Wednesday, September 25, 2013

District Sample Sale - The Recap

On Monday, I posted about Zoe's invitation to the District Sample Sale.  Today I give you a recap of the event!

If you remember my planning for the Old Town Alexandria Warehouse Sale, you know that I always have a checklist.  This event was no different.  And it was slightly more challenging because I was unfamiliar with the event, the venue, and the logistics.  So the checklist was a must!!

When Tara arrived at Zoe yesterday, items were already being staged next to the front door.  And although I've been grumpy about the designation of several parking spaces in front of Zoe as "Loading Zoe" from 6 am - 11 am, I took full advantage of the Loading Zone yesterday morning to get our Honda Pilot fully packed up with clothing, racks, and other support items!

Janice arrived at 12:30 to take care of Zoe in our absence and Tara and I set out for DC at around 1:20 pm.  The email that we had received over the weekend indicated that we were to unload at the service entrance at 2 pm and we did not want to be late.  As we approached the venue, Tara said "What if you have to keep driving around and we just unload incrementally?"  I laughed and said "I don't want to explain that usage of gasoline to Jim!"  Oh, how little did we know how accurate her words were!

(Note - Jim has often said things similar to what Tara said and then they end up coming true.  Ask him sometime about what he said one night when we arrived in Atlanta en route from New Orleans to Alexandria) and he commented on the fact he had never stayed in the Westin next to the runway.  Guess where we ended up staying that night because our connecting flight had already departed?  Yes.  Nothing else need be said).

So, as you can imagine, there was no parking in the service area in the alley behind the venue.  And the police and others were just waiting to tow and ticket vehicles.  So what did we do?  Tara got out and found our space and then each time I circled the block, pulled more out of the Pilot.  I think I circled that block about 15 times as she ran up and down two flights of stairs (the service elevator was slow and crowded).  Finally, when there was very little left, I parked in the 24 hour parking garage close by and carried my card table down K Street.  (We've already established in this blog that I really have no shame).

(Second Note:  Jim called this a "learning experience".  I called it a "cluster".  He was just glad he wasn't there.)

Tara already had our rack set up when I reached our space (in the Sphinx Club in DC).  We then determined the ideal configuration for the space and went to work.  We finished in plenty of time and took a few deep breaths before I went to the ladies room to change into my "uniform" for the night (ankle boots, black tights, Rebecca Taylor leather skirt, black turtleneck, and Chan Luu scarf).

We were happy to see and visit with fellow Old Town Alexandrians Periwinkle, Bishop Boutique and Hysteria.  And then the madness began - the VIPs began entering the event at 5:30!

One of the best things about the event?  The opportunity to meet a friend from Twitter/Instagram (you may know her as @DCCeline) as well as her friends (shout out to @kcesledd) and the winner of her VIP giveaway (@EmilyKateDC).

In addition to Tara, former Zoe employee Julie joined us to help at the event.  I could not have been successful without the two of them managing our "dressing room", keeping our racks from complete chaos and calling our purchases so I could ring them up. Not to mention their role in the tear-down process!  They are the BEST!

Check out our dressing room behind us - we set up the Chinese Screen when the organizers moved the Step and Repeat Wall from this space!

It was a great opportunity to introduce Zoe to new customers - so many people asked "Where is your store?"  We hope that many of them will venture out to Old Town Alexandria soon!

When the event ended at 9 pm, I started to bring the Pilot back up to the loading area (hoping that I wouldn't have to repeat the multiple drive around the blog scenario again)!  I had parked on P4 of the parking building and I suddenly discovered as I was driving out that there was a direct entrance to the venue on P2.  Guess who parked and ran inside to share the news!!  This made the loading of the Pilot much easier!  Tara and I had already decided we would not unload on Tuesday night - we saved that fun for this morning.  At least we had less to unload that we had taken with us!

We enjoyed the opportunity to be involved in the 2013 District Sample Sale!  If you shopped it, what did you buy? And what was your favorite part?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tara's First Year

In celebration of her 1 year anniversary at Zoe, I asked Tara to write a Guest Post for the Blog today!

It’s hard to believe it’s been a year already.  I guess it is true what they say - time flies when you are having fun.  I first started working at Zoe on this day Sept. 24, one year ago.  I had an idea of what it would be like since I have worked in retail for 12 years already.  But what I have done over the past year with Susan and Zoe, was not one of those ideas.

I will never forget my first day “on the job” was a buying trip in New York City.  Susan took me on a train ride from Union Station (at 5am, lets just say I’m not a morning person), arriving in NYC sometime around 8am.  We went to several showrooms where I had the chance to look at designer lines that were all showing a season ahead.  I felt like VIP getting to see what was coming out for spring when it had just turned fall.  I also felt like a tourist, since I had to photograph and Instagram my entire experience.  I thought I had finally arrived when we went to the Chan Luu showroom, which happens to be in the Penthouse of their building.  This was obviously my first time in any penthouse.  I was like a kid in a candy store with all of those beautiful bracelets, clothing, and scarves!

NOTE:  Susan won't let me go to Velvet by myself.  I would spend the entire season's worth of money there!

