I write this not to deride you but to help your business succeed. There's a 53 percent chance that your boutique will shutter in the next four years. This is an average that doesn't review criteria such as saturation, technology avoidance or high-rent districts that will affect the outcome of your success.

As a blogger, I often enter your boutique incognito to peruse your establishment. I most likely won't purchase anything during the first visit.

When I do announce myself, please don't treat like I'm a nuisance. People ask for my opinion all the time. My followers and readers will see your goods on social media and blog posts. I link and tag your establishment in posts. This means free advertising in a very saturated market by someone who influences buying habits. I am an ally and a critic. Think secret shopper meets fashion critic. If I love your establishment, I will enter an agreement with you. I don't do this lightly. I have high criteria. You need me to help you advertise your business.

Here's my procedure when entering a store for the first time. I walk the length of the store, glancing at the racks. If I like what I see, I start examining the clothes on the rack. I look at tags. I examine the quality of the fabric and the seaming. I casually interact with staff to see if they will talk to me. If I'm not impressed, I won't return. I may be a blogger, but I am a customer first.

FYI, I buy a lot of clothes. I have a monthly budget set aside. If I like, I will buy. If I buy, I will return.

Consider this blog friendly advice. You have mouths to feed and bills to pay. I'm trying to help you. This is my criteria, but keep in mind that other bloggers and influencers may follow similar guidelines.

Here's my judging criteria:

How was I greeted (if at all)

This is my greatest pet peeve. The hubby and I walked into five boutiques yesterday. It wasn't intentional. I didn't plan to shop. I was dress fashionably for a change. Usually, I wear my Saturday bummies and no makeup, but it was date day.

This particular shopping center caters to high-end clientele. It hosts five boutiques and four high-end chain retailers. The boutiques were dead on a Saturday afternoon. Out of five boutiques, only one greeted me and attended to me at all.

At one boutique, the sales person only greeted skinny, wealthy-looking people -- who did not buy a thing. I walked in with a camera, so I was a little conspicuous. She didn't greet me or even look in my direction. She didn't greet the plus-size women who entered after us either. It's sad really. The clothes were cute. I walked out offended and empty-handed.

Treat every customer as a potential repeat customer. You can't afford not too. Even if your business is booming, the tide could change suddenly.

If your boutique caters to a specific clientele, greet everyone even if they can wear your clothing. They may purchase a gift for someone else or recommend your store. Last time I checked, earrings and necklaces are not sized.

Don't judge based on appearance. There's a healthy restaurant next door to the boutiques in question. I saw many people window shopping in gym clothes, who dropped by the restaurant for lunch after working out. Maybe they want to dress their new bodies. Don't assume they hate fashion or don't have money.

If I have to flag your sales associate down to open the fitting rooms or check me out when the store is vacant, I will walk out empty handed. No sales equals no social media pics with the product. It also translates into no links or tags or blog post features. Not only did your sales associate cost you money by losing a sale, he or she cost you the sales of my many followers and readers.

However, extra points if the sales associate knows fashion and styling. I'm not immune to thoughtful suggestions. It's an easy way to get me to buy.




How is the Store Laid Out

A beautifully laid out store entices shoppers. I'm not referring to the shelves and the endcaps. Is your store aesthetically pleasing from the sign outside to the fitting rooms? Boutiques should provide a personal, homey shopping experience. Throw in a little glamour. Make everything look inviting.

How Diverse is Your Targeted Clientele

I don't support boutiques that don't carry my size. Most of my audience can't wear your clothing either. Unless your boutique is a specialty store for a specific body type or style of clothing, I'm not interested. I think many boutiques miss a great marketing opportunity by narrowly selecting their demographic. Most national retail establishments don't operate this way for a reason.

Does Your Price Point Reflect Quality

I don't like fast fashion. If the only difference between your inventory and Forever 21's inventory is price, I'm not interested. There is nothing more disconcerting than buying poorly-made clothes with a high mark-up.

My readers agree. I had a conversation with one the other day on this very topic. Burn them once with a product, they will likely never return. At least they know they are buying cheap products from a fast fashion retailer. Bait and switch is never profitable.

Do You Have a Social Media Presence

If you don't use social media, close up shop. Seriously. This is a matter of life and death for your business.

Customers under the age of 30 are hard to reach, allegedly. They don't rely on traditional media or word of mouth. Social media is the new word of mouth.

Marketers discovered that successful fashion and beauty brands use social media. They use influencers, like me, to offer tutorials. Most people will ignore a piece of clothing on the rack if they think it doesn't work for them. They need people who look like them to model the outfits. Fashion is visual. Instagram is a must.

Research social media. Choose what works for you (after giving it at least a year of intense use to build an audience). Use it well.

Boutiques find me. I rarely seek them out. I follow boutiques who follow me. If I see something I like, I will visit the store. If the boutique is not local, I only follow boutiques who supply an online store.

Take high quality photos. Learn to style. Engage with your audience. Choose the proper tags. Find customers.

I hope you take this advice to heart. I want you to succeed.


The Frugal Fashionista

Published by Heather Leigh Stanley