Home Business Magazine
March 27, 2017
Michelle Doucette and Laurie Nierengarten didn’t set out to become the Twin Cities’ best-kept fashion secret when they launched Indulge Boutique. They simply had a vision of empowering women through fashion. Now their Eagan women’s clothing boutique, celebrating its 10th anniversary, is the undisputed style mecca for thousands of 40-plus-year-old women who crave higher end, exclusive pieces often chosen specifically for them.
Feeling the love, eight days a month
Customers think of going to Indulge Boutique as a reason to celebrate. It’s only open eight days each month, from the first Thursday through the following Thursday. And there are never more than four to six items of any design in its constantly changing inventory.
“We bring in about 500 to 600 new products each month. Our merchandise changes every day that we’re open,” confirms Doucette. “A lot of our lines are exclusive to us here in the Twin Cities or in the state. We also work with designers to custom design our own pieces, which makes them even more exclusive. And if we are only selling up to six of them, there’s a sense of urgency among our customers.
Doucette and Nierengarten, who are the boutique’s only staff, are known for bringing in unique prints and styles. “We’re also known for clothes that are travel-friendly: washable and wearable,” comments Nierengarten. “We try not to take anything that’s not pack-and-go. No dry cleaning. No ironing. And our products last.”
Just because a style is trendy doesn’t mean it’s right for this clientele. “Contemporary clothes normally fit teens to women in their mid-20s. We’re not offering what other retailers carry. We cater to styles and cuts – business, casual, leisure and activewear – that suit the 40-plus woman in sizes 2 to 18,” says Doucette. “We feature everything from dresses appropriate for the office to cute shirts to go with yoga pants.”
Where everybody knows your name
The partners know most Indulge Boutique returning customers by name, clothing sizes and their style preferences. “About 80 percent of our sales are to a loyal group of consistent customers. These are women who budget for us once a month. Our clientele has expanded mostly by word of mouth. At first, some women don’t want to tell their friends about us. But once we know you, we’ll tell you if a friend or co-worker already bought the same thing. This comes back to knowing each customer personally,” says Nierengarten.
Try this idea on for size
Doucette and Nierengarten, who met while working together on a fundraising committee, both have a retail fashion background. Soon after, they formed the partnership. When they first opened, their mailing list consisted of only friends and family. “We rented a hotel conference room for a three-day event, using makeshift dressing rooms, to test the concept,” Doucette recalls. “Now we have more than 3,000 people on our mailing list, 10,000 people on our Facebook page, and we average 200 customers each month.”
“We both had young kids. That’s why opening one week a month fit with our schedule,” adds Nierengarten. “Now when people ask if we want to open more often, the answer is no because we’ve found that the personal ‘everyone knows everyone’ atmosphere works. Plus, we like the idea that, for 10 years, it has just been the two of us. We’ve maintained our image and our style.”
The partners’ tastes are very different, but they manage to combine fun with sophistication. Doucette dresses up her denim and likes solids. Nierengarten prefers prints and dresses. “But we both have to love a product or we don’t order it. And we always try it on before it comes into the store to confirm it fits a real woman,” says Nierengarten.
Empowering women through fashion
This tag line suits the women’s philosophy. “When you put on something that fits well, it is empowering,” says Doucette. “We are known for our honesty. People appreciate if we tell them something is too tight or not their color. It’s why people trust us so much that we’ve almost become personal shoppers for many of our customers. We always have people in mind when we go to market. And 99.9 percent of the time we’re correct.”
Adds Nierengarten, “We know which outfits fit curvy women, when you need to go a size up or down for a good fit. We also guarantee our products.”
The partners also host workshops on everything from developing wardrobe basics to how to wear the latest trend or which shoes to pair with an outfit. And while they don’t do coupons, they will offer discount promotions tied to local charities.
The doors are never completely closed
If Indulge Boutique’s schedule doesn’t work for someone, the partners are happy to open the doors at another time. “That’s why we give out our cell numbers. It doesn’t matter if you find something or not,” Nierengarten insists. “Most women can be in and out in 30 minutes. If they are regulars, we have things ready for them by the time they get there. Our customers appreciate not having to go from store to store. We even have husbands call us to find the perfect gift. They love that we know their wives. We even gift wrap!”
When Indulge Boutique opens, it’s an event. “We keep things fun. And after 10 years, we’re still excited to meet the next customer who walks through our door!”
Learn more about Indulge Boutique by visiting www.ShopIndulgeBoutique.com.