The Retail Report
May 23, 2011

Collaborating with your local dancewear store—make it work for you.

Relevé Dance-Wear Co.

When it comes to diversifying their means of income, many dance studio owners consider introducing retail offerings as another way to serve their customer base. And, in some cases, it can definitely be a risk worth taking—take Central Park Dance Studio’s Miss Talia’s Boutique, which rakes in an impressive $200,000 each year. (Owner Maria Bai was featured in DT’s April issue.) Yet many studio owners aren’t necessarily aware of the hidden costs and drawbacks of operating an on-site shop. “It’s hard to be all things to all people all the time,” says Georgia Tetradis, owner of Greenwich, Connecticut–based Beam & Barre. “A lot of schools think the idea is great initially and don’t realize how labor-intensive the endeavor really is.”

Along with the potential of being overextended work-wise, another consideration is the question of whether on-site stores can truly meet dancers’ needs as well as independent retailers do. Space constraints or lack of product expertise can often translate to less or inferior inventory on the studio’s part. So is it possible to combine the best of both worlds? Ask most dance retailers, and they’ll maintain that studios are better off embracing the inherent benefits of collaborating with independent local stores, rather than running their own. Use the following examples to decide if you’re making the most of your relationship with your local dancewear store.

Tap into free publicity and promotion.

Many storeowners are former dancers or teachers themselves, and they are typically passionate about supporting their local dance communities. As such, many retailer websites—like Redding, California–based Soleus Dancewear’s—provide comprehensive dance studio listings for customers seeking recommendations. Additionally, stores will often seek local dancers to appear in advertisements/displays and fashion shows. At Soleus, the staff puts on an annual September fashion show that features local dancers, ages 4 to 18.

Tamara Shewmaker, co-owner of Relevé Dance-Wear Co. in Elk Grove, CA, also engages in this kind of creative cross-promotion. She includes a “Studio Spotlight” in her monthly e-newsletter and enlists dancers from various studios to model new clothing lines on her website. “We fit the clothes on the team and go to their location to take pictures,” she says. “People like to see real kids in the community—it’s been hugely successful and builds awareness of both businesses.”

Allison Evans, owner of Elite Studio of Dance (also in Elk Grove), echoes that sentiment. Dancers from her studio were recently featured in Relevé’s newsletter, resulting in new business and renewed student satisfaction. “A number of parents who read the article came forward and ended up registering with us,” she says. “We also chose students who we felt were the most respectful and well-behaved in their classes to do the modeling, so for them, it was a huge honor. Overall, it was a very positive experience.”

Invite the store into your studio. Back-to-school or other types of shopping can be overwhelming and time-consuming for parents, so it’s always helpful to make the process as streamlined as possible. To do just that, Sheila Ferraiuolo of Worcester, Massachusetts–based DreamStar Dance Supply & More physically sets up shop at local studios during busy times like registration and recital season. “Not only does it provide convenience for parents, but we make sure we only bring exactly what the studio owner wants—which helps eliminate dress code problems,” she says.

It can also prevent last-minute costume emergencies, according to Carolyn Pluff of The Dance Place, Inc., also in Worcester. At its yearly recital, DreamStar sells tights and other dance necessities along with recital gifts like teddy bears and trinkets. “It’s a terrific asset in case someone has a rip or a fall and needs something right away,” says Pluff.

Studios can also tap their local retailer for educational events for parents and dancers. The Relevé staff runs clinics throughout the year on topics like bun-making, nutrition and stage makeup. “We really try to interact with our community and not just be the store that’s there to make a profit,” says Shewmaker. Sharing staff between studio and store can also reap educational benefits—DreamStar and The Dance Place have two employees in common, and Pluff says that obtaining pointe shoe expertise has enabled her student-teachers to help students better prevent injuries and avoid problems caused by poor fit.

Use your power in numbers. All of the retailers interviewed for this article said they are willing to give substantial discounts for group ordering or repeat business from studios. During busy performance periods, this perk can not only reduce the financial burden but also alleviate stress for the studio owner. “Give us the opportunity to

figure out your costuming needs and leave the work to us—the fittings, the ordering, the particulars,” says Shewmaker. “As a studio owner, you can go back to being in your element and focusing on the dance itself. That’s one huge weight we can take off a studio’s shoulders.”

Some stores can offer dedicated hours to exclusively serve your dancers. Soleus Dancewear, for instance, has offered back-to-school nights for each local dance studio, with 10 percent of sales benefiting that studio. At Beam & Barre, Tetradis throws pointe-shoe-fitting parties. “We love when teachers bring a class for their first pointe shoes, and we’ll thank them with a nice gift certificate and bottle of champagne,” she says. “The parents also feel reassured when the teacher takes the time to come with them, so it’s a win-win situation for everyone.” DT


Based in Los Angeles, Jen Jones is a frequent contributor to Dance Teacher.

Photo courtesy Relevé Dance-Wear Co.

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