Georgann Yara Special for the Arizona Business Gazette
(CNT) City News And Talk
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Luxury shoppers had flocked to her Scottsdale consignment boutique for years, allured by authentic Chanel handbags, Cartier watches and Hermes scarves with price tags indicating they were previously loved.
But when the pandemic forced its closure, along with her other locations, business as usual came to an abrupt halt for To Be Continued owner Chrissy Sayare.
With clientele unable to physically walk in and touch, try on and immediately take home their new find, Sayare had to come up with a new facet to her business model that had mostly relied on physical interaction.
“We were so absorbed in brick-and-mortar stores that we ignored the social media aspect,” she said.
When a customer advised her of the beneficial results of Instagram Stories and the opportunity she was missing by posting just a single static photo a day, Sayare found herself quickly jumping into new territory.
“It was out of complete and utter fear and terror. How do we continue to do business when our hands are tied?” said Sayare, who opened her flagship location at The Shops at Hilton Village in 2013, with her husband and business partner Mitch. Locations in Dallas and Los Angeles followed.
After virtual strategy meetings with her team, they came up with one that required them to get in front of the camera and post more often.
The result was creation of momentum that generated a broader worldwide audience that was left wanting — and buying — more after each story.
From awkward first try to savvy sales pitches
Sayare confessed the staff all felt awkward while shooting their first story in April. It felt weird to pitch potential buyers in a much different way to a reactionless audience.
However, what a difference less than 24 hours made when someone asked about the item.
“We were like, wait, someone said they wanted to buy it? It gave us encouragement to do it the next day,” Sayare said.
Today, staff from all To Be Continued shops upload multiple stories throughout the day, every hour or two. Recently, Dallas employees touted a $895 pink Chanel drawstring tote, and later a $575 Prada reversible leather tote, flipping it inside out to reveal its black and red personas. In Scottsdale, team members playfully showed off the attributes of a $1,795 red Gucci Dionysus bag and a Givenchy blazer with wool accents that was going for $1,295.
Despite the initial awkwardness, everyone seems to have found their comfort level with transferring their in-person customer relations skills to a virtual format.
This includes Sayare, who joins in the fun by flaunting the Scottsdale boutique’s latest pieces. She even provides some helpful information when applicable. While she managed to close a $595 Dior vintage clutch, she disclosed to potential buyers that, due to the snap on the purse, they may encounter some difficulties getting it to securely shut.
And when she presented a black Lady Dior handbag, Sayare provided its historical connection to Princess Diana, who made the piece an icon. She showed the internal zippered closure that allowed her personal belongings to be shielded from the paparazzi.
Sayare said about 65% of sales are generated from the Instagram stories. This has helped keep business steady. Pre-pandemic, the boutique had experienced 57% growth year over year. In addition to viewers who check in on the fly, To Be Continued has more than 25,000 followers earned organically through word of mouth.
“Our Instagram blew up during COVID. I don’t know how it happened but I’m happy it happened,” she said. “We have people who watch us in bed at night, like Netflix. It’s become a very important platform for us.”
Sayare said having brick-and-mortar locations, which have since opened, add credibility to a business that deals in high-dollar items that must be shipped to consumers who trust that the rare Chanel runway necklace or Louis Vuitton satchel they spent $8,000 on is the real deal.
Over the past few months, Sayare has shipped Louis Vuitton and Prada bags to Turks and Caicos, Hermes handbags to Hong Kong and a vintage Karl Lagerfeld handbag to the head handbag designer for Chanel in Paris.
“We sell $24,000 bags to people who have never met us, but are (buying) because they see us on Instagram,” Sayare said. “The fact we are able to do this so successfully without the customer even seeing it is something I’m very proud of as a (business) owner … . This is such a powerful tool but like anything, you have to have the substance behind what you’re pitching.”
The shop’s influence has extended beyond its virtual and physical boundaries. Its presence has boosted overall traffic to the center and neighboring businesses, said Mike Kallner, executive vice president of leasing for RED Development a mixed-use developer responsible for The Shops at Hilton Village.
“We were apprehensive for such a specialty boutique center to do a secondhand store. But the way they delivered the quality of merchandise, the unique format of Chrissy’s business and how she displays it far beyond exceeded our expectation. It’s like walking into a Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom,” he said.
“We’ve maintained 100% occupancy in the center. I can partially attribute them being a traffic driver and long term tenant.”
How To Be Continued got its start
Before moving to Arizona in 2011, Sayare had an 18-year career as an executive recruiter with her own business in the high tech industry.
While going from that field to fashion may seem like a big leap, Sayare drew a parallel between the two. In both cases, one side is looking for something the other needs, whether it’s someone needing a job and a company with a position that needs to be filled, or someone looking to sell their valuable items and others searching to buy them.
When she and her husband Mitch, now retired from the bio tech industry, moved to the Valley, she eyed starting a new career in a brewing luxury consignment world. It was a realm in which she was comfortable.
“I am a lifelong fashion lover and pursuer of discount fashion. Most of my life, I lived on a budget. I got good at the practice of finding the bargains,” she said.
With Mitch’s encouragement, Sayare took the plunge and To Be Continued was born.
It’s put the Sayares in a luxury goods market that experienced $247 billion in sales worldwide, according to a 2019 Deloitte report. And with consumers seeking bargains from home, online secondhand sales are set to grow 69% through 2021.
The Sayares opened with a heightened understanding that customers on either side of the equation required some level of trust and service from their consignment shop. They took this seriously and treated each person as if they were a friend and each piece as if it was their own. Their shops were built out to reflect luxury and sumptuousness of a high-end department store like Barneys.
Social media works both ways. When there’s an impending high-dollar virtual sale, Sayare checks out the person placing the order to make sure he or she is real or appears to have a job or income that would make the purchase realistic to prevent any foul play. Often, her research leads her to movers and shakers that can be seen in the front row at major fashion shows around the globe.
“We are a place that people didn’t previously think of, or they’ve had hesitation about pre-owned (items). We are now selling to some of the most important luxury clients in the world,” said Sayare, explaining that this provides additional motivation. “We are going to get up every day and do it in a way that has spirit, that has passion. Every day is like a game changer.”
What: To Be Continued
Where: 6137 N. Scottsdale Road #106, Scottsdale
Factoid: In 2018, the U.S. luxury resale market totaled $6 billion, according to global management consulting firm Bain & Co.
Details: 480-699-2700, tbcconsignment.com