By Jeff Maisey
At a time when national retailers are closing their brick-and-mortar operations due to increased competition online, several local businesses have found ways to succeed in the digital age.
Norfolk-based NYFO Boutique is an upscale contemporary women’s clothing store located in Ghent’s Palace Shops.
Key to this independent retailer’s success is its knowledge of current fashion trends, the preferences of its customer base, and platinum service. For customers, the three-person staff comprised of owner Susan Isenberg, manager Cass Covington, and Lynn Hughes-Hailey often fulfill the role of fashion and image consultant.
“We know that our customer expects the best and we aim to please,” said owner Susan Isenberg.
A plus for NYFO Boutique is Lynn Hughes-Hailey’s eye for style and fashion. Hughes-Hailey is the company’s buyer, whose duties include traveling to retail apparel markets in Atlanta and New York City and personally selecting every single item customers eventually see displayed on the racks at NYFO in Norfolk.
“When I go into the market to shop for the store I want to find things to wow the customer back home,” said Hughes-Hailey. “It is imperative for me to feel the texture of the fabrics, see the vibrancy of the colors, examine the details and fit of the garment.”
NYFO’s clientele also appreciates functionality. Knowing this, Hughes-Hailey came across a truly unique brand of reversible shoes this summer and had to place re-order after re-order due to its popularity with local customers.
In essence, quality and uniqueness of the product, and stellar customer service are driving sales success at NYFO Boutique. There’s just no substitute for women shoppers who prefer such an approach, knowing they will feel and look great as they walk with bags in hand to the car.
From women’s clothing to specialty retail, Taste, formerly known as Taste Unlimited, has increased is private label offerings of everything from cheese stick twirls to peanuts.
“Everyone in retail is now struggling with how they compete with online,” said Taste president and co-owner Jon Pruden. “The way we’ve chosen to compete is to refine our model and become more differentiated. Part of that is by offering products and services you can’t find anywhere else. That runs the gamut here from our private label program, which is defined by best-in-class. That is a filter we use. If we put our name on it it’s got to be the best product no matter what that product may be; if it’s a peanut, coffee, a candy.
“That notion permeates to other parts of the business as well. On the restaurant side, we just want to be different. We want to offer crave-able items that keep customers coming into the stores, whether pimento cheese or new breakfast sandwiches. We want it to be distinct.”
There’s also something to be said for the experience of shopping. It’s more social than social media. And the possibility of finding that something special is greatly enhanced by shopping in a real-life store.
“I came in looking for a skirt to go with my cashmere sweater,” said a customer at NYFO Boutique. “After seeing these wonderful clothes and outfits paired together by the staff, I ended up going home with a lot more than the skirt. But I love it.”