By Rebecca Docter
Since Macklemore started popping tags, thrift stores have filled customers’ desires for high fashion at low prices. Today’s chic shoppers with only $20 in their pockets expect the best value for money. Designers and retailers have tried to adapt, from Target’s Lilly Pulitzer line to Kendall and Kylie Jenner’s newest Topshop collection.
Michelle Reinhardt, owner of New Orleans-based designer consignment shop Swap Boutique, has embraced this concept and incorporates it in her stores whenever she reaches for the next piece of clothing to feature in the store. Reinhardt opened the store’s first Baton Rouge location last year.
“Every consignment shop in Baton Rouge has a different customer base, some based on casual clothing, some are big where you can hunt for hours, and all that targets a very different customer base,” Reinhardt said.
After seeing a lack in designer wear at consignment stores in Baton Rouge, Reinhardt decided to open a shop that sold designer consignment almost exclusively. The desire to give customers a deal came from her own love of fashion and saving money.
“You know, I’d love to get that DVF dress, but I can’t always spend $450 for it,” Reinhardt said.
To make this goal achievable, Swap prices each item it consigns at 60 to 80 percent off its in-store price tag depending on a number of factors, such as brand and style.
Reinhardt said Swap’s discounted prices aren’t the only way the store helps the Baton Rouge fashion community. Many of Swap’s consignors have an excess of dresses and other garments, and someone to take those items off their hands is a welcome relief.
With a stock of merchandise that’s become too big to handle, Swap has made shopping online the next trend for its customers. Reinhardt and her employees choose pieces, such as shoes and bags, that don’t fit in the store to feature in Swap’s online shop on Ebay. Some of the items currently featured are a pair of Marc Jacobs black suede heels and a Kate Spade polka dot tote, each priced significantly under market value.
In addition to featuring overstock on the shop’s Ebay site, Swap makes a point to showcase particular pieces that are on trend on its Facebook and Instagram accounts, styling a model from head to toe. These posts commonly include the brands and prices of each item shown, garnering more interest in the store.
Reinhardt didn’t always envision herself owning a successful consignment business. Formerly, she was the executive director at The Princeton Review, and though she was successful, she said she wanted to try something for herself that was more flexible and would allow her to spend more time with her family.
“Early in my career, I lived in Phoenix, and that had a lot of really cool consignment stores.
I started thinking about a business plan and what the profit opportunities were, [and then I] built from the ground up,” Reinhardt said.
Swap now has four locations: three in the New Orleans area and one in Baton Rouge on Perkins Road. When Reinhardt opened her first store in New Orleans, she wanted a place that, when customers walked through the door, didn’t seem like a consignment shop.
“I wanted it to be a place where you could get a dress for an event or where you could get a good pair of jeans,” Reinhardt said.
Reinhardt said there is no average woman who shops at Swap. Instead, the store covers a wide demographic of women ranging from 17 to 65 years old. The common denominator, she said, is style.
“An 18-year-old and a 65-year-old might buy the same dress,” Reinhardt said.
She said her shoppers are both fashion and cost conscious, and Reinhardt wants her to feel like she’s getting a deal without sacrificing style.
One of Reinhardt’s goals is to make shopping an experience rather than a trip to the store. If customers are having a bad day, she wants them to stop in and chat with employees and browse the store’s selection to lift their spirits.
“We really appreciate that we have great consignors and customers, and we have a lot of employees that really connect with our customers,” Reinhardt said.