Small Fashion Boutiques and Retail Change in China

  •  Matthew M. Chew    


Although scholars and business leaders generally expect the small fashion boutique retail format to phase out in China after the China joined the WTO, it has so far remained very resilient under current retail changes. This essay investigates the characteristics of the small fashion boutique format and explicates why small fashion boutiques remain to have certain advantages over larger retail formats. Based on case studies, ethnographic observation, and in-depth interviews of successful operators, I find that small fashion boutiques excel in relational marketing and store branding. I document how small boutiques operators invest their effort in relational marketing by developing friendship with a group of core customers and supplying accurate fashion information to all customers. I also demonstrate how small fashion boutiques effectively gain store brand equity through flexible visual merchandizing and cultivating a charismatic image for the operator.

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