Retail Detail. L.A. Boutiqes Are Singing the Blues. Second City Style Fashion Blog

December 4, 2007 • Shopping

The Lily Savitch boutique is expected to close in a few weeks.

Straight from the L.A.Times comes an article detailing how the shaky economy, savvier buyers and deep department store discounts are forcing many of once thriving boutiques to screech to a halt or close altogether.

Since late 2005 to earlier this year, fashion boutiques popped up in L.A. at a dizzying pace. Boutiques such as Iconology, Presse and Lily Savitch turned La Brea Avenue into a high-fashion enclave, while Sienna, Milk,
Aura, ECookie and Filly did the same on the Westside. This
new crop of boutiques was the antithesis of mass-market, offering a
tightly edited selection of merchandise that represented the owners’
particularly L.A. spin on the trends of the day.

But times, they are a changing. Iconology on
La Brea Avenue and Filly on West 3rd Street — went out of business
last month. A third, Lily Savitch on La Brea Avenue, is expected to
fold in the next few weeks, according to owner Lily Savitch.

The newer stores are not the only ones struggling. Some of L.A.’s most
established boutiques are facing similar conditions. Tracey Ross, whose
store has always been popular among stylish actors and
socialites, said that in her 17 years in business, she’s never
experienced such a dark retail period and has had to cut back on her
sales staff hours to compensate.

The closings and slowdowns have cast a shadow on L.A.’s reputation as
an up-and-coming fashion capital, a place whose style profile and
spending power have been validated over the last few years by the
opening of boutiques from some of the fashion industry’s most
celebrated brands, including Martin Margiela, Oscar de la Renta and
Helmut Lang.

So what’s afflicting L.A.’s once-booming boutiques? When consumers start tightening their purse strings, high-end retail
suffers first.

Often those choices take consumers to department stores that are able
to discount merchandise more deeply and for longer periods of time.
Most boutiques, on the other hand, have to move the bulk of their
inventory for any given season at full price to be able to afford the
next season’s collections. Figure in rent and overhead, and two
consecutive seasons of horrible sales can — and did — equal ruin.

Another factor working against L.A.’s boutique business is the high-end
retail glut that occurred when too many boutiques opened at once.

Years ago, it wouldn’t have mattered how deeply department stores
discounted their merchandise. They didn’t carry the edgier designers,
then the sole domain of stores such as Ross’ and Maxfield. But in an
effort to chase the boutique business, department stores including
Nordstrom and Macy’s have, in recent years, developed new divisions for
young, cutting-edge brands.

"If people don’t support our boutiques, the city is going to become a
big department store," Tracey Ross said. "It’s going to be all H&M
discount all over the place."

This situation is bound to happen other major US cities. Ouch.

Read "The Boutique Blues"

Photo: L.A. Times

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4 Responses to Retail Detail. L.A. Boutiqes Are Singing the Blues. Second City Style Fashion Blog

  1. deja pseu says:

    From the few times I’ve actually tried to shop in any these LA boutiques, it’s also been my observation that they don’t carry as wide a range of sizes as the department stores. Hint: not everyone in LA is size 4 and under! Even if the designers produce up to size 12, the boutiques sometimes don’t stock them. YMMV.

  2. Lauren - SCS says:

    That’s a very good point. Most boutiques carry up to a size 8. How fair is that? They are already turning away potential customers.
    I don’t know, personally I like the selection at department stores. Nordstrom’s Savvy department rivals most boutiques. I can edit a collection for myself. It really bugs me when I walk into a boutique and see they carry one item from each hot designer. Most designers have s story they are trying to tell with their collection and many of the boutiques (especially in Chicago) ignore that. In order to claim they carry every hot designer, they carry one or two pieces from a collection. It really un-nerves me. I find that boutiques can be very limited and sometimes I don’t like their point of view (taste) or the way they ‘edit’.
    This shakedown was bound to happen. Too much high-costing supply and not enough consumer demand to pay retail. I have been predicting this fall-out for the last couple of years.
    Even people with a lot of cash want a deal. It’s the way we are all programmed now. Sad, but true. For boutiques this spells disaster.

  3. Sasha says:

    Maybe if manufacturers didn’t inflate their prices so much then people could afford to buy the clothes. I don’t know many people who can afford to buy a $500 dress every week on an entry level fresh out of college salary, which is the age range these people are targeting. the “luxury” market has become hugely inflated in the past few years, even though many of these supposed luxury goods are made in china where labor and materials is ridiculously cheap.

  4. Lauren - SCS says:

    Well that’s another reason these boutiques are failing. When times get tough the first thing cut from the budget is the $500 dress. Department stores can mark them down easier due to sheer volume. These same markdowns can kill a boutique. Consumers also love a deal. Who really pays retail anymore? Even if you DO have the cash?

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