Posts in: retail-outlet

Retail Sales

Boutique Retailer ‘Biscuit General Store’ Loves to Support Independent Designers

Valerie Dumaine
Valerie Dumaine, Independent Fashion label carried at Biscuit General Store

Canada’s East Coast is full of not only breathtaking landscape but charming boutiques as well. Gorgeous little stores line downtown streets, overflowing with clothing, accessories, housewares and crafts. Most local, some sourced from other corners of the country, all amazing and unique in their own right.

Before I decided on which store to highlight for this article, I asked my social media followers who they would recommend and Halifax, Nova Scotia’s Biscuit General Store was the #1 choice of bloggers and trend setters alike.

Opened in 1996 as ‘Biscuit Clothing’ with a capital of just $2,000, their mission was “to find stylish, indie/vintage inspired clothing and to present it in a fun atmosphere.” In 2000, Biscuit Clothing expanded and became Biscuit General Store. They relocated to a 2400 square foot downtown street-front location and began to offer a full range of gifts, books, apothecary, home décor, and accessories in addition to an expanded selection of men’s and women’s clothing. The store features wholesome, retro-inspired décor with quirky features (like a ride on horse!) and as one of their Yelp referrals states “it’s like everything is handpicked for ultimate awesomeness.”

The store’s creator and owner, Wendy Friedman, is “dedicated to growing the business in a way that benefits everyone; the customers, the staff and the greater Halifax community.

I contacted Wendy because I was curious about how an independent designer could get ‘in’ with a fabulous local shoppe.

StUF: Describe the basic concept of your store; who your target customer is, a general description of your merchandise:

BGS: Biscuit General Store is a modern version of a department store, a whimsical, quirky, crafty department store.  We called it “General Store” so that we can sell whatever we find that we love. We sell men’s & women’s clothing, accessories, shoes, unusual gifts, housewares, books… whatever we find that’s awesome. I’m excited about the Bill Murray colouring book that’s coming in soon from the UK!

Our main customer base is younger working people, about 23-45, but you’ll find 6 year olds here for our vintage carnival pony ride and 75 year old grannies here for our greeting cards.

StUF: What are some of your most popular in store events and promotions?

BGS: I guess that our end-of-season sales are pretty legendary.  We don’t mess around when it comes to sale time – we go half price storewide for one day every summer and also every Boxing Day.  It’s great fun.  We also do fun promos via Facebook  and Twitter just to keep things lively… we’ve been known to fire confetti cannons at contest winners!

StUF: How much of your business comes from people traveling to the area throughout the year?

BGS: We’re not in the main tourist zone along the waterfront, but we tend to get some of the hipper visitors to Halifax who hear about us on Twitter, Yelp, blogs, etc.  Also, we’re located on the cutest street in town!

StUF: Why do you choose to carry independent designers?

BGS: It’s really important to me that we support emerging designers, especially Canadians.  We need to get behind the Canadian industry, and it’s really exciting to find the smaller designers who are innovating and have their own voice.  We can offer our customers something fresh and unique when we carry small designers. We love Dreamboat Lucy, by sister team Hilary and Louanna Murphy.  They’re local girls, sweethearts and super-talented.  We also carry Valerie Dumaine, Eve Gravel, Allison Wonderland, Bodybag by Jude,  Birds of North America,  and lots of local jewelry.


StUF: Can you offer any tips or advice for emerging/independent designers that want to have their goods sold in local boutiques?

BGS: My best advice is to learn about how the fashion industry works – ask a successful retailer to mentor you!  We mentor a couple of small designers and it’s great.  It’s key to know what else is out there, and set yourself apart, so research by shopping and seeing what other small designers are doing online.  If I see one more lookbook from a Canadian designer doing early 2000’s jersey clothing with silkscreens of gingko leaves, I think I’ll cry.

StUF: What are some keys to success as a small business owner?

BGS: I feel incredibly lucky to have the ongoing support of our customers and staff. It seems that it really helps if you love what you do – I think that complacency kills a lot of businesses.  I still get totally excited to go out and find great stuff for the store, to come up with new ideas, to communicate with our customers every day on social media, to keep updating the store.  It’s so much fun.

