Anyone who’s spent hours searching for THE dress for that holiday party or THE perfect gift for their mother-in-law’s birthday knows the feeling. That sense of satisfaction you get while exchanging knowing looks—or even a cheery high five—with the store owner because you both know you’ve done it.
Local shops have been missing those personal connections with their customers, more so than just profit losses, since all nonessential businesses closed their doors March 24. We’re missing it, too—online shopping is great until that dress you wanted gets backordered and then doesn’t fit.
Though, in proper “Houston Strong” fashion, there’s nothing to fear. Retailers have found new ways to connect with customers that could leave lasting footprints on how they do business. Here’s how local shops are using technology to keep that personal shopping connection alive. Celebratory high fives still count through FaceTime, right?
“We’re like cockroaches,” store founder Travis Weaver jokes. “We’re pretty hard to get rid of.” When his premium general goods store in The Heights closed, Weaver and his team were quick to adapt.
They already had an iPhone dedicated to the store, so they were quick to offer “virtual shopping." Customers schedule FaceTime appointments with a personal shopper, who, after hearing your interests and your budget, guides you through the store and handpicks items for you to purchase or put in your personalized gift box.
They’ve also introduced a “BYOB Sanitizer Bar” (yeah, you heard right). Bring in a plastic bottle of any size, and they’ll use their bulk sanitizer supply to get you squared away (say goodbye to fearing the grocery store cleaning aisle).
Though Manready Mercantile has reopened, the store will keep offering virtual appointments, texts and calls, and curbside pickup for as long as customers want.
Shannon Martin opened the newest Hemline location in The Heights just three days before they had to close down, but she didn’t allow this to discourage her team, who've been working every day since doors closed.
Both the Heights and CityCentre locations will pair you with a virtual stylist through FaceTime, call, or text. Just take the personalized style quiz on their website and send in your price range, size, and style, and you’ll get your stylist. After discussing your goals, your stylist will prepare a personalized “Hemline Box,” which contains pieces for you to try on. Keep what you love, and return what you don’t free of charge within seven days. They also offer private appointments where you can be the only customer in the store.
As future celebrations and events slowly start creeping back on calendars, Martin says she’s ecstatic that the doors are now reopened so customers can shop in-store or through their continued curbside pickup, virtual styling, and private appointments.
Project Runway winner Chloe Dao and her team had already started discussing moving forward before their doors officially closed. Alongside offering curbside pick-up and styling through FaceTime, texting, and calling, the team is also making masks to help customers and the community.
The masks, which have contributed to the majority of Dao’s virtual sales thus far, are made from neoprene, an FDA-approved component that uses silver ions to kill bacteria on contact. Scared you’ll miss out now that everything is reopening? Don’t worry, you can still buy your Chloe Dao fashion mask after the store reopens.
In addition to selling her masks, Dao is also giving back to the community. Within the first few weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak hitting Houston, the boutique began receiving requests from medical workers running low on masks, so Dao and the team quickly began making and donating masks, while also opening a public waitlist for those in need to sign up. So far, the boutique has donated over 4,000 masks to Texas Children’s Hospital, the Ronald McDonald House, LBJ Hospital, and more.
This mother-daughter owned boutique in the Upper Kirby district dove headfirst into finding solutions to make customers most comfortable. They have two phone numbers customers can contact, one dedicated to texting photos of merchandise and the other for virtual FaceTime appointments and calls. If you'd rather visit the store, you can make a private appointment for a party of two or less. Or, try curbside shopping, where employees bring out a rack of clothes and accessories specifically picked for you to choose from.
Tres Chic plans on fully reopening in the future, but they’ll continue offering virtual services. “If people still want to FaceTime or call in, then we’re more than happy to do that,” says co-owner Elizabeth Hancock Berg, who runs the store with her mother, Susan Hancock. “It’s all going to be about what people are wanting.” Though Berg and her mother miss the warm family-feel radiating through their store, they say they’re happy to provide curbside pickup and free shipping on all orders placed through the website for the time being.