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Shop Talk: Fancy That

Shop Talk: Fancy That

Spotlight On: Hillsboro, Oregon

Realizing success after imagining a dream

After working for several Fortune 500 companies in retail and management, Lisa Komer took a graceful, well-planned leap into the realm of independent party supply and gift retail. Nearly 10 years have passed since Komer started her shop — first online and then as a popup in a bakery — it wasn’t until 2012 when Komer, with a burst of color and community involvement, opened the doors of her brick-and-mortar celebration shop. Almost two years later, Fancy That, located in Hillsboro, Oregon, is already thriving as a result of Komer’s industry ardor, a new community events studio and a modern mind on marketing.

Prepping for the party

Anyone’s first foray into being an independent retailer is always rife with surprises and challenges. Don Morgan, director of Party Club of America, once said: “a tip for any retailer is to do your research and find out what you’re getting into.”

That’s exactly how Komer approached her business venture — with research and years of careful planning.

“I quietly dreamed of owning my own party store, stopping at every empty storefront to peek in and visualize how I could transform it,” Komer remembered.  “One day, my kids and I were peeking in a store and I thought ‘why not?’ I am not a risk taker by nature, though, so I spent another few years in dream mode — sketching ideas, playing with shop names.”

After meticulous planning and allowing her entrepreneurial ideas to take shape, Komer made another safe move, despite her excitement about starting her dream store — she waited.

“My kids were in grade school and it seemed like a good time for me to start researching opening a store. The timing was just not right to venture out on my own, so I approached Bliss Bake Shop,” Komer recounted. “I pitched them the idea of me opening up a popup shop in their space.  The arrangement was a perfect way for me to see if my party and gift shop concept would succeed. Within a year, I started looking for a larger space!”

Birthdays, bonanzas and community bashes

With an event center just a few doors down, Fancy That is an extra-special retail shop, because it offers a rental space nearby for intimate celebrations, as well as full party-planning services.

“There are very few venues that are affordable for parties under 24 guests, and our goal was to fill that need,” Komer said.

Providing an entire online catalog for customers to peruse, Komer offers different party packages including “40 & Fabulous” and “Cap and Gown” themes that make Fancy That a one-stop shop and event center for customers.

Komer said she wanted Fancy That to not only provide an affordable party venue, but also provide parties “with all the fancy and none of the fuss,” by offering event planning and décor, as well as pre- and post-party cleanup.

“Whether it's a bridal or baby shower, birthday bash, graduation party or business lunch, our event studio is a great spot,” Komer remarked. “Our events are fully customizable and built from the ground up based on our customers’ vision.”

Aside from hosting individual events, Fancy That also expands their presence in their locale by arranging community events with other retailers.

“For the bigger holidays like Easter, Halloween and Christmas, we coordinate with other shop owners to host a big community event,” Komer said. “The community loves it and it is so fun to see everyone filling the streets and discovering new shops.”      

Marketing-minded    

Marketing and merchandising are important for all stores’ visibility. Being involved in the community, hosting parties and inventing successful displays helps customers imagine their next party and understand how much a retailer is able to do for them to help make that event special.

“Events are an amazing way to showcase your products!” Komer exclaimed.  “We want our shop to be a happy place for our customers and everything we do from the music, scents and displays has the goal of making our customers smile. I know we have done a great job when customers come in and squeal with delight over a display!”

The events that Fancy That hosts and helps coordinate not only give back to the community, but along with her keen eye for merchandising, it helps keep her store front-of-mind for returning and potential customers who attend events and see what Fancy That has to offer.

And Fancy That is sure to appreciate their new and returning customers. Komer said once every quarter, Fancy That will encourage customers to come in by hosting appreciation celebrations with special sales and free goodies like champagne or cupcakes.

But, this quarterly appreciation also extends into the everyday celebration. “We also like to hold events for funny holidays like National Donut Day or National Hot Chocolate Day,” Komer said. “We serve treats and have special sales.”

This personal appreciation of the everyday is one way retailers can build an environment that values their customers and community — it’s sure to not only spur more sales, but increase in-store traffic from word-of-mouth marketing as well. “Community events such as Easter Hunt and Trick or Treating are a great way to build awareness about our shop and give our customers a fun, free event,” Komer commented.

Not only are in-store events that encourage foot traffic a great marketing tool, but Komer also takes advantage of the convenience the Internet provides customers as well. With an online catalog through a platform called Issuu, Komer is able to showcase the event studio and décor packages, where customers are able to see available party options with prices.

“Issuu really helped us reach customers about our event studio launch,” Komer said. “It allowed us to utilize our customers to help spread the word and share our catalog.”

You’ve got to have love

It’s not always fun and games in the retail industry. One issue all independent retailers face is competing with large corporations. But, building relationships with the community and finding those products that make the store stand out are just a couple ways to create and maintain success within the industry.

“Competing with big boxes is always a challenge,” Komer admits. However, she also acknowledges the importance of updating her product line to differentiate her store. “If we have a product line that a big box has picked up, we will discontinue it. We are always on the look out for new products from smaller shops (and love sourcing local).”

Despite competition and the array of issues every retailer faces, being prepared for challenges and facing them with support from others and a persistent passion is how Komer remains successful.

“When we first decided to open our own shop, my husband said to me, ‘make sure at the end of the day you are happy,’” Komer said. “When I close the shop at night, I always look back over my shoulder right before I turn out the lights and I still get that giddy feeling. That feeling gets me through the crazy roller coaster ride.”

By Leigh Jajuga | Assistant Editor

Originally posted Friday, Mar. 20, 2015