Americans have seemingly come to terms with the fact that it will be a while before the economy gets any better, but that notion hasn't wiped the smile off of Marilynn Lipton's face, owner of Connecticut-based retail store Soleil Toile.
The 18-year-old business, which specializes in fine women's lingerie from domestic and European resources, expanded in July 2007 by adding a New Canaan location to its roster in addition to the already established Westport location.
The New Canaan store is about half the size of the Westport one, but it features a larger storage area allowing Lipton to house a wide selection of goods under one roof.
The stores, which are run by Lipton and her daughter, Stacey Lipton Schumer, offer a wide selection of bras and coordinates, underwear, legwear, hosiery, swimwear, sleepwear and bathing and skin luxuries with price points in the "moderate to upper" category.
Marie Jo, Prima Donna and Chantelle are three of the retailer's best-selling brands in the lingerie category with Marie Jo and Prima Donna retailing around $100 and Chantelle around $80. Eres and Karla Colletto are the best-selling brands in the swimwear category and both are set at a retail price of approximately $250 for swimsuits.
Like many other companies, Lipton admits that she has had to become more cautious with her spending and has had to put a halt on adding any new brands to her stores in the meantime, but she has not had to drop any of the brands she normally carries.
According to Schumer, the mother and daughter duo are looking for their vendors to "sharpen their prices," she said. "Our customers don't want to sacrifice quality. People still want the nice things, but the companies need to be a little more flexible."
According to Schumer, "some, but not all" vendors have been able to accomplish a smarter price point without sacrificing quality.
To boost walk-ins, Lipton and local merchants have paired up to offer cross-promotions. For example, for the Valentine's Day holiday, Soleil Toile welcomed a local flower shop as well as a local chocolate shop to come into the Westport store and offer their products to customers. In addition, Soleil Toile had a drawing where it gave away an overnight stay in Manhattan. "We're trying to do things that will spark up the atmosphere," said Lipton. "I think the customers are trying and they are being supportive to local merchants by shopping in the area."
Lipton believes the wide selection of products that her store offers is what sets her apart from other companies, especially the swimwear collection, which is offered all year long. The swimwear collection at Soleil Toile is renewed every season and no items ever carry over. "We do have an extensive selection and it is probably the most extensive selection of swimwear that you'll find," said Lipton.
Soleil Toile's customers range from 25 to 65 years old and Lipton believes they keep coming back to her because they are "women who are looking for quality service who necessarily don't want to go into the city, but can still get the selection and service that they desire," she explained.
According to Lipton, she and her daughter have made it a priority to revamp the company's website by the end of this year.
Although sales have been steady, the goal for this year is to meet last year's figures, which Lipton is very optimistic about and believes will be successful in doing so. "I think everybody has to be positive because it rubs off on people," she said. "I always say, when a customer walks in the store and sees a smiling face, it helps get through the day."