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Surfing Google's Boutiques

Local San Diego boutique owners react to Google's foray into the fashion business



 

Last Wednesday, Google launched a new fashion site called Boutiques.com. Visitors can create a “style profile” based on their likes and dislikes. They are asked to say what types of dresses, shoes, pants, tops, they like as well as colors, styles, and genres (romantic, boho, classic, casual chic, edgy or street). The site then gives clients their “recommended” looks, designers, and celebrity styles that fits them. Shoppers can then love, hate, save or share the looks chosen for them, and of course buy, buy, buy. 
 
I polled five San Diego boutique owners about the site, and here’s what they said:
 
Cecelia Church, owner of Vocabulary boutique in Little Italy:
“I’m a supporter of democratization of small businesses. It’s a super-fun site. I don’t however think that it will drive traffic to independent boutiques. What they do on the site is what a good local clothing store does—size up a costumer and direct them to what they’ll like. Technology misses the subtlety of personal connection,” Church says. 
 
Jenny Livits, owner of Pink Lagoon boutique in Solana Beach:
“It’s great for shoppers that help women find their look. It gives huge inspiration. The difference between online and a brick and mortar is all in the editing. I have a great understanding of the things that the customer wants and how to help them build a working wardrobe quickly and efficiently,” Livits says.
 
Lauren Turek, owner of Kerut boutique in La Jolla:
“The site feels like virtual dress-up. It’s great for people who are intimidated by shopping in a store or feel pressure from salespeople. The direction is a little confusing to me. Is it a styling site or a shopping site? There’s a lot of information there, and it seems a bit exhaustive,” Turek says.
 
David Fifield, owner of Gerhard boutique in Del Mar:
“There’s too much shit going on visually. If feels like it’s following a model, but fashion stays ahead not behind and most high-end stores have quit online. This site would work really well for that Del Mar housewife who’s online at 4am insanely shopping. Online does effect the profits of small boutiques, if we don’t have something they want, they go get it online. Eventually, they skip the store and go directly online,” Fifield says.
 
Rhonda Begley, owner of Mimi & Red in North Park and La Jolla:
“It’s perfect for the customer who wants to follow trends, but as a boutique owner it doesn’t help my business one bit. It’s very high-end and not very many independent boutiques are even on the site. It seems like it’s trying to go toe-to-toe with Net-a-Porter."
 
In my humble assessment Boutiques.Com is a fun, very usable, and informative fashion site…the problem is simply the name. When almost all of the sales are directed to department stores or other huge online sites, the point of supporting your locally owned and independent boutique is lost. Leave it to the mega-giant Google to take something small, like the concept of a boutique or a simple internet search, and blow it up, until it becomes something you can’t live without.

 

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