CoziBear Boutique is a family owned e-tailer in Salem, Oregon (originally from Simi Valley, CA) run by husband and wife team Allie and Bill Machin. It first came about by Allie making handmade custom crochet beanies and scarves to bring in some extra money and make ends meet. Allie has always had a love for fashion, working in retail on and off for almost 15 years, and in 2013 she expanded from making handmade items to selling women’s and children’s clothing. In 2014, her husband Bill was able to resign from his position as a construction consultant and join CoziBear Boutique full time.
What do you love most about being a retailer?
I love being able to offer customers amazing clothing at amazing prices. We take great pride in what we offer our customers.
What is the hardest part of being a retailer?
Trying to find upcoming trends that kind of go with our business is probably the hardest. Typically, I look to see what is selling in other stores, brands or styles that I see people wearing, and sometimes the brands we purchase give us sneak peeks as to what they have coming. I also go off sales of current products and go from there.
Describe your customer.
We sell a lot of basics and items that are very versatile. Our customers love that they can get a simple, basic, comfortable top and pair it many different ways to transition from business casual, to business to a night out.
What’s your best method to engage with customers?
We usually engage with customers via email. We get all kinds of emails from our customers. Good, bad and ugly. We try our best to make them happy at all costs but sometimes it just doesn’t work. We have finally streamlined our communications and feel that things are going well.
When you communicate with a customer via email, even to solve a problem, does that make for a more loyal customer?
Sometimes customers are surprised that we reach out to them (regarding reviews on their order, service, etc). Other times it is just being courteous and nice. We try to go above and beyond to make a customer happy, whether it is just providing a return shipping label or telling them to keep a product they received incorrectly.
How do you use social media to connect with your audience?
We just hired a fashion blogger to handle all social media posting, blogging, etc. We plan to post popular products, giveaways, sales, as well as including when new products come to the store.
Compared to when you first started your store, what do you think has been the biggest change in the industry?
The biggest change, I feel, is how quickly the trends are changing. It’s been hard to keep up with them, which is why I think we’ve been keeping more versatile basics rather than risky, trend setting items. We have several products in different variations (i.e., different necklines, colors, prints, etc). If we feel the product is selling and is popular, we tend to bring in more colors. We try to bring in new products weekly, but it ultimately depends on how busy I am that week and if I’ve had a chance to research or purchase anything. To keep up on trends, I rely on word of mouth, and just items that I personally see in stores or on FashionGo to determine if I feel it’ll be a good fit to bring on board.
Given what you know now, what advice would you give yourself when you were just starting your store?
Be patient and don’t rush into things. It’s easier said than done, but things take time. We grew really quickly and if we had certain policies and procedures in place to begin with, our lives now would be a little easier.