Founder, Alexis Suitcase consignment boutiques.
The retail landscape in town has been tricky to navigate for many boutiques, but not for Atlanta native Jayna Thompson, owner of Alexis Suitcase, a group of upscale consignment shops that dot the metro area. “A lot of full-price boutiques have come and gone; it’s really hard these days because everyone wants to be a smart shopper,” says Thompson, a lifelong bargain hunter.
What started as a way to segue out of her brother’s e-commerce business has turned into a mini-empire. In 2005, the Georgia Tech grad and former 15-year Midtown resident opened her first location in Sandy Springs, sharing that the women’s clothing and accessories consignment was a smart business move from the get-go: “It’s a smaller start-up cost, and I thought that consignment was going to have a big boom.”
Thompson was right. After 18 months she doubled the size of her Sandy Springs store, then opened Johns Creek (near her current home) and south Buckhead, and quickly had to double those spaces as well. “Every year we’ve posted growth,” she notes. “We haven’t had a down year yet. Each year, we grow our sales 10-30%, depending on the year and the location.”
Thompson, who named the stores after a college friend whose suitcase she “shopped” from while the two traveled together in New Zealand, attributes the rapid, steady growth to realizing early on that the markup on consignment is “not that high. At a department store, it’s four to five times the wholesale price.”
With that knowledge, she knew what she had to do to make the stores successful: “Scalability. It was the only way I was going to make a comfortable living, and it’s what pushed me to open the second location. When you open multiple locations, you grow not only in how much sales, and therefore profit, you can generate, but also your customer base grows to different areas and they often start shopping at both locations.”
The other part of the equation was hiring and keeping staff—Thompson currently has 30 employees across her stores. “Opening stores is like having kids. It becomes exponentially harder,” she says. “It requires trusting your employees more, and I rely on mine.”
As for how retail has changed in the last 10 years, Thompson says that “more people are now knowledgeable about designer brands, and absolutely the number one thing people are looking for from us is designer handbags. We have the largest selection in Atlanta, and for sellers with top designer bags, we offer a buyout program where we’ll pay you right on the spot for them. That’s really helped set us apart from other consignment stores. My management can authenticate handbags, and we offer a lifetime guarantee on authenticity.” Popular sellers include Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Valentino.
Shoppers are not only looking to save money, but are looking for the most current clothing as well, at prices that allow them to change their closets out frequently. “Our customers love contemporary brands, and they love to feel like they’re shopping at the mall,” says Thompson. “We can compete with the same things you’ll see at Bloomingdale’s, such as Tory Burch, Rag & Bone, Rebecca Minkoff, Rebecca Taylor and more, but you’ll come in and pay a quarter of the price for them here. For example, a $295 blouse from Rebecca Taylor might only cost $79 with us.”
If you’re looking to stock up on fall essentials, pay attention: Alexis Suitcase is having its biggest sale of the year October 14-16. “The entire store gets marked down, 10-75 percent off everything, with the big sale and festivities happening Saturday, October 15,” says Thompson. “It’ll be fun, with a party atmosphere!” Major sale aside, Thompson has plenty to celebrate.
Check out alexissuitcase.com for store locations, hours and inventory.
STORY: Lauren Finney
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