Boutique owner: adaptability key to success
In the last year, there has been a lot of bad news about retail in Hamilton, with several veteran retailers closing down after decades in business.
But one Hamilton entrepreneur insists it’s not all doom and gloom.
After three years running ModBlu Boutique at 46 Reid Street, Kristen Carreiro is doing pretty well.
“At the end of the day, as long as we are paying our bills and I am still smiling, that is all that matters,” she said.
Running ModBlu, she has tried hard to adapt, quickly, to trends in the local retail market.
This summer, with temperatures reaching 90F at times, things got very quiet in Hamilton.
“In the summer, people just don’t want to walk around town,” Ms Carreiro said.
In the past she’d dismissed the idea of an online store.
“I said why should we do that?” she said. “If someone wants to buy something they can come to the store.”
But this July she decided she was ready to give it a try.
Customers can now browse her inventory through her website. If they find something they like, they can either pick it up at the Reid Street location, or Ms Carreiro will deliver it.
When she launched, things didn’t go exactly as anticipated.
“We didn’t make as many sales on the website as I hoped for,” she said. “but I also think I just need to push it more. But it has definitely been a huge advertising platform.
“People are now coming in saying I saw this product on your website, can you show me where that is in the store? It has been helpful in more ways than one.”
This winter, ModBlu has extended their hours, opening on Sundays between 1pm and 5pm. “So far, that has been received really well,” Ms Carreiro said.
She has also made physical changes to her store to make it brighter and airier.
“At the back of the store, there used to be a door,” she said. “We’ve opened it up and widened it. You can see Front Street now.”
She said in today’s market, experience is everything.
“If you walk into a space and you are not getting a great experience, what is the point?” she said. “Why not sit at home in your pyjamas with a cup of tea or a glass of wine, if you are not getting that social interaction and customer care? We have even had people call in advance and say, I’m going to a wedding this weekend. You know my size and style. Can you pre pull some stuff for me? I’m racing around’. Life is just crazy in this day and age.”
She tries to make things as convenient as possible for her clients, acknowledging that while she loves to shop, others are overwhelmed by it.
“We are always asking customers for feedback, whether they are sending us an e-mail or talking to us in person,” she said.
Her customers are generally between 25 and 45 years old.
“I had a woman come in who was looking for a dress for her 100th birthday in December,” Ms Carreiro said. “That was so fun.”
So far, her formula seems to be working. This year, ModBlu won the best boutique award, and best plus-sized section in the Best of Bermuda Awards.
“People automatically associate smaller boutiques with smaller sizes,” she said. “We carry extra small to extra large. We go up to 3X.”
Millennials have a reputation for being less brand loyal than previous generations. Ms Carreiro thinks that’s because they have other priorities.
“With young millennials and Gen Zs there is this huge movement of eco consciousness and awareness of climate change,” she said. “There are still people who love a Louis Vuitton bag, but there is an oversaturation of brands in the world. It is hard to have brand loyalty, when there is so much out there.”
One of her friends on the same block of Reid Street is Kaitlyn Simmons who opened men’s clothing boutique Banter&Steel, with her sister, Lianna Masters, in April.
“So far the challenge has been getting the word out there and getting people in the store,” Ms Simmons said.
She said it was a little scary to hear about veteran businesses closing down.
“We just have to keep up with the times that are changing, and focus on what people want,” she said. “We ask people a lot. We don’t want to bring things in if it is not what people want.”
Ms Simmons feels it is important to cater to the customer’s tastes and not your own.
“With that idea I am hoping we can stick around for a long time,” she said.
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