Small retailers find niche in Christmas demand

“As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly
toward the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and
taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the
forehead [1 Samuel 17:48-49].”

Just like that, David scored an upset victory of biblical
proportions over Goliath.

A non-violent contemporary parallel is the competition between
small clothing and accessories retailers and the behemoth chains
that have a fleet of fashion buyers delivering merchandise to an
army of prodigious stores throughout Texas and nationwide.

Small business leaders, playing the role of David, need a niche,
a distinguishing attribute that keeps satisfied buyers, who want to
look great, coming back for more. The niche is somewhat of a
weapon.

Area fashion shows provide a glimpse of David’s playbook. The
Falconettes Holiday Fashion Show and Auction, held Dec. 3 at
Hargrave High School in Huffman, was one such venue. Retailers,
whose inventories were modeled, included Dayton’s Bessie Bugs
Boutique and Crosby’s La Dolce Vita by Lauren.

Traditionally calling her store a “one-stop shop,” owner Beth
Kratovil touts Bessie Bugs Boutique’s vast selection of ladies
apparel for all occasions, including formal, semi-formal, prom
gowns and wedding dresses. Bessie also sells jewelry, purses and
other accessories as well as lines of baby clothes. Her niche is
quality and variety, for “babies to ladies,” in one location.

Kratovil worked behind the fashion-show scenes, helping the
models prepare, and her formal and semi-formal gowns were the
culminating crowd pleaser.

La Dolce Vita by Lauren offered costume jewelry and other
accessories from a booth at this year’s event, the proceeds of
which would support the Falconettes as they prepared to travel to
San Antonio for a spring in-state nationals competition.

Owner Lauren Hobbs, accompanied by Anita Macal and Natalie
Beninati, displayed on the catwalk some of La Dolce Vita’s
fashions, which include Miss Me Jeans and Yellowbox Shoes.

Hobbs said her costume jewelry, especially the lanyards, are a
particularly popular sell. But don’t sell the dresses short. Two
cocktail dresses displayed at the top of the fashion show, drew
some “oohs.”

Quality and the sale of popular names are no-brainer marketing
techniques. Nevertheless, Hobbs relies on her own anecdotal market
research, always striving to offer customers a better deal.

“I just try to keep my prices super low,” Hobbs said, adding
that she has been in business for two years. “I shop a lot myself
and I observe other places, so I always make sure that my prices
are lower.”

The mammoth corporate retailers have advertising budgets. Hobbs
advertises La Dolce Vita. The scale is different, but the outcome
is the same.

“I advertise a lot,” Hobbs said. “We have got all of my friends
wearing the clothes. They are a great advertisement as walking
billboards. So I just try to stay with the fashions and keep prices
low.”

Corporations have fashion buyers everywhere, trolling for the
potentially fly-off-the-rack items. Hobbs has the same aesthetic
intuition that they have.

“I just buy what I like,” Hobbs said. “I just buy whatever I
think is cute and what would be good on everybody’s body type.”

La Dolce Vita has one more stone in the economic arsenal, which
is an important one during the gift-giving Christmas season. Hobbs
strives for uniqueness in her supply.

“It is going to be different,” Hobbs said about any item she
puts on sale. “It is going to be boutique stuff. I think that is
why they want to come to my store. I just try to buy stuff that is
different.

“And I don’t buy more than six of something. So there is not
going to be a million people walking around town with your
stuff.”

Bessie Bugs Boutique’s website is www.bessiebugboutiquetx.com.
The letter “s” is not attached to the word “bug.”

La Dolce Vita by Lauren is online at
www.laurens-boutique.com.

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