Sydney Mintle also writes the blog Seattle Boutique Blogspot. Find her on twitter @Sydlovesfashion

Big shopping malls are being boarded up all over the country as anchor stores like Sears, Macy’s, and JC Penney continue to close. But while American malls are struggling to stay alive, so are small, local boutiques.  Keeping an independent clothing store afloat is no small feat. Retail clothing stores are up there with independent restaurants as the most risky business endeavors. According to a report from Small Business Trends, 80 percent of retail clothing stores fail in the first five years due to fierce competition.

What should store owners do to set themselves apart? Have a marketing campaign.  It doesn’t need to be huge or expensive, but according to fashion publicist Sydney Mintle, every local store should be marketing their inventory online.

“Independent retailers are not going to survive if they fail to maintain an online presence. Ideally this is done through an e-commerce site, but if that is not possible at the very least they should be maintaining social media outlets that have the ability to highlight in-store products,” she says.

Mintle believes giving potential customers the opportunity to shop the store, either literally or by looking at items on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, is an effective way to attract customers and keep them engaged.

Here are 6 more tips from Mintle on how to get customers in the door and coming back.

Think Different

Effective marketing doesn’t need to be cost prohibitive for independent boutiques, but it does need to be creative. The businesses that are running the best marketing campaigns are the ones who are thinking outside the box.

Pretty Presentations

In today’s digital world it’s worthwhile to spend money on product photography and graphic design. Visual imagery has a huge impact on customers both online and offline and it is worth the investment.


Consistently using hashtags in social media can also be an effective way for small business owners to market their business to customers. Simply tagging posts with #shoplocal #seattleboutique or #seattlefashion can help boost their visibility.

Keep the Address Available

Helping customers find your business is often one of the most common obstacles for boutiques. Even if the website is just a landing page, having a map with directions and tips on where customers can find easy parking will help get traffic to the store.

Email Marketing With a Twist

Most small retailers are not spending enough time on effective email marketing campaigns. This is a huge miss because instead of getting people excited about the product, the email marketing campaigns have the opposite effect. Mintle recommends updating email templates on a quarterly basis and developing various templates for individual scenarios, such as events, new products, promotions, and holidays.

Do What You Do Best

Independent retailers engage customers by providing an amazing in-store experiences that online retailers are not able to compete with. Stellar customer service should be a major area of focus for all small businesses because at the end of the day, this is what motivates customers to shop in a store instead of buying what they need online.

If boutique owners are looking for a way to network with more local owners and fashion professionals, check out Fashion Group International Seattle. This organization hosts events aimed to support and connect the local industry.

If you’re a clothing company or store and you’re not on Instagram, you should be. Many people look to Instagram for design and style ideas. Here are a few local shops that effectively use the platform to market products.


Urbanity in Bellevue


La Ree Boutque in Bellevue


Asher Goods in Kirkland. We love their dog Dino.


JJ Caprices, an online store based in Kirkland