LOWER PROVIDENCE >> First comes the encore, then comes the standing ovation.
At least that’s the way it seems to be working at Style Encore in Audubon Square Shopping Center, where frugal fashionistas have been applauding the trendy casual and business clothing, shoes, handbags and accessories, as well as the penny-pinching prices, since the store debuted recently.
“We had a line that was down to Starbucks the day we opened, waiting for us to open the doors,” noted owner Julie Holmwood, an entrepreneur who described herself simply as a woman “who likes to dress nice.”
“I just think the business model of Style Encore is an amazing concept,” added the Berwyn resident. “That was the important thing, more than the fashion side of it. But the fashion side was important as well.”
The “encore” part of Style Encore’s appeal refers to the gently pre-owned state of the merchandise, where, in used car terminology, a lightly worn Ann Taylor original would be equivalent to the proverbially coddled Chrysler that spent much of its life sheltered from the harsh elements, housed in a garage, only to be driven to weekly church services by its owner.
At Holmwood’s meticulously merchandised store, which is the fourth Style Encore to launch in Pennsylvania, a woman can easily recycle her gently used garments and accessories — no more than a year or two out of vogue preferred, unless it’s a classic Talbots item, for example — for cash, which she may then spend on her next sartorial statement if she chooses to. At a fraction of the retail price, of course.
And no one will ever suspect she’s a Second-hand Rose at heart.
“It’s immediate gratification; you get cash on the spot for the clothing and accessories you’re selling to us, or you can trade for clothes,” Holmwood explained. “You can come in and sell your clothes, and also buy clothes. We pay 30 to 40 percent of what we will sell it for.”
Top selling brands like Talbots, Ann Taylor Loft, JCrew, Banana Republic and White House Black Market are priced 90 percent below retail — no less an authority than the store’s computer makes the pricing decisions — as are the hottest designer handbags from the likes of Coach, Kate Spade, Louis Vuitton and Michael Kors.
“Handbags are a big part of what we buy and sell,” Holmwood noted. “When it comes to handbags, if you bring in a beautiful Kate Spade bag that we will be selling for $150, we’ll pay you half of that, $75,” Holmwood allowed. “Right now we have a beautiful Louis Vuitton bag that is priced at $1600, so some nice lady made $800 the day she came in — on a handbag that she carried around for a couple of years that was probably a gift.”
Style Encore is one of Minnesota-based Winmark Corporation’s five franchise-based retail companies that focus on used goods that include Music Go Round (musical instruments), Once Upon a Child (children’s clothes and toys), Plato’s Closet (adolescent and young adult clothes) and Play It Again Sports (sports equipment).
“Winmark has been in business for over 30 years in the retail industry,” Holmwood said. “Encore launched nearly four years ago because they saw a need for women to have the same options as their Plato’s Closet brand, which is for teens and college age girls and boys. The resale trend has been growing. (The industry) has gone from consignment to resale now, and our items are the same things you can find at the mall or the outlets, because they’re still in style.”
If not for the availability of prime real estate in Audubon that was once home to a popular bagel shop, customers may well be yelling “encore, encore” in an entirely different location.
“My original territory was in Paoli but I felt that Audubon would be a better location and that I would get good inventory here and still find the value shopper,” Holmwood said. “The fact that this was a busy strip center made it very attractive.”
Not everything that deserves an encore on the store’s racks is necessarily high end, Holmwood pointed out.
“I buy Target, Old Navy, Primark and Walmart too. As long as it’s a current style and is in good condition, we’re not trying to be high end designer at all. We’re across the board and we’re a value store,” she added. “We’re for people that are on a budget, and want a good deal … along with a mall-like shopping experience.”
Style Encore is located at 2642 Egypt Road in Audubon.