Sometimes to brand effectively, you have to change targets. Even if the market is a smaller one, the payoffs can be huge.
Stephanie Shearer, 32, opened her Denver boutique, Soul Haus, in 1999 to focus on young, hip fashion for men and women, with a breadth of labels typically found only in New York and Los Angeles. But Shearer soon discovered that too many women were browsers, not buyers. The female shopper seemed to be on the prowl for the perfect outfit at the perfect price. Men, however, had different needs: Price was less a consideration than style.
Shearer started tracking the conversion rate of browsers into buyers by gender. She also watched her street to determine the demographics of passersby. It soon became clear that men not only dominated her Capitol Hill location, but were also strong shoppers.
Going against the axiom that women's fashion drives retail, Shearer closed Soul Haus in July 2001 and reopened it in August as a shop for men. She added distinctly male touches to the décor and began stocking boxer shorts, shoes and other accessories to dress her clientele from head to toe. Service became a driving force, with alterations completed in an hour and merchandise hand-delivered.
In the first four months after Shearer decided to redesign the company to focus solely on men's apparel, sales at her store increased 25 percent. It just goes to show that, even in retail, one size doesn't fit all.
Elizabeth J. Goodgold is CEO/chief nuancer of The Nuancing Group, a brand consulting firm in San Diego, and author of the monthly newsletter Duh! Marketing.
- Soul Haus
(303) 830-7685, www.soulhaus.com