Why small boutiques can't compete with Shein and Alibaba

I was ripped off by an Instagram boutique, and it reveals a major snag in the e-commerce boom

Entrepreneurship, Small Business

9/17/2021 3:57:00 PM

I was ripped off by an Instagram boutique, and it reveals a major snag in the e-commerce boom

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were the only options. When customers complained about poor quality, extended shipping times, and finding the same pieces on other sites for less, the Hakimianpours' took it to heart.They knew they needed to deliver value if their business were to last."If there's nothing innovative or interesting coming out," Tiffany Hakimianpour said,"then I don't think it has longevity."

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—Proxima Midnight (@_NeKol)August 26, 2021And they're right: The Wharton retail-management professor Santiago Gallino said boutiques must add value — like offering something new or curating a particular style — for customers to justify returning. If customers can find the same products at significantly lower prices through a simple Google search, the customer has no reason to come back.

"This dynamic is not going to be sustainable as a business," he said, adding that drop-shipping models could risk low customer service and poor product quality.Boutique owners aren't entirely at fault, said Thomaï Serdari, a marketing professor at New York University's Stern School of Business. Shopify doubled its stock price on the message that headtopics.com

, but she warned the company was selling an unrealistic perception.Small businesses can't compete with fast-fashion giantsTwo screenshots show the same dress sold on It's Juliet and AliExpress for different prices.Screenshot/Jennifer Ortakales Dawkins

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In April, five months after launching their business, the Hakimianpours started working with manufacturers to create their own exclusive designs, beginning with their fall collection. Then they opened a warehouse in Grapevine, Texas, to ship orders domestically.

"Customer feedback was really the compass of where we're going," Candice Hakimianpour said. Ultimately, the sisters want to make their clothing more ethical and more size-inclusive, something they can do now that they're working with manufacturers directly.

It's an Amazon world, and we're just trying to move in it.

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