One Local Dance Store—Selling Dancewear Three Ways

Omnichannel selling is not just for the big guys. Here’s how one local dance retailer interweaves three sales channels—in-store, pop-ups and e-commerce—to move her fledgling business forward.

Ballet skirts for sale at On Your Toes Performance Wear’s brick-and-mortar store in Durant, OK. Courtesy of On Your Toes Performance Wear.

Like most independent dance retailers, Adrienne Hansen, owner of the one-year-old On Your Toes Performance Wear in Durant, OK, recognizes the futility of trying to compete against Target, Walmart or Amazon on price or even inventory. Instead, she focuses on making herself indispensable to local dancers and their studios by offering stellar service and convenience. At the heart of this strategy is the idea of offering her customers a seamless “omnichannel” shopping experience that meets them where they are: Hansen sells her dancewear online, at dance-school pop-ups and in her 1,400-square-foot boutique just one street away from the burgeoning small town’s main street.  

Unifying the Customer’s Buying Experience

The key to the successful launch of her nascent business is how well Hansen has integrated these three sales channels and used each one to enhance the other, rather than treat each option as a separate line of business. She employs the pop-up shops, for instance, to drive traffic to the store—that’s where dance parents go to pick up orders placed at the pop-up event. Not surprisingly, that in turn has led to more sales in-store. “At least 70 percent of customers [at one pop-up] bought more stuff,” Hansen says. “It worked out fantastic for us, and it got us a lot of positive social-media reviews.”

Hansen estimates that the pop-ups account for about half her sales during recital and back-to-school periods, dropping to 20 percent the rest of the year. Her online sales, which she describes as “just catching on,” contribute only 5 percent of revenue, but she is determined to make her online inventory work better. Her strategy for the online orders is the same as for her pop-ups: She wants customers to have the convenience of ordering online but to come into the store to get their orders; she’s not seeking to sell nationwide, but will do flat-rate shipping if requested. “It allows me to reach a little farther,” she says. “I’ve seen an increase in people coming into the store from farther away.”

When it comes to returns, Hansen prefers to handle them in person at the store. It’s not that she’s trying to make it difficult for buyers, she says, but, rather, she sees it as an opportunity. By meeting the buyer in person, “we can interact directly and be able to physically assess the return,” she says. “Customer service is top priority at my store, so I want to understand as much as I can about how I can better satisfy each customer.”

Keeping In-store, E-commerce and Pop-up Sales in Sync

Hansen is essentially a one-woman show, but she does have a part-time sales associate who minds the store while Hansen is running a pop-up at one of the eight area studios. It’s worth it; she reports that her biggest pop-up day brought in $3,000 and that she’s seen year-to-year growth in event sales of as much as 300 percent.

Hansen’s point-of-sale system, from Square, unites her various sales channels. Courtesy of On Your Toes Performance Wear

Hansen used Square to create the e-commerce part of her website, listing all her stock herself. She also adopted Square as her point-of-sale system and for her mobile sales (she can toggle between different sales tax rates for Oklahoma and Texas). Because it’s all one system, the inventory updates itself across all sales channels. “Without that,” says Hansen, “we risk selling inventory we don’t have.”

After-hours Studio Nights

Hansen added Square’s automated marketing and loyalty modules as well. “That takes a lot of pressure off me. It can kind of function on its own,” she says. For example, Square sends out a friendly reminder e-mail with a discount offer to customers who haven’t purchased in a while.

Since opening her shop, Hansen has worked hard to cultivate relationships with the dance studio owners in the surrounding area. “I tried to start off on a positive foot by asking them what they wanted me to carry,” she says. She holds exclusive “Studio Nights” after hours at the store for studio owners and teachers, offering them special discounts. She has an area of the boutique set aside for schools to display schedules, flyers and announcements of special events, and she links to all of the local schools on her website. “They send so many people to me,” says Hansen, “I want to appreciate them as much as possible.”

Next Steps

Looking to the future, Hansen’s goals include better curating her online offerings and upping her game on marketing. She uses Ripl, a social-media marketing app, to manage and track her posts, so she already has a good idea of what’s working, but she says she would like to experiment more with paid Facebook and Instagram ads to publicize her online order/in-store pick-up option. “We need to fine-tune what we sell online; we don’t need our entire inventory there,” she says. “The next step after that is to promote it better.”

In the meantime, as the only dancewear store in Durant and the surrounding area, Hansen says she feels very fortunate to have developed a loyal and responsive customer base. “I saw a perfect opportunity to meet customer needs—there wasn’t anything available,” she says. “When we opened, people came into the store and said ‘Thank you’!”

Anne M. Russell is a Los Angeles–based writer who covers small business, fitness and technology.