DYERSVILLE, Iowa — Last spring, Jennifer Recker took the leap and opened a boutique in downtown Dyersville.
J & R Fashions — named after Jennifer and her daughter, Rayne Hollenback — opened in May at 248 First Ave. E.
The 1,400-square-foot retail space represented a new challenge for Recker, who previously sold items online and operated mini-boutiques within other businesses.
About one month later, another clothing store — It’s So Me Boutique — opened at 201 First Ave. E, less than a block away from Recker’s store.
Recker believes the businesses have formed a potent one-two punch.
“I feel like it helps us out a lot, having another boutique down the street from us,” she said. “This way, people aren’t coming to town for just one place. They have different options.”
The recent opening of the two shops in Dyersville is a microcosm of what has occurred recently in the tri-state region.
Nearly a dozen locally owned boutiques opened in 2018, providing new options to shoppers and bucking trends in the evolving retail industry.
A 2018 study by investment banking company Morgan Stanley concluded that Amazon soon would pass Walmart as the top apparel retailer in the U.S.
That finding highlighted massive changes occurring in the industry.
An analysis by market research company eMarketer estimated that e-commerce sales of apparel and accessories in the U.S. reached $103.7 billion in 2018. That number is predicted to skyrocket to $170.5 billion in 2022.
Meanwhile, according to Morgan Stanley, department stores in 2006 accounted for 24 percent of the apparel market. By 2022, that figure is expected to drop to 8 percent.
Terri Helmle and her daughter, Ellie Brokus, opened E.T. Boutique at 3350 Center Grove Drive in Dubuque in October. The store sells women’s clothing and a variety of accessories. She noted that her son and mother also help out at the business.
Helmle said her business benefits from having an online presence in addition to its brick-and-mortar store. E.T. Boutique hosts Facebook Live events that promote interaction with customers.
“Some people prefer to do their shopping in person, and others want to do it online,” Helmle said. “It is extremely important for us to have both.”
She believes multiple factors play into the recent uptick in clothing boutiques, including female empowerment.
“The majority of these boutiques are women-owned, and I think that is notable,” she said. “In this century, we are realizing it’s not a man’s world anymore.”
Some trends in the retail industry might be opening the door for local boutiques.
Natalie Mormann opened Finery, a clothing boutique in Manchester, Iowa, in the fall.
She noted that the closure of some larger department stores might be providing opportunities to smaller shops. Younkers, which closed its Dubuque location in August, is just one example of a major player that has exited the market.
“I do think that has made a difference,” she said. “Once you take away some of those larger department stores, there is not as much to choose from.”
Tiffany Patterson, a lifelong Elizabeth, Ill., resident, opened Jane Marie Boutique in her hometown in June.
She said the shop has proved to be “something the city really needed” because customers can shop in their hometown.
Patterson believes small boutiques can offer something that larger competitors cannot.
“If you shop online or at a department store, you could end up with the same outfit as a lot of other people,” she said. “Every boutique has their own style and offers something different, so you can be sure you’ll never show up to a girls’ night wearing the same thing as a friend.”
Jeff Montgomery writes for the Telegraph Herald.