John Heaton (jheaton) wrote,
John Heaton

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Adventures in retail, part one

A few months ago, my sister-in-law Charity and one of her friends decided to open a women's clothing boutique, called the Persnickety Palm, here in Leesburg. The grand opening is scheduled for April 1, but they had a sneak preview evening last night in conjunction with Leesburg's monthly "First Friday" event, during which many downtown retailers stay open late.

The new shop is what is known colloquially as a Lilly store. That is, they sell clothes made by Lilly Pulitzer. They sell other brands as well, but Lilly Pulitzer is (or will be) their bread-and-butter and was, I suspect, the raison d'etre behind opening the shop in the first place. Their name, logo, and the decorating scheme were both inspired by Lilly Pulitzer's trademark palm tree monogram and her signature colors of pink and green.

Being a good brother-in-law, I visited her at the store after I got off work yesterday evening. When I got there shortly after six, Charity told me that my brother Andy and the kids were out distributing fliers. The distribution of fliers was vitally important if the evening was to be a success, because as of last night they still didn't have a sign up outside the store. (Their original proposal was rejected by the board that regulates signage in the historic district, not for any good reason, so they're appealing the decision to the town council.) With no sign, the potential customers would have no way of knowing the shop was even there. Thus, fliers. Charity said I was welcome to help hand out fliers; I demurred, but said I would go out and look for Andy and the kids, and maybe walk with them while they worked. Because I certainly wasn't going to hand out fliers.

I didn't find them during my walk, but in another shop I did see a little girl wearing a pair of Lilly Pulitzer pants. I cornered her mother and told her about the new store, explaining that I had noticed her daughter's pants. (Which is not necessarily the smartest thing to say to the mother of a toddler, but I think my meaning was clear in context.) Eventually I got tired and returned to the store. When Andy and the kids finally showed up—they hadn't even arrived when I first went looking for them—they asked if I was going to hand out fliers with them. Again I said that I had no plans to, but that I would walk with them while they did.

About two minutes later I was handing out fliers. My nephew David and I teamed up; most of the time, he would press the fliers into the hands of the passersby while I offered them some snappy patter along the lines of "We've just opened a new women's clothing store here in Leesburg, selling Lily Pulitzer, Molly B, and other pink and green clothes. We're at the corner of Loudoun and Wirt Street"—at which point (or, sometimes, slightly before) David would interject, "second floor, to the left!" in a loud voice—"I hope you have a chance to stop by!" Sometimes I would hand out the fliers while he shilled, but he kept forgetting to say where the store was, other than that it was on the second floor to the left. Meanwhile, Andy and Libby, and Charity's partner's husband and daughter, were doing much the same thing. And apparently we did a pretty good job; by the time we returned, the store was very busy and I saw several people to whom David and I had given fliers.

So it looks like the store may be a success. Many of the women I spoke to seemed genuinely enthusiastic about there being a Lilly store in Leesburg. (The next closest one is in Reston.) I don't know how the average man feels about it; in addition to my role as shill, I also was responsible for identifying people who would be most likely to be interested in visiting a Lilly store, which of course means I didn't talk to any men except those who happened to be with women who looked like they would want to visit a Lily store. And at the very least, I've promised to buy a Lilly necktie from her if they ever start carrying them, so at least they've got that going for them.

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