Location, Location, Location
Greer is a thriving community located approximately 12 miles northeast of Greenville, South Carolina – home to booming businesses, including divisions of global manufacturers BMW and Michelin as well as large technology distributors like ScanSource and Synnex. Its low crime and excellent schools make Greer an attractive place to call home, but one thing seemed to be missing. Until recently, local boutiques and supermarkets were scarce. Driving to nearby Greenville was doable, but it wasn’t ideal for boutique-seeking fashionistas and busy moms looking for neighborhood charm, convenience and something to call their own.
“We’ve been here for ten years, and there just hasn’t been much in the way of boutiques or any retail,” commented Richard Russell, co-owner and founder of newly opened Madi Boutique. Russell’s wife, Stephanie Russell, is a former buyer for Bloomingdale’s and Dillard’s and decided to open the boutique after hearing neighborhood moms complaining about driving to Greenville to shop. It’s all about community and family for the Russells – and even the boutique’s name represents that.
Stephanie told the local news in an interview that Madi is an acronym for Maria, Anna, Dylan and Isabelle, the Russells’ children. Luckily, at the same time they were looking to open the boutique, Lowes Foods, an upscale supermarket, opened right next door. “We completely scored, because the Lowes absolutely exploded – it’s right next to the high school in what used to be a three-mile radius of nothing. We’ve tripled what we expected to do the first month,” Richard told us.
Selecting The Right System
Being a former buyer for big-box retail department stores armed Stephanie with the know-how to curate the right mix of products for the boutique, but knowing which technologies to deploy was a little trickier. Richard, who works in technology, started doing a little homework, walking into stores and asking what they liked about their point-of-sale system (POS).
“At first, I thought we’d just use Square, and then I saw that Wells Fargo and Quick Books had their own POS. I got the feeling that these companies were trying to broaden their core competencies to get more customers. And for payments, we just needed reliability. I didn’t think a payments guy selling merchant services would know anything about point-of-sale or how to make my life easier, so I didn’t want to be a part of that. My core technology decision needed to be about operational efficiency. I read some reviews and decided that Quetzal (iPad POS) was a good fit.”
He used the analogy of tennis rackets and strings. There used to be those who made tennis rackets and those who made strings, and now the string guys are making tennis rackets and vice-versa. “We didn’t see that with Quetzal. They really specialize, and they know their niche.”
Quetzal is hyper-focused on small clothing and shoe retailers with fewer than 10 stores, and a system that boasts ease of use and sleek design. Before the space was ready, the Russells were busy in their basement, with four to five boxes arriving daily. They set up rolling hanging racks and used an iPad and a scanner to enter the inventory into the Quetzal system. When they finally got everything over to the store and ready for the big opening day, Richard told us they were able to teach the clerks how to use the system within 15 minutes.
“It’s very intuitive, and Quetzal has been unbelievably responsive. We opened the store faster than we should have, so we had to call them on opening day and they walked us through everything. We wouldn’t have had that type of support with a big company,” Richard said. He mentioned the first few times they had to load inventory into the system, his wife was so stressed with the opening, that Quetzal offered to do it for them – taking the pressure off them as new business owners and acting as a true partner. “Now she knows how to do it herself, but the first couple of times they offered to do it for her and told us not to worry about it. After that she said ‘I really like these guys’.”
The Quetzal platform is cloud- and subscription-based, with fees based on what’s required per store. Madi Boutique has a store-based subscription with two iPads running the software, so they’re all set. If they were to open another location, there would be an additional fee, but they’re happy with the service, support and overall solution they have, for what they consider to be a reasonable fee.
Southern Hospitality Reins Supreme
South Carolina is known for its over-the-top hospitality, and the Russells are no exception. Within the Quetzal system, they can run reports to see who frequents the boutique most often and who spends the most, which means they can reach out in their own personal way and thank them. The store associates are encouraged to enter shoppers’ names into the system, so they can alert them to upcoming store events and special promotions. Within such a small neighborhood and a genuine connection to the area, most shoppers don’t mind sharing their information with Madi Boutique – and that information allows Madi to hyper-personalize their experiences.
“We want to track people and proactively do something to thank them. For example, one woman came in three times the first two weeks. We proactively sent her a gift card,” said Richard. “I travel a lot, so I like that I can see the web-based reports on my computer. I can look at every transaction, what they bought and who bought it. I could see my friend’s wife came into the boutique. I sent him a text from New York and told him I was glad to see that Angela came into the store.”
Madi Boutique is already planning on hosting targeted activities for its customers. Since Michelin is located nearby and headquartered in France, there is a large French population in the neighborhood. The boutique plans on hosting a party when a new variety of Beaujolais wine comes out in November. Although Madi doesn’t have a website yet, they understand that Quetzal and Evo (their payments provider) integrate with Shopify, so they’re hoping to build out an ecommerce platform in the near future. For now, they’re just working on a quick, Wix website to support their presence in the community. It’s a good sign that when the store associates post the “outfit of the day” to their Facebook page, they immediately get calls to reserve the looks.
Madi Boutique has all the right ingredients to become a small retail success story. With an ideal mix of buying talent, store location, point-of-sale technology and southern hospitality, this fashionable startup looks to be on the rise in Greer, South Carolina.