Careful curation proves a strategy for two high-end retail stores

Two high-end retail stores that have opened on and near Valencia within the last three years would seem to go against the grain of market research that says e-commerce has diminished the number of shoppers who walk through the door to buy clothes.

While many of the other 667 registered retail stores in the Mission opened long before the threat of ecommerce, the two newer stores did so knowing that retail was undergoing a seismic change. Nevertheless Pauline Montupet opened Le Point at 301 Valencia St. in 2015 and Renee Friedrich opened Anaise at 3686 20th St.

From the outset, they said, they believed that survival depended on being different – offering a carefully curated selection of women’s clothes in a laid-back environment.

We sell a very specific product that you can’t get anywhere else, said Montupet standing in her space where the creamy white walls and soft pink floor of Le Point offer the perfect background to look at the minimalist designer clothes that sell from $88 for a T-shirt to $980 for a leather jacket.   

Montupet also believes that her store can offer a different experience than a Macy’s or Bloomingdales. “We know our product. I can tell you the designer of every item in the store,” she said.

“Consumers are also more conscious shoppers,” she added. They care about the experience of the shop, whether that be the concept, the presentation of the product or the feel of the fabrics. That’s something online shopping will never be able to provide, she said.  

Reviewers on Yelp have been impressed.  “For all I know there are folks with the means and taste for Le Point in the area that just didn’t have a place to shop before this opened,” wrote Marcus L.

Friedrich, who oversees a store filled with sartorial designer clothing that can sell for up to $1,726, also tries to create an experience.

“I hope that our customers feel like they are visiting a friend’s home when they step through our doors,” said Friedrich. She wants her customers to feel relaxed and inspired while they browse and she offers what would not be available online; feedback on how the clothes fit.   

As it turns out, the two entrepreneurs were onto something.

A 2016 McKinsey and The Business of Fashion report concluded that 2017 will be a better year for the fashion industry. “Successful companies will invest more to nurture local clientele: 2017 will be the year of organic growth by deepening relationships with existing clients,” the report found.

Placing so much emphasis on the experience appears to have paid off at Le Pont and Anaise.

“This place is like an art museum except you’re allowed to buy the pieces. I love everything about this store,” Priya P, wrote in a Yelp review of Anaise.

Shoppers at Anaise have been impressed by the customer service that they received. They said that Friedrich’s friendliness and attentiveness makes them want to come back.

For some, like Kate G from Los Angeles, the experience has been so positive that she says she visits Anaise every time she is in San Francisco. One customer at Le Point from New York had visited the store on previous visits to the city as well.   

The price doesn’t seem to be a deterrent for customers who visit Le Point. A local said that when she didn’t purchase anything it was because nothing spoke to her. Nevertheless, she visits the store regularly and has made purchases because she likes their style.  

Still, building enough of a relationship to keep afloat is not easy. “We struggle every day,” says Montupet.  “Being high-end doesn’t make a difference. At the end of the day, we are a small family business.”

That means she strategizes to keep costs low and pay the ever-rising rents of the Mission District. “I have to think about how many more hours I can work to keep costs low,” she said. She works in the shop during the week and weekends as it is cheaper for her to be there than to pay a store assistant to be there every day.

“My boyfriend painted the store. We didn’t even hire someone for that,” she said.

Montupet also added an online shopping option in 2017, but says that most of her customers still purchase in the store. Many of those who shop online, she said, have been to the store and only order online so that they can have their clothing delivered to their homes.

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