Founded in 2008 by Melissa Akkaway, Beckley Boutique in Los Angeles is an over 2,000-sq.-foot (186-sq.-meter) shop that is a go-to destination for contemporary womenswear and accessories. Akkaway also recently launched her own in-house line. Here, she discusses her popular store’s concept, her hands-on approach to customer service and the secrets of being a successful independent retailer. Interview by Christopher Blomquist

What is the background and history of Beckley Boutique?
The original “Beckley’s” was located on Main Street in Las Vegas, Nevada in the early 1900s. It was my great-grandfather’s menswear store selling everything from suits, hats to men's shoes. The only women’s item carried in the store was hosiery. I wanted to resurrect my family's store with an updated modern edge focusing on the service aspect and creating an environment for existing and emerging brands to be showcased under one roof. Beckley is my grandmother’s maiden name so it's very meaningful to me.

Beckley Boutique retail space
Beckley Boutique retail space

Who is the “typical” customer who shops there?
Because we are located in the heart of Los Angeles, we work with a number of celebrity stylists and stylists who work for TV shows as well. Our other main customer base is a large group of mother/daughter shoppers who come looking for their daughters but end up loving the store as well so both purchase items. Our clients range from savvy travelers coming from London, New York and Australia, across ages of thirtysomethings to sixtysomethings. I truly feel we have something for everyone.

What are your bestselling brands and specific items at the moment?
Eddie Borgo jewelry is currently one of our bestselling brands. This season he has done a lot with color and our clients are really gravitating towards his bracelets and rings to layer with their other jewelry. Also, our clients are loving items from Veronica Beard's and Victoria Beckham's collections. Both offer tailored and structured jackets and pencil skirts which are perfect transition pieces into fall. Lastly, the Stuart Weitzman highland boot is another hot seller of the moment. Every girl needs an over-the-knee boot in her shoe wardrobe.

How does your store stand out from others in the area?
We provide unparalleled service to our clients. We really get to know our clients and will special order items for them when needed as well as contact them when new items come in. Plus, we will drive those items to their houses. I also believe the space itself is very clean and modern which allows the clothes and accessories to really be the main focus.

Atmosphere at Beckley Boutique
Atmosphere at Beckley Boutique
What is the fashion scene like in Los Angeles?
Los Angeles is a bit more relaxed than some of the other major cities. I feel like people in LA love to mix high and low to create that California cool look.

How has being a retailer helped you in launching your own line, BECKLEYBYMELISSA?
Being a retailer has provided me with firsthand knowledge on what my clients are asking for and what they are looking for when they shop. I am also able to create items for my collection that I feel are missing in the market or items that are available in the market but I am able to offer them at a lower price.

What is your favorite part about running the store?
I love to go to market season after season and handpick the items that we will sell in my store. This is the fun part about the business and I love it. I also love finding new designers that are about to hit it big and bringing them into my store first.

What is the biggest challenge of being an independent retailer today?
The biggest challenge is the digital world. In today’s world you don’t have to leave your house to shop. You can shop in your car, on vacation or in the bathtub. This has had an impact on brick-and-mortar stores as it's hard to pull people away from their busy lives to get them to come in and shop.

How do you stay in touch with your customers?
We are in touch with our customers via text, email and at certain times of the year we send out small gifts for the holidays. We sent out cards and candy for Halloween to our top clients to remind them that we are here and thinking about them. We also generate e-mail blasts each week showcasing a trend or items we love so our clients can get a taste of what is in store and online.

Sitting area inside the boutique
Sitting area inside the boutique

What special customer services do the stores offer?
We will drive or messenger items to our clients' homes. Also for out of state clients, we send out consignment boxes each season. That way if you can’t come to us we will come to you. Before the holidays this year we will be launching our “store to door” program. If you order items from our website in the morning, they will be at your doorstep by the end of day. We feel that this will really help people out during the holiday crunch.

Describe the stores’ décor. How do you think that influences sales?
The décor is warm and modern; highlighting the clothes in a clean organized way. This provides the clients with a sense of ease as they move through the space. Everything is accessible and nothing is crammed together.

What do you think will be the key fashion items for spring/summer?
Great lightweight jackets like the BECKLEYBYMELISSA waxed cotton Bomber Jacket. Also, laser cut, perforated materials and interesting technical fabrications that create minimalist prints through the interplay of these cutouts.

Store front of Beckley Boutique
Store front of Beckley Boutique

How do you discover new brands?
Travel, particularly my trips to Europe, are a constant source of inspiration. Beyond that I try to stay on the pulse of fashion. I am always looking for what the next big thing is and trying to get it before other retailers grab it! I work with many different showrooms and salespeople so I am looking to them to also introduce me to new brands. Keeping my eyes open and always going with my gut when I see something I think is fabulous.

What is a “golden rule” of retailing that every store owner needs to follow?
For me, it's keeping your buying within your budget because once you’re over budget there is no turning back. It's really hard to fix an over bought store.

Beckley Boutique
8128 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
USA
+1 310 652 3500
www.beckleyboutique.com