Thursday, July 10, 2008

What Do I Do All Day?

What does it mean to be a Best of Madison winner? To me, it means that your shoppers have rated your customer service, merchandise selection and overall store look and concept as top-notch. As we know, local retailers don’t have as many resources (i.e. money, staff) as big-box retailers like Target, or department stores like Macy’s, to launch huge, fancy marketing campaigns, weather a downturn in the economy or quickly replace employees that quit or are fired. I have heard various stories from local retailers on the struggles and rewards of being a boutique owner.

In a smaller city like Madison, local retailers have to differentiate themselves from other local shops and offer something different. Shops that offer (for example) unusual clothing lines, kitchen products, furniture or handmade jewelry are going to be the ones that will do better than those who deal in the same-old, same-old. Gold winner for men’s clothing Jazzman does just that: offers lines that can’t be found anywhere else, with staffers that are friendly and approachable. Gents can find everything from casual wear to dapper suits to fit every occasion. Prices are affordable as well. Silver winner Woldenberg’s and bronze winner Context each offers its own merits of why customers of all ages like these shops, too.

Or take J. LaMore, gold winner in the women’s clothing category. Jennifer LaMore’s savvy eye for what women like surely resonated with voters. Cute shoes, jewelry, cocktail dresses and premium denim round out her shop’s selection. Of course silver winner Woldenberg’s and bronze winner Terese Zache Designs deserve props too for their genuine employees, well-crafted clothing and attractive interiors.

What about stores that didn’t win (but deserve to)? Simply put, it’s a reader’s poll and editorially, we don’t have control over what our readers say, we just report the findings. I received an email from a reader the other day lamenting Madison Magazine readers’ choice of Macy’s for the gold winner in men’s and women’s clothing (chain). He thought that Macy’s “single handedly wiped the regional department store off the face of the earth,” pointing out that Marshall Field’s was a much better department store in its day. In fact, there’s a group ( that is pining to bring Field’s back! He and I had a spirited exchange about how the reader’s poll operates and how I choose the shops I highlight in the magazine.

So, how do I choose the shops I highlight? A couple of different criteria go into my choices. One, is the shop new? Is it a local retailer? Those are the two first things I look at. If the store isn’t new, why is it worthy of being covered (I only get to write twelve columns a year!)? What is the owner’s background, and are they offering something unique to the market? Is the merchandise selection quality and reflective of what the Madison market will buy? Finally, is the store interior attractive and inviting? (I have been in stores where this is NOT the case; I have chosen not to write about those places).

So, that’s what your trusty style editor does in her day-to-day doings. Now you know! And more importantly you know that Madison Magazine has high standards for every topic we cover, whether it’s retail or restaurants.

And so do our readers.

Jazzman, 340 State St. 256-2062.
, 702 N. Midvale Blvd. 233-4300.

, 113 King St. 250-0113.

J LaMore
, 2701 Monroe St. 238-2119.

Terese Zache Designs
, 702 N. Midvale Blvd. 310-4100.

No comments: