The decision to shop at a chic fashion boutique versus an eclectic vintage or resale shop is often a question of personal taste. It’s the new and trendy versus the authentic and personal. But price, convenience and selection are not to be dismissed as factors that help determine the ways in which the stylish shop.
Price and budget together create an element of shopping that many heed. While a boutique shopper may understand the price on the tag reflects quality and newness, a vintage shopper may believe spending less for a piece that is authentic and reflects individuality is more worthwhile. Either way, deciding to carry merchandise with budget-friendly prices plays in the favor of shops that do so.
Forest Park’s own stylish boutiques on Madison Street, such as M Santana and Afkara Shoes carry a range of fashionable finds at affordable prices. For $100 at her shop, store owner Myrza Santana pointed out a skirt and cardigan outfit. At Afkara Shoes, located next door in an adjoining space, store owner Afkara Mason said there’s a selection of shoe and clutch combinations that $100 could easily afford.
“It’s a misconception that all boutiques are expensive, and they’re not,” Mason said. “We get a bad rap, we get people all the time who come in and are shocked by our affordable prices.”
Even though $100 can purchase stylish pieces from the latest fashion collections, there is still a stereotype of snobbery attached to shopping at boutiques, the store owners said. This sometimes scares away customers who would rather browse the more affordable prices in vintage and resale shops.
Prices at Afkara Shoes range from $59 to $250, said Mason, and she encouraged customers to always stop and look because there is something for everyone.
Even with confidence in their broad market, dynamic selection, and price ranges, boutique owners understand there are consumers that only see the price. With never worn, modern items, boutiques aren’t interested in competing with resale prices. Also, they understand they can’t compete against department store’s annual sales and price slashing every other week. Santana said when it comes to price points she would rather have an inventory at $62 that reflects anything between $30 and $200, than overload her store with items that fetch $600 or more.
“My boutique does have a variety of price points, but you still have those people that are so used to constant sales,” Santana said.
Certainly, vintage and resale shoppers may peg themselves as discount-lovers. In many cases, scouring vintage and resale shops will stretch $100 that much further. Where $100 may purchase one new piece or an outfit at boutiques, that same bill could easily buy a couple outfits or an outfit with accessory options elsewhere.
The fashion conscious store owners of eclectic shops My Sister’s Closet Resale and Brown Elephant Resale Shop share a vote for shopping the fashion boutique alternative. At My Sister’s Closet Resale on Devon Avenue in Chicago, store owner Joanne Nusbaum said when shopping on a budget, shoppers are better off at resale shops.
“Price, price, price,” said Nusbaum. “Number one: cost, number two: you can buy something that’s a little different looking.”
At Brown Elephant in Oak Park, company director Travis Marshall said his clients share stories about how they can find great fashion for less than $10. Marshall added that shopping at Brown Elephant allows clients to keep up with the latest fashions without having to spend all their money on a wardrobe.
“You can get a pair of slacks for $6, women’s blouses are $4, sweaters are $5, and generally shoes are $5,” Marshall said.
Shopping vintage and resale may come with a lower price, but arguably doesn’t pay for convenience. With clothing stuffed onto racks, shoppers have to dare to rummage through items that may be worn, smelly, stained, too small or too big.
Fresh product, clean racks, and various size availability make boutiques that much more convenient to shop, according to local store owners. M Santana and Afkara Shoes say they offer the priceless gift of convenience.
“It’s frustrating, you almost have to really love it and the thrill of the hunt,” Santana said of resale shops. “Smell is a big thing.”
While some people may be turned off by the experience, Marshall said it’s kind of ridiculous for somebody not to shop resale simply because it’s been worn.
“We are such a throw away society, and I guarantee you an employee has looked over [new items] twice,” Marshall said.
The thrill of the hunt may not necessarily come with convenience, but the hunt itself is part of the fun, he said.
“It’s an addiction, in one perspective,” Marshall said. “We truly have customers that shop at all four of our stores, everyday.”
The emphasis on price and convenience may sway shoppers to one side or the other, but the significance of selection seems to unite shoppers and store owners. With the mass-produced clothing that fills malls and arguably stifle individuality, boutiques, resale shops, and vintage stores have consoled the cry for more unique selections. Current trends pulled from the runway and exclusive collections from fresh designers can be big draws.
Santana said small boutiques find a product line that is great, and they know that not everyone will be wearing it.
“I do think the reason they shop in a boutique is it is not made for the masses,” Santana said. “You’re not going to find it at a Macy’s or Nordstrom’s.”
There may not be any exclusive collections at vintage stores, but the limited quantities allow shoppers to create a very exclusive look. At My Sister’s Closet Resale, Nusbaum said the people that shop for vintage aren’t average Joes, and they don’t want to look like the average Joe. When you find a vintage item, she said, it’s not like anybody else is going to have anything like it. So buy it.
“You’re not going to see it again, it’s not like your going to see six of them on a rack, or even another one,” Nusbaum said.