Thursday, July 24, 2008

Retail Therapy: Sustainable NYC

Mention "neighborhood discount"
and receive 10% off your purchase
at this amazing eco boutique in the East Village (NYC)!

>> Think you're ready to open up a shop? Read on and find out what really goes on behind the register...

Quick Facts:
# of employees: 3
Did you write a business plan? Not this time!
Day your doors opened: March 15th 2008
Owners: Dominique Camacho

1. Name one thing that completely took you by surprise when you first started Sustainable NYC that neither biz how-to books or even your past experience prepared you for.

I forgot that margins on hard goods are so much less than soft- like my former t-shirt biz. Bummer!

>> click here to continue reading about NYC Sustainable

2. You used to own a T-shirt shop before Sustainable NYC - why the change?

I had no real passion for the t-shirts- they were meaningless! I needed to “be the change”! Plus I’m a recyclaholic and through the store I’ve met so many like-minded people. My new customers rule, plus they don’t steal as much!

3. You're a veteran when it comes to owning shops, what changes have you seen within the last couple of years in consumer buying patterns/behavior?

A reduction in shopping sprees (except for the Euro spenders), more conscious spending. And people are also starting to think about what is behind the product (like how far did it travel and who made it, were they paid fairly, is it recyclable, etc)

4. From your past experience, was there a year where you felt some kind of sigh of relief and felt confident that you weren't going to be part of a statistic? They say that in the restaurant business, you shouldn't expect to see any profit until your second year - is it the same for retail in your experience? What should aspiring store owners be prepared to expect?

I guess I’d heard that you are more likely to succeed if you make it to the third year. I did feel more secure then, but honestly, I usually try to talk people out of opening a small store UNLESS they can afford to possibly not make money and are also doing it for love or art. Love has to be a big part of it, especially with east village rents these days.

5. Do you have a magical "buying" formula and what three tips can you share with first-time buyers getting ready to make their first batch of wholesale orders?

After 15 years as a buyer and 8 years for my own business, I do have a magical formula- but I have no idea what it is. It takes experience (from mistakes) and a few years to learn the seasonal patterns of your business. It takes understanding your customer and also having an eye. But the one thing that all buyers can do- is negotiate.

6. Do most of the other designers you carry approach you, or do you actively seek out new designers? If so, where?

Both, many local designers approach the store. I’ve found others at the NYIGF and others online at eco web sites that review hot products.

>> So you think your goods are perfect for Sustainable NYC?

7. What is your process in choosing merchandise and what 3 things can artists do to stand out in your mind?

My process now is ruled by the ideals of the new concept: organic, local, recycled, fair-trade, repurposed, biodegradable. You can stand out by offering a unique item at a good value and be able to deliver that item.

8. Owning a shop means constantly wearing different hats. Here's how Dominique ends up spending her time:

20% Buying
30% Marketing & Promo
20% Production & Operations
5% Customer Service
25% Accounting/Billing/Finances
*Most of the buying (reorders) and customer service is handled by employees.

9. I know that you were the driving force behind the East Village Community Coalition (EVCC) Get Local Guide. Can you tell us a little about the project and some tips on how to get started for others who might be interested in doing the same for their communities.

The Get Local Guide is equally a consumer awareness and small biz promotional campaign. The guide asks you to avoid chain stores and shop locally – vote with your wallet! It lists all of the local stores by category so customers can quickly find what they need right in their neighborhood. The actual work of producing the guide is a lot of canvassing, database work, ad sales and page layout/design (which was donated). Contact if you’re interested in starting a Get Local Guide in your neighborhood.

10. If Oprah decided to give you $10,000 tax free for your business, but you had to spend it in one week, what would you do with it?

Buy more of the best selling merchandise! If I invest the $10,000 in merch, I can get $20,000+ in sales.

>> VISIT Sustainable NYC
147 Avenue A/9th Street, NY 10009


Thanks Dominique!!


Melissa de la Fuente said...

Another great shop I need to visit! Thanks for sharing!

Amy (the b-line) said...

I'd love to visit this shop next time I'm in the city. Thanks for sharing info about Sustainable NYC and for Dominique's perspective on owning one's one business. Wish you well, Dominique!

Anonymous said...

This seriously needs to be on my agenda next time I'm in town. It looks and sounds fabulous!