Southern Comfort

Jennifer Atkins, co-owner of Peony Nola, on crafting a cozy-chic in-store experience through inspirational new products and perfected customer service.

Pressing the Flesh No matter how digitally driven the world gets, I will always cherish the experience of meeting a brand for the first time in person. Making that connection with the people behind a label at a trade show is magical. However, once I know a brand well—for instance, I know Tutu Du Monde like the back of my hand—I’ll write orders online. Of course, I stop by my vendors’ booths at a show and say ‘hello,’ but I ultimately designate most of my time to scouting new brand when I’ve traveled to a market.

STUDY ABROAD I travel to Playtime Paris every other year. I also attended Pitti Immagine Bimbo in Florence for the first time this summer. I find shopping internationally to be particularly beneficial in discovering product that U.S. customers won’t find anywhere else. In today’s world, you can’t just stock brands your customer will search in the dressing room and get shipped to their home for free the next day. You’re just asking for trouble. More than ever, you have to be unique, which means going the extra mile(s).

BACKGROUND CHECK  Before I write orders, I do my research. I immediately will look a brand up online, see whether it sells to my neighbors and/or find out about special offers for wholesale partners. It’s presumptuous to expect me to waste my shelf space on a label that doesn’t feel the need to invest time and energy into its retail partners. There’s just too many other options out there!

THAT PERFECT MOMENT  It’s important to understand how trends ebb and flow. Even if you have an eye for trends, you learn timing is everything as a buyer. It’s most frustrating when I fall in love with a line, and it doesn’t sell the season I bring it in but explodes a season later when I no longer carry it. That said, keep an eye on what’s going to be hot, so you know the best time to introduce something new. For example, children’s skincare and bath products are booming right now, so stock up!

Extra Extras  I’m always looking for fun add-ons, from cute hair accessories and sparkly lip glosses to bottles of Define Me hair perfume. Our job is to keep the customer inspired from the moment they walk through the door to when they step up to the register. We’ve even invited a makeup artist to teach our customers about skin products and perfumes at the store. It’s always a great idea to inspire customers with a personalized service that ties back to your inventory. That way everyone wins!


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