Matt and Andrea Battaglia don’t just sell children’s clothes. They sell confidence and imagination.
Nestled in a warehouse off the beaten path of Highway CC in Nixa, Girls Clothing Hut strives to empower and inspire young girls.
The growing online retailer offers a little bit of everything, from shirts and skirts to kimonos and tutus, in creative patterns that owner Andrea Battaglia says sparks imagination.
“When girls are comfortable and excited about what they’re wearing, then they’re more confident to be who they are,” she says.
The boutique carries clothing for newborns through size 16. Moms also can purchase matching outfits, and due to popular demand, the 11-year-old boutique now offers a small selection of boys clothing. But stock is limited, and new products are introduced every few weeks, making each purchase from Girls Clothing Hut unique.
“Because of the creative and ever-changing nature of our product line, I think what creates the most interest and excitement is the fear of missing out,” Andrea says. “We have a lot of customers who check back with us regularly because they want to see what new patterns we have.”
Learning the ropes
Though Girls Clothing Hut was founded in 2008, the Battaglias have only owned it since last summer. They’ve been experiencing life at full-speed since acquiring the business from Joe and Tracy Sutter.
With Andrea’s full-time job directing annual giving and alumni relations at Drury University and three children to raise, the couple have devoted every spare second to growing the business.
Matt, formerly the chief financial officer at Sun Solar LLC, says his focus has been learning the ins and outs of the e-commerce industry and developing a plan for future growth.
“As any new business, the biggest obstacle is being really aware of what your strengths and weaknesses are,” he says.
The challenge he and his wife have faced is learning how to run Girls Clothing Hut while making it their own.
“Even though Girls Clothing Hut is still the same business, we have a very different look and feel for what we wanted to communicate,” Andrea says. “It’s all been very challenging, but it’s also been good learning experiences.”
The couple have worked to improve brand awareness with digital marketing and social media campaigns. They also launched a new website in January.
Andrea, who has a background in marketing, says she’s spent most of her free time crafting social posts and product descriptions, as well as graphic design projects, which she says have given her a much-needed creative outlet.
Two additional employees work at Girls Clothing Hut, helping with order fulfillment and store management. Almost all of Girls Clothing Hut’s sales are done online, but customers can visit a showroom in the boutique warehouse 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. most days to browse the current product selection.
The Battaglias have three goals for 2019: expand the company’s online market, sell more clothing in the Springfield area and produce a 20 percent increase from 2018 revenue of $637,000.
Girls Clothing Hut’s current customer base is located throughout the Midwest and southern United States. But as an online business, it has a small impression on the local retail market.
The online boutique’s competitors are any e-commerce retailer, Matt says, identifying Utah-based Sparkle in Pink as an example. Locally, any boutique or kids’ store are considered competition.
There’s surely business to be had online. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates consumers in 2018 spent $513.6 billion in online sales, a 15 percent increase from the year before. As to clothing purchases, e-commerce accounted for 24.7 percent of retail clothing and accessories purchases nationwide in 2017, up from 23.5 percent in 2016, according to the latest Online Apparel Report posted by DigitalCommerce360.com.
The Battaglias are part of The Boutique Hub, an organization that works to connect boutique and small-business owners with consumers. Sara Burks, director of partnerships and education for the group, says social media has changed the game for retail. People like to shop with people, she says, and having a social media presence has added that human-aspect to online shopping.
“Boutique owners, both brick and mortar and online, need to be alive in their community, (with a) social media presence and e-commerce platforms,” Burks says. “Providing that omnichannel experience, where you are building a relationship and brand across all your channels, is key to converting views to sales.”
Girls Clothing Hut has made appearances at local festivals in the last year, Matt says, but he hopes to partner with another local boutique or invest in a storefront to create a presence in the Springfield metropolitan area.
The business works with many overseas suppliers, Matt says, and he’s learned that the e-commerce game is “the wild, wild west.”
“Once another online retailer finds out about our suppliers, there’s really nothing stopping them from bypassing us all together,” he says. “The more we’re able to spend in digital advertising and develop a loyal customer base, the better.”
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