Talking Shop

Insight on running a dancewear store in your studio

Students browse at A Leap Above Dance

Incorporating retail into your studio environment can add another layer of service and convenience for your clientele, grow enrollment and boost your bottom line as well as business skills. But selling dancewear on-site often comes with an added set of responsibilities and challenges. To provide you with experienced insight on running a dance boutique, we asked four studio owners with successful shops to share their ordering, price setting and managing methods.

 

 

Lynne Taylor-Kilgore

Synergy Dance Academy and Performing Arts Studio

(250 students)

Plymouth, MI

When Lynne Taylor-Kilgore and her mom opened The Dancers’ Niche at Synergy Dance last year, they made an initial inventory investment of $1,500, with an additional $600 for equipment and supplies like display racks, signage and merchandise bags. The investment is slowly paying off, with $200–300 of revenue per month. “Feedback from parents has been very positive,” Taylor-Kilgore says. “When we tell classes what type of tights and accessories they need, we can now say, ‘We have that for you right in the back.’”

The 400-square-foot boutique carries all dancewear essentials except for pointe shoes, for which Taylor-Kilgore provides referrals to another local shop. She and her mother (the store’s manager) meet once a week to consult on inventory. “Our initial order was a shot in the dark, but we keep track of what’s selling and use those figures to determine how much and what new stock to buy,” she explains. Her biggest piece of advice: “Make sure you pay attention to what the kids are wearing—not just what you think is cute—when ordering.”

Maria Bai

Central Park Dance

(1,200 students)

Scarsdale, NY

Miss Talia’s Boutique launched 24 years ago, when Central Park Dance opened. The 2,300-square-foot boutique is divided into three separate areas (children’s, adults and sale items), strategically placed outside each of the dance studios. Open seven days a week, the store carries everything from gift items to accessories to dancewear and shoes, and it brings in more than $16,000 in revenue every month. Owner Maria Bai says that 70 percent of the store’s
clientele are students; 30 percent of business comes from the public and outside referrals.

Bai and her husband, Mario LaStrada, rely on store manager Alice Masters to handle all retail matters, but Bai often works in the store fitting shoes. To keep inventory moving, they regularly run promotions, like offering a free leotard, shoes and tights to students who sign up for classes in June, or giving $50 store certificates to those who register early. “It really jumpstarts our class sessions and helps bring business to the retail end. Many people used the gift certificates as Hanukkah and Christmas gifts, and the recipients ended up spending more,” says Bai.

Lisa Girdy

Free to Dance Foundation/Encore! Dance Project

(100 students)

Ashburn, VA

Over its 26 years of existence, Encore! has seen a lot of transformation (most recently, a conversion to nonprofit status), but the one constant has been Encore! Boutique. The store currently provides anywhere from 5 to 15 percent of total revenue, and it is slowly rebounding to its pre-recession rate of 20 percent. To keep overall costs down, co-owners Lisa Girdy and Stephanie Johnson sell on demand, placing orders for students and using shoe-sizing kits to determine accurate fit. Samples and catalogs are displayed throughout the store, alongside regular merchandise like tights, skirts and legwarmers. “We’ve learned that having everything available all the time isn’t beneficial; it ends up going on sale and we have to sell it at cost,” says Girdy. She advises collecting payment up front and not allowing customers to put purchases on their studio accounts, unless they have a credit card on file. Why do they love running an in-house boutique? “It provides an extra service and convenience for our customers, and every time someone comes through the doors, it’s an opportunity to grow our enrollment,” says Girdy.

Natalie Nemeckay

A Leap Above Dance

(260 students)

Oregon, WI

With the nearest dance retail store 20 minutes away, shopping at A Leap Above Dance’s on-site shop makes life easier for those who frequent the studio. The shop started with a simple counter display. Now, after eight years, it is a 10' x 24' room adjacent to the studio. Owner Natalie Nemeckay estimates the shop brings in about 10 percent of total revenue.

The store sells tights, leotards, shoes and apparel, including branded logo wear that doubles as advertisement. It also sells show DVDs and recital tickets. The greatest challenge for her is working double-duty. The store is open until 7 pm every day, and although she has three employees and an office manager, Nemeckay still spends five hours a week ordering and additional time managing other needs. “It’s like running another business,” she says. “But when I look at the pros, they outweigh the extra work.” DT

A former hip-hop, dance fitness and cheerleading instructor, Jen Jones is a Los Angeles–based freelance writer.

Photo courtesy of A Leap Above Dance

Music
Getty Images

Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

Keep reading... Show less
Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.