Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stylemaker Q&A: Tim Lovejoy-Dailey

Up Spatique opened in August 2006 on the lower end of State Street with an innovative concept—tempt shoppers with clothing, throw in a mani-pedi area and delight all of the senses. In a world where shopping at chain stores can become an impersonal experience, Tim Lovejoy-Dailey's Up is the antidote to shopping blahs—literally and figuratively. Literally because once shoppers step into the candy-hued world of Up and spy the swimwear, scarves, and accessories one can't help but feel a little, well, "up"lifted. Figuratively Up's purpose is to make shoppers feel welcome and offer them something they can't find at the Wal-Marts of the world.
I talked to co-owner Tim Lovejoy-Dailey (wife Kelli is the other owner) about what's changed, what they've got on tap for spring, and of course, what it's like to be a guy in a girl's world …

You used to be called Up Spatique, and now you’re just called Up. Why the name change?
Up Spatique was half-spa, half-boutique. The spa part was good in the spring and summer, but it was really hard in the winter. The retail side was doing great, so we decided on [expanding] that; the issue became growing the apparel. We tried out [the spa side] like any store with our customers and thought we’d see how she’d respond, so we thought, ‘how do we grow?’ Because expanding in size wasn’t an option.

What is your general price range?
Fifty to one hundred dollars—that’s perfect for us. Just because of our experience in the market, there are these small companies that have great stuff for one hundred dollars instead of two hundred dollars. And [those brands have] a better value ratio for what you’re getting for the money.

What are your best selling brands?
In swimwear the most news worthy brands are probably LSpace and Ella Moss. LSpace has been getting a ton of press. I think because of that it’s been generating a lot of customer buzz. I get a lot of calls from customers asking if we have it. Ella Moss is a hot brand right now, she just launched swim, and we have the exclusive on it in town right now.
Once we got the reputation that we had a nice assortment of swimwear we had people coming in during Christmas asking if we had any swimwear, so we decided we should carry it year-round. Obviously in the spring the selection gets really big.
For sportswear, popular brands include Maxx Studio and we just introduced Ben Sherman from London, which is cool.
In denim LTB is an Eastern European brand. We’ve scaled back on the denim brands because the denim market has gotten soft nationally and locally. There has been a growing resistance in price to denim. When we first opened the store our philosophy was always to have a good, better, best assortment as far as customers go. There are a lot of cute things out there under one hundred dollars instead of under two hundred dollars. LTB is right around one hundred dollars, and over the years we’ve carried 1921 and Raven, and some other brands but LTB is always the winner. The customer loves the fact that it’s one hundred dollars. LTB is still relatively unknown in the U.S. but they are gaining notoriety. The market is looking for a better price point.

Who is your customer?
Our core customer is the young-minded woman and feminine. When contemporary got so big these last few years, style started to cross all boundaries, as far as age goes. With Sex and the City, we’ve seen everybody get a little hipper. Obviously we do have a tremendous amount of college traffic but we have a lot of downtown traffic, too. We do a lot of tourist business in the summer. But it’s gotten to the point where I get the young professional twenty-something and then I get the forty-something mom, and then they share a dressing room and they trade stuff back and forth—and they leave with a big bag of stuff!
Our store is more playful and feminine on purpose. We always said fun was going to be a big part of equation.

What trends will the store be carrying this spring?
Ruffles, tops with tiers and layers, lace and crochet. Everything is very feminine—which plays right into what we do.
The other thing is the maxidress—the maxidress is great. It’s hippie chic; the bohemian thing. We’ll have maxidresses in everything from casual tie-dye jersey versions to dressier silk versions. You have to wear it with a sandal. We’re a big flip-flop store and we’re becoming a Havaianas destination, because you can’t wear a heel with that look.
We’re also known for trenches. We have a spring trenchcoat which we carry from a brand called Tulle; they do great coats. We also have them by Ben Sherman, and a couple of other brands—bright, shorter trenchcoats.
You see a customers walk in wearing a trench with rain boots, and it’s just a great look.
The other trend that’s going to continue from an accessory perspective is scarves. We have so many different styles of scarves in linen, chiffon, silk—all summer-weight scarves. We’ve wrapped all of the poles in the store with the scarves. That trend is definitely going strong. You can wear it at night, but also take it and wrap it as a pareo or as a wrap. It’s a great way to add a little color.

Is it difficult as a guy owning, doing the buying and working in a women’s store?
I was with Union Bay as the senior design director, so I’ve been a designer my whole life. Whether you’re on the men’s side (which I’ve been on) or the women’s side, quite frankly, you work with women almost four to one throughout your career. So personally speaking, women’s wear is two things: it’s more exciting and it’s more trend-driven.
With menswear, right, wrong or indifferent, it’s gotten more classic in the last ten years. And that is what I wear, but women’s wear is more challenging, fun, exciting—and I just enjoy it more.
Women’s wear is a bigger part of the industry. Guys don’t spend as much money on clothes. They spend their money on girls! It’s simplistic, but that’s the way it is! Girls are willing to take more risks, more confident and there are more choices.

What’s changed in the retail industry since you started?
I’ve been in the business for twenty-six years. Anytime we go through an economic downturn two things usually happen. The customer becomes more price-sensitive, which is obvious, but at the same time, the customer also looks for something special. It’s not just about price. You can offer them something new and beautiful that’s just a “wow” dress.
Overall I’m sure every retailer you talk to in America will tell you there’s price sensitivity. As a specialty retailer with a stand-alone shop you have to offer something that’s special. Department stores and mall stores have gotten so price-competitive and they battle each other for price. If your store is in a field with the same stuff those places have, you can’t compete. You have to work harder to sell special products, brands and cute stuff you can’t find anywhere else. What I look for are small brands that have a good value ratio that makes sense. Just because it’s cute you can’t demand $350 for it.

What’s the best thing about being a small business owner?
Two things: the relationships with customers. When you’re in corporate like I was, you don’t really get to interact with your customer. You’re in your office every day, creating a product, and once the product is done you’re on to the next season. You’re always designing for the next season.
The other thing is the freedom. You can make those decisions; design and execute your vision and see it all the way through.
Oh, and the store is so colorful, fun and bright right now. I walked around the mall and the other shopping areas in the city and felt like no one else was even close to us in that regard. You can shake off that cabin fever if you walk in the store right now—it’s so fun!

Up, 619 State St. 256-7777.

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