The retail business is not easy. Between the incredibly long hours, deciding what styles to buy, displaying the clothes, acquiring new clientele, and keeping your loyal customers happy (and coming back) it can be very challenging. You’ve got to have that special fashion sense and personable disposition to thrive in the industry. For Laura Vinroot Poole, starting her fashion empire here in Charlotte made perfect sense. As a child, she remembers her family traveling all over to buy clothes. “I just didn’t understand why they couldn’t do it here, so I did.”
It’s been seventeen years since Poole opened the doors to her first boutique. Throughout the past decade-and-a-half, Poole has molded both of her boutiques, Capitol and Poole Shop, into style juggernauts that draw national attention to Charlottes fashion scene. Her proven track record for success stems from her years of experience in the industry, her keen fashion sense, and her ability to multi-task. While running her thriving businesses, she also juggles a husband, a ten year old, eight to ten trips a year to New York and about four trips to Europe searching for the newest designs and designers. As if this didn’t keep her busy enough, Poole has widened her scope in the high-end retail world by introducing House Account.
Poole has always been interested in technology and how the world of retail fits into the online realm. Because of this, Poole and partner, Travis Parsons, CEO of NY product development firm Cloud Castle, came together to create an app that makes the buying and selling aspect of online purchasing far more intimate. ”I’ve built e-commerce, but it wasn’t what I needed or was accustomed to. I felt like it needed to be more diverse because boutiques look at things differently. For us to be able to compete with the larger mega brands, we needed to do it in our own way.”
House Account was created for those who love to shop and for boutiques that want to compete with the big dogs. A network of small boutiques display their styles in an attractive and intuitive way to members of the app. Members can follow stores that they frequent or stores that they simply are curious about. The power of the app is in the numbers, both styles and network of boutiques. With over 500 boutiques currently showcasing thousands of designs, the offerings of House Account are plentiful. According to Poole, a network was the smartest way to go. ”People can find us without difficulties, search for a particular brand, item, or by category, text with a query, comment, and be guaranteed a response. The concierge service House Account provides answers any questions that may arise. My girls receive each text, as do I, but if one has to research the query, and another knows the answer, both can respond to the text. This kind of communication is a beautiful thing often not found online; texting is directly between the customer and the seller or shop owner, creating a truly personal experience.”
The boutiques that participate reap the rewards as well. The analytics that House Account provides help shop owners become more aware of the types of styles they should carry to meet the needs of their customers. It also gives the boutique a professional online aesthetic often difficult to achieve. ”We have a ton of data. I can see what all my followers have liked, and I can move ahead from there. We dont want to be embarrassed, so we show our best in photography and in content.”
Since House Account’s launch, the service has grown to over 35,000 members and 500 boutiques throughout the United States. With House Account seeing such a huge amount of success in our city, and our country, Poole and Parsons plan to expand to European cities.
The House Account app is for the iPhone; its free and can be downloaded from the Apple Store. For those boutiques that want to join and be a part of this service, they simply pay a nominal $100 per month. The app is easy to use. Once you download the app and sign up to become a member, you have full access to browse your favorite boutiques by newest arrivals, categories, or brand. You can even search by city to discover the offerings of the most popular boutiques across the United States.
Unlike most apps, with House Account, “there is a warm feeling when shopping,” says Poole. “You can develop a relationship with the client and fully communicate with them. Retail is incredibly competitive but House Account has united and promoted boutiques across the country, helping them compete with the larger brands and department stores. At first, nobody wanted to talk to me. That bothered me a lot because I wasn’t raised like that, but its different now. If we dont help one another, were going to be crushed,” said Poole. Luckily for fashion enthusiasts, with House Account growing exponentially, the outlook for the small boutique looks brighter than ever.