After having the showroom experience, it came to no surprise that I would get to meet actual designers.  While at the store, I have had the privilege to meet Meagan Kurtz of ADMK Jewelry, Katie Bartels of Katie Bartels Jewelry, Kathlin Argiro, and Michelle Edwards of Haughty Cosmetics.  I never dreamed of being able to actually meet designers in the flesh (you something you just imagine would happen one day).  To my surprise I was also able to help Kathlin Argiro with a custom wedding gown for one of our customers.  Watching her create this amazing piece of artwork with a sash was incredible.  I was also able to design and create a display for ADMK Jewelry for their Atlanta Market show.

Tara and Meagan of ADMK Jewelry

Like I said, I have worked in retail for 12 years, so getting new items in every week is normally a walk in the park for me.  Receiving merchandise at Zoe is all so different.  It’s always like opening presents on Christmas.  I have even nicknamed our UPS delivery driver Freddie Claus.  I get so excited opening boxes and knowing that I actually had a hand in picking what our customers would one day have in their closets.

Our Favorite UPS Driver EVER - Freddie

Through out this entire year, I have been attending school for a degree in Fashion Merchandising.  For this degree, my final grade hinged solely on my ability to cultivate a business plan and website for my own store.  I don’t think I could have asked for a better mentor.  With Susan already experiencing the good and bad of the industry, I was able to have first hand experiences as a small business owner, and in some cases learn more from her than in class.

With all these great experiences, trips, events, and designer meet and greets, I can’t wait to see where year two with Zoe takes me!  Who knows, maybe we will end up front row at New York Fashion week sitting next to Anna Wintour.  With Susan and Zoe Boutique, anything is possible!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Invite

Isn't it always exciting to get an invitation?  Especially to an event you'd love to be part of?  Zoe got to experience that feeling when we got an invitation to be part of the District Sample Sale!

So what is the District Sample Sale?  It is the season's most fashionable charitable event!  100% of the Sample Sale's profits are donated to their chosen charity (this year is N Street Village) and their legacy charities!  In fact, since 2006, over $290,000 have been donated to charitable causes!

Planned for Tuesday, September 24th at The Sphinx Club at 1315 K Street, NW in the District, VIP shoppers may enter at 5:30 pm while the venue opens to all shoppers at 6:30 pm.  The ticket price includes cocktails and hors d'√≥uevers. Participants also have the opportunity to participate in a silent auction and a raffle and VIP Ticket holders also get a goodie bag!

It was an honor for Zoe to be invited to this prestigious event!  Much like the famed Old Town Boutique Warehouse Sale, stores offer end of season items at amazing discounts and even offer some in-season items at reduced prices!  If you don't have your ticket yet, you should definitely make sure you get them before time runs out - click here to purchase tickets and learn more about the event!

I'll be sure to give you a full rundown on the event later this week.  Hope to see you there!

Monday, September 2, 2013


I have been known to be challenged to actually take a real day off.  But what if working during your day off is fun?  What if it involves shopping?  Is it really work?  I'll let you decide!

On Saturday, I decided to take a day to enjoy myself.  We won't talk about how late I slept or how many cups of coffee I drank when I got up.  A planned trip to the grocery store turned into a reconnaissance mission - visit some stores that I admired to learn a bit more about how they do things (and to see how I was treated as an average customer).

As a side note, I have to say I love the way some of Zoe's customers are dressed when they shop in my store.  I wish I could look like that when I am shopping.  But I don't.  Not ever.  Saturday's grocery store ensemble was a t-shirt, jeans, and sandals.  So that is how I went into these locally owned boutiques in another part of the DMV area.  And I was treated wonderfully.  As I would hope I would be!

There were several things I wanted to observe (in addition to my treatment as a customer).  I wanted to learn about their return policies.  I wanted to look at brands that I might be missing.  I wanted to observe store layouts.  I wanted to observe dressing rooms.  I wanted to observe sales.  And I wanted to observe traffic.  (And I wanted to shop!)

I had a really enjoyable afternoon (and I did eventually make it to the grocery store).  Some key take aways from the trip:

1) Return Policy - I changed Zoe's return policy today.  After almost 2-1/2 years, it was time.  I brought it more in line with similar boutiques.

2) Brands - I found two new brands that I want to pursue further for Zoe's customers.  Both of which I bought for myself and will wear for a while to see what I think.  (No worries - these boutiques are quite far enough away from the store so as to not be cannibalizing on the brands).

3) Store Layouts - I got some ideas on things I might change to make things more efficient.

4) Dressing Rooms - While I am still very partial to a door on the dressing room - I got two completely different perspectives on the use of mirrors, which I need to consider at Zoe.

5) Sales - The stores I visited were all having unique versions of Labor Day weekend sales.  Definitely some good ideas for the future.

6) Traffic -  You always want to get a feel for independent store traffic, even if it is on a holiday weekend.  I observed traffic while I was there and got the feedback I needed. I came away with a few purchases.  (Lines not available at Zoe, of course)!

See, working CAN be fun!  Not a bad Labor Day weekend at all.