Vintage clothing store moves to online only

STILL AROUND: Mandy Neugebauer’s vintage clothing store Black Betty Bam-Bul-Lam is leaving behind its physical shop and going online.
STILL AROUND: Mandy Neugebauer’s vintage clothing store Black Betty Bam-Bul-Lam is leaving behind its physical shop and going online.

Closing down really is the beginning for Mandy Neugebauer.

Tomorrow she will shut the doors to her vintage clothing store and make the move to selling solely on the internet.

"People want more for rent, shops are earning less and people are shopping online more - it is pushing people online," Mrs Neugebauer says.

Black Betty Bam-Bul-Lam has been in the Pt Chevalier arcade for two years but its owner is excited rather than disheartened about the change.

"There are people in the shop who say ‘I will be devastated when you go', but I'm not disappearing, you just have to follow me," she says.

The larger market provided by the almost one million people who visit Trade Me daily and the option of being able to sell internationally through her website, are a big attraction for Mrs Neugebauer.

She has already been selling on auction sites for seven years.

"If you put a lot of time into selling online you can do really well," she says.

Black Betty's main customers are aged 30 and above.

Mrs Neugebauer admits her elderly regulars could become hard to reach once the shop goes. Her younger customers have also taken some convincing.

"I think, more so in New Zealand than places like Australia, online confidence is a lot weaker and and nobody is really doing anything about it," she says.

"We're doing so much online and so much is set in place to make it secure, people need to relax and do some nice things online.

"There are people who opt out of Facebook and the internet for different reasons but to a certain point you are going to get left behind and miss out on things you like because people who have a shop are struggling to pay the rent just so you can walk in every now and then and maybe buy a dress," she says.

Selling successfully in digital auctions takes skill.

Mrs Neugebauer says transparency and giving honest and detailed descriptions of items are key to building a good reputation.

"I want people to not feel like they are dealing with a computer, but on the other end of that auction is the same person from the shop," she says.

New Zealand Retail Association northern regional manager Russell Sinclair says it is relatively unusual for a bricks and mortar shop to move to being a pure play, solely internet based, business.

"If you listen to discussion in the media around this it is easy to get the impression that everyone is moving from bricks and mortar to pure play, when really it's not quite that dramatic."

He says most pure play stores are first-time businesses that have never had a physical shop front.

Online sales make up 6 per cent of retail sales in New Zealand and many people turn to websites to research products before they buy.

This makes an online presence of some kind essential for any business, Mr Sinclair says.

He says travel, books and cosmetics are popular items to buy online, but people can be less willing to buy fashion without seeing first.

"People still want the store experience where they can touch and feel, and get personal service," he says.

Auckland City Harbour News