After 11 years in the Texas coastal resort of Galveston, retailer Kim Cherryhomes had her best holiday season ever in 2020.
But it hasn’t been an easy year overall for Cherryhomes, who owns Tangerine Boutique. “I’m open seven days a week right now, and I’m doing it all myself. I don’t have a staff,” the retailer admitted. When the pandemic hit, “I had to rethink everything.”
Cherryhomes spoke to SGN in mid-March, when Texas relaxed pandemic restrictions, including ending the statewide mask mandate. Masks are still required inside Tangerine, which led to what Cherryhomes called “some ugly moments” the first day. But most clients — eager to shop the unique selection in person — either masked up or availed themselves of free masks that Cherryhomes keeps at the register.
“I’ve had great sales, because people aren’t traveling are far, so we’re getting a lot of area tourists,” said the retailer, whose store is located on a historic block. Weekends were busy during the holidays and beyond; with spring break in view, Galveston shops were re-opening for an early, busy summer season. “A lot of people are working remotely and realizing, ‘I don’t have to live in Houston!’ So it’s a wild housing market around here — and tons of people are just waiting to shop.”
But even as life returns to normal, there is little demand for the cocktail dresses once popular with Southern women. Instead, Tangerine sells lots of “comfy clothes and flowy dresses,” Cherryhomes said. Luxe basics from the Natalie Martin collection, a customer favorite, “fly out of the store” despite three-figure price tags.
Loungewear has also boosted sales at Latitude Cape May, in the Jersey Shore resort of the same name. “That’s been my biggest seller this season,” affirmed Owner Carolyn Young. “People aren’t buying full wardrobe clothing anymore; they don’t have anywhere to go.”
Instead, weekenders are popping in for cozy sweaters and trendy tie-dye. Knitwear from Hello Mello perfectly fits the pandemic mood, with cozy loungewear styles and hygienic pouch packaging. “There’s also a lot of mixed media in clothing right now — maybe an animal print collar on a floral shirt,” Young noted.
Latitude was getting so much off-season business that by March, the store was planning longer hours and opening fitting rooms that were previously closed. “With less traffic overall, we can control it better,” Young said.
Finefolk, a boutique in Kansas City, Kan., recently returned to its regular hours. But Owner Leslie Fraly will continue to order offer private shopping by appointment. “It’s a bit more intimate, and that’s nice for customers,” she explained. “They feel like they have the store all to themselves.”
This approach fits with what Fraly has observed as a more thoughtful post-pandemic shopping experience. “I notice people are more intentional about how they spend their money,” Fraly observed. “They’re happy to support local businesses, and they appreciate hearing the stories behind the designers we carry. They want to know where the leather and alpaca are sourced.”
This season’s apparel best-sellers emphasize comfort and ease. “If they’re buying a blazer, maybe they want it a little oversized,” explained Fraly. “They want pants with elastic waists.”
In Southern California, shopping patterns are returning to normal. General Manager Donna Mitchell said that except for masks and a curbside pickup option, little has changed at Bestswimwear, a Hermosa Beach boutique. Especially for bathing suits, “people just love to come in and try things on in person,” she said.
One-piece and triangle style suits continue to sell well, and Bestswimwear sees renewed demand for two-piece styles, especially with a high-cut leg. “Animal prints always do very well, and are quite stable in swimwear,” said Mitchell. A spring highlight was the launch of Bestswimwear’s exclusive line in collaboration with B. Swim.
All the styles at Cami and Jax Swimwear are designed by Camille and Jackie Brady, sisters who own the Santa Monica swimwear boutique. As spring break approached in mid-March, Camille Brady said both one-and-two-piece styles had been selling briskly. “We have several pieces that we bring back year after year, and they always perform well,” she said.
Swimwear is seasonal, with most sales between March and October. “This year we’ve scaled back a little bit, because we’re not certain about what’s going to happen,” said Brady, alluding to the pandemic. “But I think this summer is going to be great.”
The store is open to the public and by appointment. With reduced in-store capacity, “we’re able to be with them for the time that they need,” Brady noted. “And after this past year, our online presence is stronger, which is really good for us.”