Retailer makes affordability key to business model

By Joyce L. Carroll
Special to Delaware Business Times

As a six-time Best of Delaware Today winner in the women’s casual clothing category, Nicole Palmer must be doing something right. Palmer owns Nicole J. Boutique in Middletown. The secret to her success: something first practiced by the five-and-dime of yesteryear and, more recently, dollar stores. She picked a price point and has stuck with it. Everything in her boutique is $50 or under.

Her rationale was simple; she chose to select her clothing lines based on her own needs. “I am a mom. Comfort is always a big thing. But I wanted trendy and cute, without spending a lot on myself. I’ve found some great quality vendors,” she said.

A graduate of the Art Institute in NYC, Palmer first began selling her own clothing designs at the age of 21. She launched the boutique in 2012 upon realizing that price point and immediate need were critical factors for her customer base. Manufacturing her creations proved to be too time consuming. “Our customer is a quick consumer. They need it today, or tonight,” she said, of her inventory.

Palmer is proud of her accomplishments. “I’ve never given up. I’ve had a lot of obstacles in my way — personally and within my business. [It’s about] pushing through those hard times,” she said, adding that she’s also proud of the strong customer relationships she’s forged.

Her determination, she hopes, is serving as a life lesson for her three young children. “When I bring my kids into the shop, they truly see how hard I work. I can’t tell my daughter to dream if I don’t follow mine first,” she said.

Palmer’s greatest challenge she said was balancing time between her working day and her home life.

What’s next for Palmer? She plans to broaden her online presence in 2019. Her internet sales are growing. Newly leased warehouse space should enable her to fulfill the demand. “I’m shipping all over the country,” she said, adding that in years to come she would love to have multiple boutique locations as well.

“I always tell everyone, ‘I’m just getting started,’” she said.

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