as 250 women at some of these affairs. Another smart thing Voutsinas does is she allows the ladies’ club members who will be doing the modeling to pick out the fashions they want to wear. “Because I remember when I was young and beautiful and I was in a lot of fashion shows, we always had to wear what the store told us to wear. And I modeled some things I didn’t care for at all. But by having the models pick them out, they buy.” They also feel more comfortable during the shows so the clothing they select to model is shown to better advantage. This in turn attracts other potential customers.
In Manhattan Beach, Calif., side-by-side stores Bella Beach and Bella Beach Kids are keenly aware they are selling a lifestyle. “Really, for us – and this is something I have a conversation with my staff about frequently – it’s being ambassadors to our town,” said business Owner Kris Mackerer D’Errico. It’s an attitude that clearly runs in the family since her own husband just finished a term as Manhattan Beach mayor. “Many places people go to, they don’t necessarily remember what they bought, but they remember the people that they met. So, for us, it’s as much about interacting with everyone in a fun way when they’re coming into our stores as what we’re selling.”
Bella Beach is home to women’s fashions while Bella Beach Kids’ name says it all. Each occupies about 1,100-square-feet of retail space, just two blocks from the seaside town’s historic pier. Their customer base splits approximately 50-50 between vacationers and locals so, in order to sell more apparel and accessories, Mackerer D’Errico strives to provide a broad selection of merchandise that appeals to both. “Anything that can make people happy and put a smile on their face. They can take a piece of Manhattan Beach back with them to wherever they came from or show their local pride.”
The secret to success at Stitch and Feather in Seal Beach, Calif., is variety and display, said store Assistant Manager Liz Needham. “Keeping up to date with what’s in fashion is key, too,” she added. Stitch and Feather describes itself as a boho boutique but rather than aim at one specific age group, the approximately 1,300-square-foot retail space appeals to a wider swath of females. Teens, older women, even moms who see themselves as somewhat in-between are pleased to find fashions that suit their lifestyle. “We like to tell a story with our displays. We’ll use plenty of props besides the clothes to transform an area of the store,” Needham concluded.