If you ever have the pleasure of visiting Halifax, make sure Biscuit General Store is on your ‘must do’ list! It’s a shopping experience not to be missed. If you’re an emerging designer or independent retailer, feel free to reach out to Wendy and her staff via social media through their Facebook or Twitter they’ll be more than happy to answer any questions and pass along any advice they have.

Fashion Industry Resources Retail Sales

Shoptiques; e-Commerce for Independent Fashion Boutiques

Tonight we are attending a fashion show hosted by a relatively new fashion tech company Shoptiques; a company we should add, that is sort of shaking up the way fantastic little boutiques around the country (and our guess is perhaps eventually the world) are doing business online.

Shoptiques, e-commerce for Independent Boutiques

Officially launched this past March, after a few months in BETA, the site and it’s concept has already received a nice little write up in Inc. Magazine.  The concept is pretty great, honing in on the struggles that most small scale fashion boutiques face and attempting to make them easier; high quality photography, lack of technical and digital savvy, and the need to increase reach to a broader audience (beyond their locals) in order to remain in business.

Like any e-commerce platform for independent designers, who tend to have the same struggles, this is the first time that someone has focused on the actual retail outlets, which of course trickles down nicely to the designers themselves whose work is carried in the boutiques. 

The concept is smart and the growth potential is pretty exciting.  Boutiques that are interested in being considered for the site can sign up here.

We’re looking forward to attending the #BoutiqueChic Fashion Show tonight and will be sure to share the experience with you in all our usual ways.

Fashion Industry Resources Retail Sales

International Playground: A Go-TO Boutique for International and Emerging Designers

International Playground is rapidly becoming the go-to boutique for those who are looking to shop for unique pieces by international and local up-and-coming designers.  The store is located on Stanton Street, in NYC- a short walk from the infamous New Museum in the lower east side- and the International Playground Showroom is located on Mott Street.  If you looking for new retail outlets (and what designer isn’t?!), you may want to check it out.

International Playground

The founders, Johnny Pizzolato and Virginia Craddock, have done an outstanding job in creating series of pop-up events and showcasing at showrooms in various cities around the world. According to the manager of the store, Katie Kester, the most sought-after items at the moment are the Osborn shoes, “people have been flocking over the Osborn shoes. I think that when they see the spring colors and the designs [of the shoes], it draws them into the store,” and she adds that, “everybody comes in with their different wants and needs and I feel that we have such a great assortment that everybody’s needs get met here.”

Here, owner Johnny Pizzolato sits down with StartUp FASHION:

StUF: What differentiates International Playground from the other lower east side boutiques?

IP: I feel like there are a lot of great shops on the lower east side.  What makes us different or what we strive to do is have a real relationship with every designer that we work with in regards to their country, inspiration or experience. In most cases, we’ve met with them in their city or country or locally in their neighborhood or studio–outside NYC.  It’s really important for us to not concentrate so heavily on the everyday NYC fashion experience but have fun. The physical garments are just a representation of the experience we are trying to share with people.

StUF: What designers do you carry?

IP: Mary Meyer, Osborn shoes, Study NY, H Fredriksson, Daniel Palillo, Ruffeo hearts Lil’ Snotty, Wackerhaus, Chromat, Upstate, Chris Habana, Fjallraven, Marios, Spratters and Jayne, Vibe Johansson, Carlos Campos, Omar Seluj, KO, Malin +Goetz, Goldies, Pinups, OhWOW books, etc.

StUF: During the selection process of which designers to carry is there a specific ‘aesthetic’ that you look for?

IP: We know it when we see it.

StUF: What’s a typical day for you?

IP: Running back and forth from our showroom to the store.

StUF: You also own the International Playground Showroom on Mott Street in SoHo, which did you launch first?

IP: The showroom launched first and we did a series of temporary retail projects that eventually lead to the store in NYC and then LA.

StUF: If a designer wants to submit their look book for you to review, what’s the best way to contact you?

IP: Email! We look at everything.

You can check out more photos of International Playground on our Flickr page!

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