SPRING HILL — Consignment shops come and go. But Designer Consignments, with its focus on top-drawer couture and home decor, has kept its doors open and customers flowing through them for six busy years.
Starting with a business plan is critical, owner Ann Davidson said. She is nonplussed that some independent entrepreneurs would launch an endeavor without a plan, essentially a detailed outline of steps to be taken to acquire product, attract customers, manage resources and market inventory.
"The plan helps me stay organized, stay focused," Davidson explained. She credited her tenacity as well for the shop's longevity.
For her particular business niche, the 68-year-old Davidson brings much-valued experience as a former wardrobe costumer in the film industry; she also has been an interior decorator and an antique shop owner. Dressing classically and decorating tastefully are what she knows best.
Davidson also knows her customer base.
"My demographic is the mature, well-traveled woman," she said. "That's who I am and who I enjoy talking with."
She accepts consignments with her customers in mind.
"I only take things that have a market for my demographic. I critique things with a very critical eye," Davidson said, adding, "If I don't want them in my closet, I don't want them in my store."
She reads labels. The shop's wearables, her biggest seller, include Liz Claiborne, Sharif, Chico's, Coach, Steve Madden, Brighton and Louis Vuitton, to name a few.
"I even have a pair of Bally's," Davidson pointed out, explaining that Bally is a coveted, handmade Italian brand of shoes.
These loafers' soles were barely soiled. Original price, $500; now, $100.
Labels also figure in Davidson's pricing formula.
"First of all, the brand gives me an idea of price and the quality that comes with it. I try to price within a range that the customer thinks is a bargain," she said.
Separates, including tops, shorts, tennis skorts and slacks, are available from $10 to $20. Elegant cocktail and evening dresses are priced around $50. Smart handbags start at about $20. A top-designer collection of handbags, given their own display space, start at $50.
A customer can fully accessorize an outfit from the shop's selection of tony belts, stylish hats and high-end costume jewelry.
Last year, Davidson added home decor and art to the shop's offering. Included are decorator pillows, elegant window treatments and home textiles, pottery and fine china pieces, and gallery-framed wall art. She keeps table-top decor to a minimum, noting, "My clientele is mostly into getting rid of that."
Davidson knows many among her clientele individually. On a recent morning, she greeted by name three succeeding customers.
When one chose a blue top, Davidson's sales savvy led her to suggest, "Well, let's get you something else blue to go with it."
Another customer was accompanied by her husband. Shrewdly, Davidson mentioned he could hang out at the fishing tackle shop next door while his wife perused the store.
People-pleasing has long been in Davidson's repertoire. She has owned and operated retail businesses in Hernando County since 1996.
Although many her age have retired, the plucky, extroverted Davidson said, "I just couldn't stop working."
Contact Beth Gray at [email protected]