On December 5th, 2009, Houman Salem, founder of costume brand Delicious Sexywear, took his career in a new direction by opening the doors to his first retail store called Chelsea Manor, a subsidiary of his newly formed Salem Holdings Company. Through an agreement between Salem Holdings Company and Westfield LLC (the world's largest operator of shopping malls), Salem opened Chelsea Manor's flagship location in the Westfield Fashion Square Mall in Sherman Oaks, Calif; an affluent suburb of Los Angeles.
Salem expressed excitement over customers' response to Chelsea Manor since opening. "I was delighted to see consumer overall acceptance of our brand, and we were welcomed during the busiest and perhaps most demanding time of year. I am proud to say that we were profitable in our first month of operations."
And it is no accident that Salem chose to open his intimate apparel boutique in a mall. The brand concept behind Chelsea Manor is to introduce mall-based consumers to the shopping experience found at high-end boutiques in the fashion capitals of the world.
"We have effectively brought the small European boutique store into the US suburbs," he said.
Through the help of the Westfield management team and Chelsea Manor's real estate advisory team, Salem is currently exploring other mall locations primarily within the Southern California area.
"We hope to open as many Chelsea Manor stores as possible," Salem remarked."In searching for the right areas to expand, we are looking at economic indicators in neighborhoods to see their current and future prospects. We are looking at factors like unemployment, foreclosure rates, primary employers in the area, and changes in median home prices. We will extend beyond the affluence of the Sherman Oaks area; our stores do not need to be in affluent areas, but they need to be in areas that are economically sound and that show strong signs of economic stability and/or rebound."
When asked why he and his partners chose to focus on the mall setting, Salem explained: "One of our core strategies at Salem Holdings is to launch viable businesses in markets that are un-served or underserved by current competition. In the mall-based environment, consumers have virtually no choice but Victoria's Secret and department stores [...] By bringing 'entry-level luxury' products in a boutique-style shopping environment, we have effectively created two new brand categories, segmented the market, and developed a strong business model that adds immediate value to consumers."
Part of how Chelsea Manor gives these consumers that boutique feel is by encouraging employees to cultivate relationships with their customers. "We are staffed by highly trained team of 'lingerie specialists' who are passionate about lingerie and fashion. They work closely with each customer, they know their names, sizes, favorite styles and colors, and offer a level of service that consumers' do not normally get in mall-based retail stores," Salem said.
In addition, the company is carrying mid-tier-to-upper-tier brands—many of which are European or European-inspired—including best sellers Cosabella, Booty Parlor, and its own Chelsea Manor brand.
Chelsea Manor has also partnered with Lexington Designs—the company responsible for building out the first 500 Forever 21 stores—to execute Salem's interior design vision, which is characterizes as "modern gothic."
At the retailer's flagship location, Salem and his staff have noticed that customers tend to be primarily in the age group of 25 to late-30's, and "a little bit more on the sophisticated side about intimates." Approximately 80 percent are women shopping for themselves, while approximately 20 percent are men shopping for their wives or girlfriends.
Customer satisfaction has proven to Salem that he is on the right path. "By introducing the mall shopper to 'entry-level luxury' intimates, we are educating them and introducing them to a new world of options," said Salem. "What is special about Chelsea Manor is that we bring the European-style boutique and products to the suburbs at an affordable price point, in a place where consumers haven't experienced it before."
Chelsea Manor's flagship store is located in the Westfield Fashion Square Mall: 14006 Riverside Dr, Sherman Oaks, California.