Profile: Petit Couture, Grande Endeavor

Pint-sized-fashion niche allows seller to explore international waters.

by staff writer
- Aug 31, 2010
Gay Wilson, Petit Couture Mall

Selling online has opened up a whole new world to Gay Wilson, a former stay-at-home mom who wanted to take on something new when her kids left the nest and went off to college.

"I was twiddling my thumbs thinking, 'What am I going to do?'" she recalls. "I wanted something that had to do with my fascination with the Internet, and I thought 'Hey, why not try to make some money, too?'"

This led the Geneva, AL, resident to eBay. Wilson began by selling items to change her home's décor, but after a few transactions she "kind of got hooked," recalls the owner of Petit Couture Mall. At that time, Wilson had no idea her part-time gig would lead her onto a world stage with buyers in Brazil, Russia, England, the Netherlands and Singapore—but that's the magic of the Internet, she says.

"The world is at your fingertips with the World Wide Web," Wilson notes. "You can reach out and touch someone."

She's been able to do just that, attracting international shoppers in search of designer fashions for kids at discounted rates. Her Ralph Lauren items do particularly well overseas, she says.

I chose these sizes because I felt like it would be a manageable segment for me to concentrate on

A focus on the little things

Wilson quickly realized that she would need a niche market if she wanted to succeed online. She admits she initially didn't know what she would sell, just that she wanted to source products people needed, and something that would let her put her bargain-hunting skills to the test.

"I can spend hours—much to the consternation of my husband—looking for that bargain deal," she laughs. "I think it may come from the early years of my marriage. Like a lot of young couples, we had to pinch our pennies. [Now] I hate paying full price for anything."

Wilson found plenty of discounted designer threads for kids and settled on selling sizes from newborn to 6X.

"I chose these sizes because I felt like it would be a manageable segment for me to concentrate on," she explains. "Also, having raised two children, I knew that this was an age that parents still have the most control over what their children are wearing. As all parents learn, our children develop their own likes and dislikes, which influence buying decisions."

Wilson carries brands like Ralph Lauren, Gap, La Petite Rothschild, Chaps, Nike, Adidas, Dockers, Rare Editions and other high-end names. The hottest commodities in her shops, however, are boys' items, sizes 5 and 6. "They go out the door pretty quick," she notes, adding that they can even be tough to find at the brick-and-mortar shops where she buys for her inventory.

Taking couture multichannel

While eBay helped Wilson reach $12,500 in sales in 2008, she wanted more control over her store—and wanted to escape some of the fees she faced on the auction site. She saw the Auctiva Commerce software as the solution and opened a second Petit Couture Mall store in April 2009.

Wilson admits the transition was tougher than she expected. She didn't realize how much traffic eBay naturally generated for her items, and had not considered the marketing she would need to do to generate buzz for her off-eBay shop.

Social networking has the ability to reach many, many people. Someone 'likes' you or 'retweets' you, and they are advertising for you

But Wilson's no quitter, she says. She scoured the Auctiva Community Forums and the Internet for tips, added a Facebook page, opened a Twitter account and posted a coupon code on her home page to encourage parents shopping for back-to-school clothes to shop in her store.

"Social networking has the ability to reach many, many people. Someone 'likes' you or 'retweets' you, and they are advertising for you," she says. "As far as the Internet is concerned, you have to be found and noticed. That is crucial, and these are relevant avenues to get your name out there and generate interest."

When Wilson began on Auctiva Commerce, she scaled down her eBay offerings and focused on her Auctiva Commerce shop. However, in doing so, she saw her sales dip, and soon came to see the benefits of selling on multiple channels.

"I'm working to build [eBay] back up, because it's a steady stream [of traffic and sales]," she says. However, she doesn't miss the opportunity to tell her eBay buyers about her standalone Auctiva Commerce Store.

eBay has been good to Wilson over the years, not only helping her reach sales goals but also helping her establish a reputation as a trusted seller. As an eBay seller since 2001, Wilson has earned more than 1,600 positive feedbacks—an achievement of which she's very proud, and lets her Auctiva Commerce shoppers know about right on her home page. She wants shoppers to know they're an important part of her business model.

"We understand that we do not have the name recognition that larger sites enjoy. Therefore, we pledge to you, our valued customer, to do everything we can to make sure your experience with our site is easy and enjoyable," she explains on the site. "We want you to be happy."

Auctiva's name kept popping up, and I looked into Auctiva, and I never had to look any further

Resources for the resourceful

Throughout her selling ventures, Wilson has learned a great deal. Her "fascination" with the Internet has had a lot to do with that, as has her attitude that being prepared will always lead to good things. That's why she says new sellers should do one thing before they decide to sell online: "Do your homework," she says. "You're just a drop in the bucket on the world wide web. You really have to find your niche, find your market."

Her research initially led her to Auctiva's eBay listing tools and its professionally designed listing templates. She liked the look of these and wondered "How are people getting these?" she recalls. "I would see Auctiva's logo at the bottom, and that name kept popping up, and I looked into Auctiva, and I never had to look any further."

But having attractive templates was just the beginning of the value Wilson saw in Auctiva tools. Auctiva Shipping Insurance allowed her to protect her items at lower costs, and the Customer Support team is always prompt with any questions she may have.

"I feel like there is someone out there," she says. "It's really reassuring."

The Community Forums, where she sought advice and comaraderie from fellow Auctiva users, have also proven vital for her business.

"I must admit that I had a very lofty ideal when I opened my Auctiva Commerce Store," she says. "You know, 'if I build it, they will come…' The reality is that it requires a level of commitment, patience, stamina and knowledge that I did not factor in. In addition, multitasking is a must! Thank goodness for the Auctiva Forums. I found the answers to so many of my issues there.

"My personal reward is that I am accomplishing something I never thought possible," she adds. "I have my own presence on the Web and believe I can be successful. I am learning every day, and it is exciting and fun for me."

Visit Petit Couture Mall.

About the Author

Auctiva staff writers constantly monitor trends and best practices of those selling on eBay and elsewhere online. They attend relevant training seminars and trade shows and regularly discuss the market with PowerSellers and other market experts.

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