Celebrating its 10th year in business, multi-line accessories showroom Susan & Company looks back on the business. Accessories caught up with owner Susan Testaccio to discuss how the business has changed over the decade.
How did you get started?
I worked 16 years at another showroom and it was time for a change. My designers begged me to open my own showroom, and I was scared but took the plunge. I partnered with one of my designers, but bought them out a few years later and now run it myself, even though I still rep that brand.
Did things progress as you expected over 10 years or did they take a different path?
I think since I didn’t really open my showroom with a specific goal in mind, I’ve always gone with the ebbs and flows that have presented themselves. Our business really went from selling to brick and mortar to I love interacting with people, and I feel like most of these designers have become my surrogate family.
Any fun stories from the past 10 years?
I have a few! Once my sales girls (at the time) and I dressed up as different versions of Lady Gaga for Halloween, which fell on a market day. I actually worked with the Anthropologie buyers in costume!
That’s me in the middle. I made that costume! The girl on the left is now a Nordstrom buyer and the other works at Yelp.
Next, when the second “Sex and the City” movie came out, I closed the showroom for the day, and we all dressed up with stuff from the showroom to see it. We had a few of the designers join us, it was hilarious walking through Times Square as a group! That’s Karen Purcell on the left and Allison Fenzer on the right. They both worked for me at the time.
What have been the biggest surprise over the years?
The business has really changed since I’ve started. The small boutiques are sadly almost nonexistent. Also, it’s amazing how much of an influence celebrities and bloggers have on the shopping habits of the consumer. I don’t court the bloggers or celebs myself, however, the brands do that. I focus on selling to the stores.
What have been the biggest challenges?
Trying to find new clients! Most of our designer don’t sell to department stores, and as we have lost so many great small retailers, the audience is getting smaller and smaller.
How has the retail customer changed for you?
We try to have something for everyone. We have a big Japanese customer base, but this year, their budgets were cut, and many said they weren’t going to travel because of terrorism.
How many brands do you have now and what categories do you cover?
Right now I represent 22 brands, we usually have between 19 to 22 different designers. The categories are jewelry, handbags, hair accessories, scarves and some gift accessories.
What’s particularly hot now?
Right now the biggest requests are for chokers, pins and brooches, statement earrings and statement necks. $28-$78 wholesale for jewelry. In bags, it’s crossbody handbags with strap detail.
What is a typical day like for you in the showroom?
I am usually in the office by 7:45 a.m. I go through emails that I didn’t see at home before bed, and then continue on any project that didn’t get finished the night before. I work with most of the bigger clients, but do have some favorite small boutiques I still love to work with. I wear a lot of hats, and am very hands on as an owner. I may talk to a designer about their new collection, or try to help them develop things for a private label client. I work on marketing materials as well as re-merchandising the showroom when the new collections come in.
Any showroom pets?
When I first opened the showroom, I had a chocolate lab named Moose that I used to bring to work with me. Every day he would steal the bagel off the desk of one of the girls that worked for me. He was very sneaky about it, and we would just crack up!