Five lessons you learn in the first year of store ownership

Judith Portland Maine

When Brooke Beaney left her life as a designer in New York to open a concept store, Judith, in Portland, Maine, she knew it would be a huge challenge. However, a year on, her business is thriving and she just launched the online version of her bricks and mortar boutique. Here, she shares the five big lessons she’s learned in the first year of store ownership…

1. Have a vision and believe in it. Buy what you believe in. It serves the store and our customers best when I buy only what I would wear and/or use. The truth is you simply can’t please everyone all the time. Don’t let the reactions of everyone who walks into your store dictate the direction of your buy.

Be confident you are offering your customer the best edit of your vision. To feel like a store is throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks dilutes the concept and doesn’t create an inspiring shopping experience. It can end up feeling overwhelming and too time consuming to get involved with.

Judith Portland Maine

Stay true to your vision: Brooke believes customers deserve your best edit

2. Good help can be hard to find – value it when you find it. I can’t over-emphasise how much I appreciate the people who have helped me do this.

3. Cashflow is everything. Don’t get pressured into exceeding your budgets. Boring, but by modeling a business conservatively and maintaining a view on cashflow for at least a year into the future, you can keep the business moving forward, sleep at night, be on good terms with your vendors and eliminate the self loathing that comes with racking up additional, unnecessary debt. Having worked on the other side of thing, as a designer for many years, I am extremely concerned with and committed to paying people in full and on time; committed to us all being successful together.

4. Be forthcoming with information to help your customer look their best, even if that means sending them online or to another store to work out the look. Honesty is the BEST policy. Don’t sell just to sell. Cultivate trust. The minute your customer puts on something outside of the store and feels like they don’t look right, you become an unscrupulous sales person to them. Even if you honestly think something looks great on them, you aren’t going to be with them to cheer them out the door when they wear it so we try to be certain that customers are truly confident in the clothing they buy.

We have definitely discouraged purchases before – and told people just flat out no, they shouldn’t buy it. Of course this is typically easier with our regulars who know us and understand we have their best interest in mind. So, when they repeatedly try to buy drapey linen t-shirts that make their torsos look like mush and we say they can do better, they aren’t insulted. Once, at an instore evening event, a woman who’d had a couple of cocktails was refused the purchase of a pair of short-shorts. She told us they were for the express purpose of going to Israel and she didn’t want to try them on… We told her she needed to either try them on or sleep on it.

5. You cannot judge a book by its cover. By making everyone feel welcome you’ll find even the seemingly least likely guests become customers.

Like what you just read? Follow Judith on Instagram and check out the online store.

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