With everything from dog treats to beauty products available at deep discounts on flash-sale sites such as Fab, One Kings Lane, and Gilt, it’s no wonder small local businesses have a difficult time staying afloat in this era of Internet-savvy consumers. While the rallying cry of “Shop local!” feels like a good way to support the local economy, more often than not even the staunchest of locavores will succumb to a good deal.
Former boutique owner and native New Orleanian Sarah Winston saw the need to give small, locally owned shops a leg up on their Internet brethren. Developed with Joe Luft,Shop Local Style was developed. The site offers high end bargain hunters 15-80% off regular retail prices, and gives small shops an online boost with search engine optimization and marketing that they might not have had otherwise. Utilizing Winston’s retail background and Luft’s tech prowess, the company knows how serve the needs of small business owners and shoppers alike.
For boutique owners seeking out extra web presence, the flash sale model makes sense. The site is optimized to be search engine friendly, which is a bonus for boutiques that lack a budget for a professional website. Every aspect of the sale is handled by Wharton and Luft. They photograph, write copy, and list the products for the business owners. Once the item sells, they ship it to the customer as well. The process is flexible to accommodate a variety of shops: either keep the inventory in stock or they can hold it for you until it sells. This gives owners the option of getting clutter out of the stock room, or holding onto items instead of clearing out their sales floor. Items are typically on sale for 1-2 weeks, and during that time Shop Local Style “works with the store owner or manager and do all of the work and return the items that don’t sell.” And business has been picking up at a rapid pace. Wharton says they receive several new inquiries a week from a variety of shops from the Northshore to Uptown, and each one has opted to participate.
Eventually Shop Local Style will represent shops in other cities, “but for now we want to nail New Orleans, gain credibility as a site” states Winston. And shopping is a cinch- just sign up for a free account, and you’ll receive weekly emails updating you on the newest products for women, men, kids, and home furnishings. With boutiques such as Zuka Baby, Jean Therapy, Weinstein’s, Style Lab,and Little Miss Muffin currently marking down their goods, you can peruse some of your favorite store’s inventory without having to drive across town.
Christy Lorio, a native New Orleanian, writes on fashion at slowsouthernstyle.com and is also a freelance writer whose work has been featured online and in print magazines both locally and nationally.