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ARCHIVED  October 22, 1999

Registers ring at tony boutiques

High-end retailers target Northern Colorado’s well-heeled shoppers

When it comes to chic, the northern Front Range is shrugging off its faded-denim-and-baseball-cap image in favor of something a bit more urbane, say retailers who cater to upscale clientele.

That clientele is growing, according to industry observers. And so is the sector that serves them.

“The northern Front Range is healthy economically. We have a good solid mean income. We have a higher than average education level and because of the influx of population from all over the United States and the world, actually, taste levels are higher,´ said Lydia Dody, a Fort Collins publisher and former retailer.

Dody produces an array of publications within the retail and service industries including the quarterly Lydia’s Style magazine. Before entering publishing 15 years ago, Dody operated her own high-end retail boutique.

If the taste gap is closing, with growing demand for upscale goods here, high-end consumers and the retailers geared to serve them may still have some work to do to find each other in Northern Colorado. Shoppers in the mood for something high-end that they can purchase locally, however, should find good selection and competitive prices in Northern Colorado.

Careful targeting is the key to success in this sector, Dody said.

“My assessment of the upper-end sector of the retail market is that if a store has identified its target market as the higher-end consumer and then markets to that consumer, buys for that consumer and doesn’t compete head-on with the mass merchandisers, then the store does well. And that’s always been the case.”

Dody sees growth in the sector and opportunities for more. “I don’t think there’s a store that offers high-end designer clothing in Fort Collins or Greeley, but there’s a market. There’s a market,” she emphasized.

If tastes have evolved in Northern Colorado, upper-end retailers still face challenges in getting consumers to realize they can satisfy their tastes here rather than turning to the state’s better-known shopping meccas farther south.

In fact, the competition for upper-end retailers is even broader. Global, is how Dody described it. “It’s not just the store downtown compared with the store in the mall,” she said.

Fort Collins retailer Linda Vernon has had first-hand experience with the shop-elsewhere phenomenon. Vernon owns Designs, a women’s boutique, with her daughter Michelle Crutcher. Vernon describes Designs’ inventory as one-of-a-kind, arty and unique clothing, gifts and accessories.

Designs recently relocated to downtown Fort Collins’ burgeoning retail district after seven years on downtown Loveland’s main street. Vernon sees Designs’ new location as a potential ingredient for success.

“I think location has a lot to do with it. We found that in our studying of all this that the people who have had the most success have been on College Avenue.

Vernon said that information compiled by the Loveland Downtown Development Authority showed that only 1 percent of downtown Loveland’s target market shopped there and 14 percent of the target market shopped in downtown Fort Collins.

“So in moving, we had even a better chance of getting our target market,” she said.

Downtown Fort Collins appears to be emerging as the epicenter of upscale retail in Northern Colorado, as it becomes home to a growing number of boutiques and higher-end retail outlets for clothing, furniture and housewares.

Still, Dody said shoppers will find higher-end retail outlets in most Northern Colorado communities.

“We know which communities are gaining population, but that isn’t necessarily the communities where the stores are springing up,” she said. “Estes Park, for example, is a small community of permanent residents, but it has some delightful stores that draw customers from the entire Front Range year-around. Greeley has some very nice stores, as does Fort Collins.”

Retailer Vernon echoes Dody’s assessment that the taste and demand for higher-end goods are here. She adds that the products to satisfy that demand are here as well. Although consumers might not be fully aware of that.

“I think we tend to shop for it out of Northern Colorado. But it’s definitely available here,” she said.

A benefit to consumers who shop closer to home for their high-end purchases comes in the form of lower prices. Prices for upscale boutique-type clothing, for example, range widely in Northern Colorado, but Dody said that in general, shoppers should find them somewhat lower here than in Denver — and Boulder — area stores.

With comparatively lower overhead, retailers here can offer competitive prices.

“You get more value from your higher-end stores locally than you might in a fancier, more-metropolitan setting because of the increased cost of doing business in the metropolitan stores,” Dody said.

High-end retailers target Northern Colorado’s well-heeled shoppers

When it comes to chic, the northern Front Range is shrugging off its faded-denim-and-baseball-cap image in favor of something a bit more urbane, say retailers who cater to upscale clientele.

That clientele is growing, according to industry observers. And so is the sector that serves them.

“The northern Front Range is healthy economically. We have a good solid mean income. We have a higher than average education level and because of the influx of population from all over the United States and the world, actually, taste levels are higher,´ said Lydia Dody, a Fort Collins…

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