It’s one thing to have shelves with products for sale at your studio. It’s another to have a successful boutique.
At Yoga Centered Studio, shopping at her boutique is an experience, said owner Molly Masaoka. The studio, located in Hilo, Hawaii, allots 500 square feet for its boutique. It offers yoga clothes and resort wear from Beyond Yoga, Hard Tail and Tiare Hawaii, as well as Masaoka’s own bikini line called Forever Summer Bikinis. Her boutique also sells locally-made body products, local artists’ goods, shell and sea glass jewelry, plus yoga props.
But in addition to the products offered, Masaoka has put time and effort into building her boutique — wood floors, a custom front desk and decal-etched glass doors are just a few of its physical features. Beyond the space itself, however, is the experience that Masaoka and her staff provide. “I think we have been successful and able to sustain our boutique because of the amazing customer service and individual attention we give to our clients,” she said. “It’s an experience to shop at the boutique. You’re not just looking at clothes; you are in a beautiful, supportive, loving environment where the staff really do care and understand the clothes.”
Shaelah Morris, the founder and director of Yoga Studio Tahoe in Truckee, California, said her boutique’s “awesome shopping experience” involves her staff as well. The salespeople working the boutique’s floor need to be enthusiastic, extraordinary and willing to go above and beyond in serving the customer. “We focus on helping them find what works and a style that works for their body type,” said Morris.
It’s also essential that the boutique fits into what the yoga studio as a whole represents. For example, John W. Welborn, the owner of Spark Yoga, said the boutiques at both of his studio’s locations complement the class offerings by selling high-quality products useful in the classes. The boutiques offer apparel — with and without the Spark brand — mats, mat towels, socks, water bottles, and other gear and props. Plus, Welborn said one should offer a good mix of yoga basics for students who forget to bring the proper clothing or gear.
Typically, Yoga Studio Tahoe will have apparel and goods that are hard to find anywhere but online, which Morris explained encourages customers to come into her boutique to try them out. In fact, she often gets visitors to her studio who don’t even practice yoga, but simply want to peruse her products. For apparel, she partners with Truckee Love, MC Yogi and Janet Stone’s yoga line. Morris also sells Tiny Devotions and locally-made jewelry. But before selling anything, Morris researches what brands are best.
Welborn, too, wanted only the best, but in his boutiques it goes a step further. The products he sells align with Spark Yoga’s eco-conscious studio philosophy. For instance, Welborn prefers Manduka products when it comes to yoga gear — like mats and straps — because of how they are made. “These come with a lifetime guarantee and zero-waste manufacturing, which is consistent with our green studio philosophy,” he explained. “We require both green manufacturing and high performance.”
Beyond what the product is made of, marketing can also play into a boutique’s selling success. By putting her studio’s name on shirts or yoga pants, for example, it helps get the word out about Morris’ business. She will also use social media to market her shop to the local community. For example, Morris might post a photo of a new legging print the boutique has stocked, or a social media discount code, in order to keep her audience engaged.
But while sales can be powerful, said Welborn, they must be managed carefully. He explained owners should analyze a boutique’s inventory. The data garnered can easily tell what is selling and what is not, which is something Welborn said to watch out for in your boutique. “This will give you valuable information on sizing, pricing and preferences,” he said.
Ultimately, while her boutique succeeds on the business end, Masaoka said it also succeeds in building an empowered and educated community. “Energetically, it feels like we are contributing instead of consuming and that feels good — happy, well-cared for staff, happy well-cared for students and clients, and a strong sense of community where everyone is welcome,” she said.