Despite the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the brick-and-mortar retail market, Apricot Lane Boutique recently reported sales were up more than 10 percent to from 2019 to 2020, showcasing strong growth margins, increased profitability for store owners and the highest volume across the franchise’s fleet to date. Some of the store locations even showed triple-digit growth in year-over-year sales.
“While each state is in a different phase of ‘reopening’ as our boutiques reopen, customers show up and we see a high intention to buy from those visitors. Traffic is down versus a year ago due to reduced operating hours, but we have seen substantial growth in the overall average dollar sale and conversion rates,” Chris Lanning, President of Retail at Apricot Lane Boutique, said.
Continued Growth in the New Year
Apricot Lane Boutique, (apricotlaneboutique.com) is the nation’s leading women’s fashion boutique retail franchise offering branded women’s fashion apparel, jewelry, handbags and accessories. They currently have more than 70 store locations nationwide, with 14-15 new boutiques planned to open during Q1 of this year.
Lanning is expecting this sales growth to continue as we coast through 2021. Retail customers, especially who shop at brick-and-mortar locations, continue to value supporting local businesses and being loyal to their favorite place to shop. With the vaccine progressing throughout the U.S., more consumers will get comfortable with making in-store purchases, which will in turn advance the brick-and-mortar retail industry.
Strong, In-Store Customer Experiences
One way to ensure growth this year is to focus on customer experiences rather than the purchase itself. “A best-in-class boutique business model is built on relationships, trust, and an emotional connection with their clients/customers/fans,” Lanning said. “It is not about the transaction. Instead, it is about the relationship, which results in more and bigger transactions. Boutique customers value supporting local businesses, and that will continue to build.”
Standing the Test of the Pandemic
When the COVID-19 crisis first hit in early 2020, the companies that stood out from the rest were those who adapted quickly to customer preferences, particularly by enhancing and expanding their digital channel capabilities. Apricot Lane Boutique owners were able to leverage the power of social channels, ecommerce, micro-targeted advertising, email, text messaging, LIVE videos, and analytics to help generate sales and keep the business running.
Most importantly, each boutique maintained relevance and awareness with their customers during a time of great uncertainty and loneliness. As 2020 went on, new best practices evolved operationally such as virtual fashion shows, virtual and in-store shopping by appointments, and curbside pick-up. Many of these approaches will continue to be a part of the brand’s base operating model going forward, according to Lanning.
Indie retailers looking to continue to excel in this new year should follow similar practices to those of Apricot Lane Boutique. Unfortunately the future will always be uncertain, but as long as you listen to your customers and are open to changes in your business model to deal with whatever may happen, that will be your recipe for success.