It’s too expensive for most small boutiques to launch a website, limiting online shoppers to major web retailers and flash sale sites. But now, even if you live in a town with nothing but a Wal-Mart , a start-up called Shoptiques makes it easy to find unique items from boutiques from Brooklyn, to Beverly Hills, even Paris.
Shoptiques.com, which launched in March, aggregates products from a 140 boutiques, adding more every week, with plans to expand to Paris this fall. Shoppers can shop the 13,000 items available on the site now, by searching by product, or by browsing a neighborhood, or an individual boutique. The website selects shops if they have truly unique items—rejecting 80 percent of applicants—and handles every part of the e-tail process.
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The start-up photographs the boutiques and each individual item—sometimes bringing the pieces into a local photo studio. It manages the boutiques pages on the website, and handles payments and shipping. The company doesn’t charge an upfront fee, but instead takes a percentage cut of each purchase, which CEO Olga Vidisheva says is less than what it would cost a store to manage its own online sales.
Vidisheva, who co-founded the business, says she’s using technology to take a unique boutique experience that was limited to a certain neighborhood, to people across the country. She says she’s “uniting” small businesses—taking advantage of economies of scale and giving them a platform to compete with big stores. With that scale, she’s enabling them to put inventory online that traditional retailers generally don’t carry because of the challenge of dealing in limited quantities.
It’s too soon to say whether Shoptiques will work. The company won’t reveal its revenue or user numbers, and those limited inventory could prove to be a problem, instead of an advantage. But the company, which came out of incubator Y Combinator, has some big name backers, including Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, Benchmark Capital, and even Hollywood talent agency William Morris Endeavor.
—By CNBC's Julia Boorstin