At the beginning of each month, I like to review previous-year numbers and make projections and sales goals for my staff. It’s funny how this time of year, my weekly numbers are inversely proportional to the temperature outside—as the mercury begins to dip here in the Northeast with the beginning of fall, sales rise as dog owners hurry out to buy sweaters, raincoats and winter parkas for their furry friends.
Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate how important "doggie fittings" are in building customer loyalty. I highly encourage my customers to bring their pups in when shopping for clothing. I’ve even scheduled fittings outside of my normal business hours for VIP customers who have a tight schedule. I’ve encountered countless, frustrated dog owners who have tried to order items online only to have them arrive and not fit their dog. After discovering my shop and getting a personalized fitting for their pooch, I have gained a customer for life! As you know, sizing varies greatly among manufacturers of dog clothing. A large from one company could be the same as a small from another. Become the expert and convey that to your customer. Get to know what size dog (i.e., weight, breed) will fit into each item you carry. It is important to carry several different lines and styles of apparel in your boutique. By having a large variety to choose from, you are sure to find something for that odd-shaped French bulldog or Italian greyhound whose owner can never find a coat that fits right.
Equally important is to stock your store with items that have a logical price point for your customers. I know there are some beautiful, high-quality lines out there that I would love to carry but I know that $70, $80 or even $100 for a winter coat just won’t be appealing to a large majority of my customer base. Finding a price point that works for your business is more or less a trial-and-error undertaking. But once you hone in on what works in your market, it makes ordering/stocking your store that much easier since you can weed out the extremes on either end of the wholesale price spectrum. I do offer to special order specific items/brands for clients who want a more expensive item.
Another thing I’ve found that works for me is uniform pricing of the entire size run of an item. I use this as a focus in my marketing campaigns. The tag line in some of my ads: Get the best quality at the best prices in town. All dog coats, all sizes $29.95. This has brought in many customers who assumed that since we are a boutique our prices would be over the top. While the larger sizes may carry a higher wholesale cost than the smaller sizes, customers appreciate knowing that regardless of size, they can expect to pay one set price for an item. One interesting tidbit is that since shifting to this pricing philosophy, sales of big dog apparel items have increased. This is a market segment you can excel at since the big-box stores tend to under stock, not stock at all or charge outrageous prices for items for dogs over 60 lb.
Go have a winning fall and build momentum as you approach the upcoming Holiday Season.
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