international polo club wellington FASHION CONSULTANT SEES NEED FOR SPECIALTY SHOPS
WESTERN NEW YORK has been “malled” to death, fashion consultant Greg Childs believes.
Shoppers are tired of the long lines and poor customer service at enclosed malls. They want attention they want the small, specialty retailers that used to dominate Main Street before the advent of shopping centers in the 1950s and 60s.
“It’s absolutely a shame in a city of this size, we don’t have more resources for consumers,” said Childs, a Buffalo native and owner of Directions, a fashion consulting business. “We still need variety,” despite the new shops which came to town with the opening of the Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga.
“Buffalonians want to come downtown to shop, but there’s nothing here. This is the perfect place for specialty shops,” the 28 year old entrepreneur said, pointing to the vacant storefronts along the city’s pedestrian mall.
Childs isn’t a developer. In fact, he barely has the funds to keep his consulting business going. But he believes he can help breathe life into downtown’s moribund retail scene by teaching small retailers how to better merchandise their goods.
Window displays, store layout and the way clothes are arranged on racks can boost sales, Childs said. Shoppers look at mannequins and often imagine how a piece of clothing would look on them.
Most shopkeepers, however, can’t afford to have a full time fashion consultant on staff to coordinate their displays with advertising campaigns. That’s where Childs comes in.
“I can provide them with all the normal functions a fashion display person would do,” he said. He explained he can arrange window displays, assist with advertising campaigns, organize in store promotions and advise buyers about the latest apparel trends.
The young entrepreneur acknowledged that it is difficult to convince retailers that they need the services of a fashion consultant. Many are interested, but believe a consultant will charge thousands of dollars per hour.
Childs won’t reveal his hourly rate, but he says it’s very reasonable because he understands that small business owners don’t have large profit margins.
Childs opened Directions last January in the Sidway Building at 775 Main St. He says he chose the downtown office building because of its proximity to “Buffalo’s fashion district” the area around Goodell and Washington streets where Eastman Machine Co., a maker of cloth cutting equipment, and M. Wile Co.,
which produces men’s suits, have their factories.
“When I was five or six years old, I used to cut Mom’s sheets up to make clothes for dolls. And I designed elaborate club houses,” the small business owner recalled. “I’ve always been fascinated by color and texture.”
Childs holds degrees in fashion design and consumer science from the University at Buffalo and Brooks College, a California based fashion institute. After graduation, he worked for several years on window and store displays for Hills Department Stores and Adam, Meldrum and Anderson, the Buffalo department store chain. He also was a fashion instructor at Bryant Stratton Business Institute.
“Finally, I just said to myself, ‘I want to be a fashion consultant,’ ” Childs said, explaining he has been preparing to start his own business ever since his college days.
The young entrepreneur acknowledged that Buffalo “isn’t a fashion friendly atmosphere,” but he believes Directions will be successful.
“It’s going to take several years to catch on,” Childs added. In the meantime, he will continue to work weekend shifts at Sisters Hospital as a nurses’ aide.
The entrepreneur plans to hold a promotional event on June 21 in downtown Buffalo to publicize his business. Models will hand out fliers describing Directions.
The goals of Directions are quite simple: to provide a “fresh approach” to dress for its consumer clientele; to assist the independent retailer in stimulating sales through exciting merchandising techniques; to offer the small business community an events office which is self maintained, the firm’s brochure reads.
Directions currently is supported by a small cadre of consumers who have called on Childs to help them improve their appearance and wardrobe.
For years, Dolores Leftridge of East Amherst Street in Buffalo has sought fashion advice from Childs. The small business owner has designed several gowns for her and updated some of her old clothes.
“I’ve received a lot of compliments about my business clothes and evening fashions,” Ms. Leftridge said. The switchboard operator and duplication clerk at Erie Community College’s City Campus explained that using the services of a fashion consultant doesn’t have to involve paying big bucks.
“It’s not that expensive to have a nice wardrobe. Greg’s service is one that all people should take advantage of,” Ms. Leftridge said. Childs charges between $35 and $40 per hour to analyze and improve a client’s clothing. The small business owner realizes it isn’t easy to convince people of the need for fashion consultants.
He continues to dream of building a department store, where each section would be run by entrepreneurs like himself.
“It (the department store) would provide a variety of merchandise that you couldn’t find unless you went to a major city,” Childs said. “Eventually,
I know it’s going to happen.”