Baton Rouge boutiques are using new tools to figure out what we’ll want to buy next
Last year, NK Boutique basically turned into a loungewear store. Across town, Rodeo Boutique’s shelves were also stocked with more comfy leisure wear.
NK, typically known for its racks of upscale, fashion-forward clothing from designers like Cinq à Sept and Milly, had stocked up on event dresses going into spring 2020. But suddenly, customers weren’t doing much—and when they were, they wanted styles way more casual than what NK usually carries, says NK’s Mary Virginia Guice.
For Rodeo, which is located near LSU and tries to keep its pulse on trends, stocking what was in style meant shifting to jogging pants and sweatshirts, says owner Shanna Boudreaux.
The COVID-19 pandemic was a learning curve for many retailers as they had to pivot to entirely different inventory. But as life continues its slow return to some sort of normalcy in 2022, what have retailers learned about adapting to trends?
For one thing, businesses now know how to pivot quicker and are being more conservative with inventory. Sales were lost in the move to loungewear, says Hemline owner Muffy Leblanc, and now, she’s playing it safer when it comes to her budget.
Wanderlust by Abby had just gotten a shipment of LSU baseball gear at the beginning of the pandemic, recalls owner Abby Bullock, and she ended up having to sell it for significantly cheaper. Her St. Patrick’s Day items also would have usually flown off the shelves, but she was left with a lot of that merchandise after the parade was canceled in both 2020 and 2021.
So shop owners began thinking less about seasonal events and more about TikTok. Boudreaux noticed the video app driving trends for items like crop tops.
While Bullock used to find inspiration in street trends and people watching around town, she also says she spent more time thinking about items that people could wear at home.
For 2022, event-centered clothing is back, the boutique owners say. Venues have largely reopened their doors, weddings are rescheduled, and high school and college customers are able to have homecomings, proms and semi-formals again.
“In 2020, they all wanted leisure wear,” Boudreaux says, “and in 2021, they (wanted) the opposite.”
Customers are now buying what they didn’t get to wear all these months, she says. People are excited to dress up.
2020 was more basic, with people buying for comfort, even down to their shoes, Bullock says, but in 2021, they began to want more colorful and fun items adorned with glitter, sequins and pleather.
So, what will we wear going into 2022?
Boudreaux says she’s seen lots of neutrals for summer 2022, which she considers shocking for a usually colorful season. Designers are probably trying to play it safe, she thinks, nervous about where they will be in the coming months and still recovering from the ripple effects of COVID-19.
She cut back on buying during the pandemic, too, and believes designers may be trying to avoid similar risks.
However, Leblanc says she sees 2022 bringing in more fun and
colorful styles. Bows are popular accessories, according to Boudreaux, perhaps because they are youthful and timeless.
Bullock predicts this year will be bigger and better for fashion.
“People are even more ready and confident that we won’t have a shutdown,” Leblanc adds. “That confidence will show in outfits.”
Through all the changes, retailers have had to be flexible. No matter how long you’ve been in business, Bullock says, this time was a learning process.
“With buying, you have to be able to turn tables and spin on a dime,” Boudreaux says. “Don’t get too stuck in your ways, and move with whatever’s happening.”
A little bit of everything
A snapshot of what was trending on Instagram at local boutiques this winter—a mix of loungewear, Mardi Gras- and holiday-ready sequins, and dressed-up neutrals.
This article was originally published in the January 2022 issue of 225 magazine.