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Sonia Malloy, founder of Splurge in Greenwich, CT, motivates customers with hand-picked treasures and girl-empowering events.
Some women open boutiques fueled solely by desire to do so, but Splurge owner Sonia Malloy came to it with massive retailing experience. She cut her teeth at May Company’s executive training program, rising through the buying ranks for Infant/Layette, Girls 7-16 and Cosmetics. After a stint as DMM of Intimate Apparel at Lord & Taylor, she worked in marketing and merchandising for Avon and Victoria’s Secret. After leaving the corporate world, she opened Splurge Gifts in Greenwich, CT, focusing on gift, home and jewelry with a small section in the back for baby and kids. In 2017, Splurge turned the space next door into a kids’ destination, expanding to 2,600-square-feet of combined selling space. Today, 85 percent of the new space is for girls with 10 percent baby/toddler and five percent boys. Gifts/apparel are split 60/40, with items ranging from $5 to $100.
Splurge grew its tween business not just because analytics highlighted its success, but because it gave Malloy the opportunity to advance her true passion: empowering young girls. “Seven to 12 is a very impressionable age, and girls really struggle in that time frame,” Malloy says. “I take my public space very seriously and want to use it for good. I try to instill confidence with the motto that ‘anything is possible if you set your mind to it.’”
Splurge has been amping up its events, using them to build community, introduce new brands and provide services. The store hosts an ear-piercing pop-up event each month with Hey Rowan, who brings in licensed nurses and sells earring subscription programs. Communion dress trunk shows are another recent addition, built around Joan Calabrese for Mon Cheri, which sends 30 or 40 additional dresses if Splurge hits a threshold buy. “Communion dress shopping isn’t for online, it’s an event, notes Malloy. “Girls come in with their mom, dad, sister and grandmother, and we’ll share photos on Instagram captioned ‘I said yes to the dress!’” Splurge also promotes philanthropy,
such as collecting Easter baskets for the needy, or donating pashmina scarves to cancer patients if a customer spends $150.
How do you empower girls through product? Messaging that supports girls is important, like girl power tops from Sparkle by Stoopher and Chaser, plus notepads and journals stating Kindness is Cool or Kindness Matters. I really believe kindness is a type of girl power, and I want to teach girls that it’s not just about being pretty. Doing good is pretty!
What about events? I work with a marketing company on a Stylista contest, where winners get to model kids’ clothing for our look book. But they don’t just submit photos, they have to write an essay on how they exhibit kindness in their community. I’m not just looking for pretty or popular. An 18-year-old female film student photographed the fashion shoot, which also modeled success for these girls! We chose seven girls total, and highlighted a fun fact about each one. I’m also a big believer in teaching, and we recently hosted the Girl Scouts at Splurge to learn about retailing—9-year-olds who needed business education to get their next badge. I had a whole big presentation planned but it turned informal because as soon as I began all these hands shot up with a million questions! And today, I spoke to 30 third graders at a local school about owning a store.
What’s planned down the road? We’re launching a Shop Owner for a Day project, where 7th and 8th grade girls will come into the store 3-4 hours a month to learn about retailing. It’s through the Junior Achievement organization that teaches children about business.
What’s selling in apparel? Greenwich isn’t as preppy as people think, but it’s still a fairly conservative town. I don’t sell anything with skulls, rips or edgy phrases. It has to be cool enough that girls like it but still mom-approved! Camouflage does great. Most of what’s sold is for weekendwear since many of our customers wear uniforms for private school. The No. 1 vendor in the entire store is Iscream, and this year their ‘yummy’ fuzzy blankets that coordinate with pajama pants have been a huge hit, especially tie-dye, rainbows, unicorns and narwhales. Our second-best brand is Vintage Havana. They have a great aesthetic and we do best with sweats and hoodies (both sets and separates), cute tops and flowy pants. Rompers still do well but skirts have really come up in popularity, like layered/tiered miniskirts. Overall, I try not to sell anything so trendy that she won’t want to wear it in in six months.
What’s selling in gifts and accessories? Definitely bath bombs, scented pillows, room décor, journals, games and art kits. A lot of our private school customers use accessories to express themselves in their uniforms. Bari Lynn headbands are go-tos for some bling or fur pompoms. We also do well with mission-based accessories, like bracelets from Pura Vida (providing jobs for worldwide artisans) and 4ocean (made from debris pulled from the oceans), to Ivory Ella backpacks and lunchpacks (affiliated with Save the Elephants). For tees and sherpas, I buy Ivory Ella in XXS since they don’t have a kids’ line yet.
Where do you see the store in five years? Definitely more experiential. We are trying out a lot of different things, and brick-and-mortar retailing is a whole new ball game. Splurge is now about providing a service to the community, not just selling merchandise.