While household-name department stores are downsizing and closing their doors, multi-brand retail boutiques are succeeding by focusing on personalised shopping experiences. The landscape of retail has dramatically changed with the rise and domination of e-commerce but there is still demand for bricks-and-mortar spaces that inspire customers with their curated offerings. Multi-brand retail boutiques like Melbourne’s Filly Stable are reviving and reimagining the in-person retail experience
rience. The founder and owner of Filly Stable, Lauren Nicholls, was inspired by overseas concept stores, like Colette in Paris, which have mastered the art of curating multiple brands. “I realised that nobody was showcasing fashion in this way back in Australia, and as that’s how I felt inspired to shop, I knew others would, too,” Nicholls told Inside Retail. Filly Stable carries and seamlessly integrates a combination of domestic and international brands like Nagnata, Ganni, By Far, Self Portrait, Luuda and Bottega Veneta. “It really is an even mix of what we love and feel excited about; what we personally want to wear and forecast and also what we know is commercial and the classic basics,” said Nicholls. “We like to support our designers and have longevity with our brands but also be the place where our customers can always discover something they haven’t seen before – something they can’t get in any other tangible retail space at home.” Rediscovering the romance of retail Multi-brand retail boutiques may not only be the antidote to the impersonal shopping experience found at larger chains, such as many department stores but also the solitary shopping experience of shopping online. “Of course, e-commerce has a crucial part to any brand, but in-store retail shopping gives you a sensory experience that online can’t. The music that’s playing, the smell, the visuals and merchandising, the touching and feeling of fabrics – this is the romance of retail that cannot be executed online,” explained Nicholls. “There is nothing better than walking into a store and getting a little sparkle in your eye, feeling like you simply have to leave with something. That’s how we want people to feel when they come to Stable, almost like they are enchanted.” For both Filly Stable and Nicholls, the magic of merchandising and curating is only made possible by forging personal connections with shoppers. “Our relationship with our customers is more of a community and a collective. We can get on a personal level with them and then curate our edit, making it more thought through and tailored, which is harder to do on a larger scale like a department store,” said Nicholls. Providing curation and community The success of multi-brand retailers extends beyond Filly Stable with a new guard of Australian boutiques, including Désordre Boutique, Tuchuzy, Coco & Lola, Marais, and Incu. Sydney’s Chinatown Country Club is another example of an experience-driven space that is focused on providing its customers with curation and community. “Operating on a smaller scale as a boutique affords us more flexibility in choosing what we stock rather than catering to analytics and historical forecasts solely,” Harry Mathews, general manager of Chinatown Country Club, told Inside Retail. Retail boutiques like Chinatown Country Club are not limited by the same conventions as chain department stores which has allowed them to cater for customers with care and intention. “The luxury that we have as a boutique is we have a genuine passion and interest in what we do. We ourselves would be customers of our store, which allows us to develop a genuine connection with our customers,” explained Matthews. “We are also not bound by extensive procedures or legacy, so we are able to be flexible in a lot of our decision-making,” he added. The focus for Chinatown Country Club, much like Filly Stable, is on curating a space where shoppers can connect over a love of design. Chinatown Country Club was a response to Australia’s growing demand and appreciation for good design and fashion – its flagship store is purposely designed to reflect that. “This results in a more intentional and refined shopping experience, where each item is chosen with care and detail, appealing directly to the tastes of our customers who are seeking something beyond the mainstream offerings found in larger stores,” Matthews concluded.