Karan Gregory, Contain Boutique

Whangamata-based Contain Boutique is run by Karan Gregory, who prior to starting the business had no previous experience with buying or retail. Locally, Contain is the only boutique shop of its kind — a unique point of difference that Gregory utilises.

“Our target market is female, and we aim to cover a broad age range from teens to more mature clientele,” explained Gregory. “I have quite a pared-back style, but if a pattern of bright colour excited me when I view ranges, they make it to the shop floor.” On top of hot product and a range of options, Gregory cited a love of quality fabrics and how they are made. “My ultimate goal is for a customer of any age and any budget to be able to walk into Contain and find something for them.”

Gregory’s boutique approach is something that she believes adds to the shopping experience. “I don’t think you can beat personal service and products showcased in a small environment. We know our customers, we know what service they like, we know what shapes work for them.” Contain Boutique has been open seven years now, and Gregory said that when she is buying if she can’t imagine one of her customers in a piece, she won’t buy it.

Gregory looks at pieces for their quality, the achievability of the RRP, the versatility of the brand, and its use of shapes. She said that she is always on the look for great patterns and colours, and thinks that New Zealand is desperate to get out of the black ‘phase’. “Are the brands doing different things on my shop floor and offering my customer a good selection? I look for fashion that can stand the test of time. Fast fashion does not interest me.” Another interesting part of Gregory’s buying is her approach to fashion trends. Although she said she is not influenced easily by trends unless they are flattering and wearable, Gregory said that her husband helps weigh in on what is worth buying. “He’s a builder by trade, and he often gives a very unbiased opening that is not influenced by what’s in fashion.”
We asked Gregory what advice she would give to someone looking to be stocked. “Professionalism when approaching a store for the first time, be organised, have your look books ready to go so you can make a punch instantly. Back yourself and get great quality samples in front of the buyer.” Additionally, Gregory said it is essential to know the other brands that the store stocks, and how you can offer them something unique. “I love how some brands show me a good variety, but also enjoy the brands that have a singular essence.”

Over the years, Gregory said that sustainability has become increasingly important. On top of that, the state of the market has shifted since Contain Boutique’s inception. “When I first opened my doors, New Zealand had just been through a recession. Suppliers were taking no risks and were not carrying any spare stock throughout the season. It was really hard. What you indented for the season was all you had—all the risk was on the retailer. It was not uncommon to have to prepay for stock before you had a chance to sell it. Wholesalers have gained a bit more confidence now and are working with retailers and carrying some stock for us to top up on throughout the season.”

Looking ahead, Gregory believes that people are starting to pare things back and keep it classy. Although she has no plans to expand, she said that she wants to continue perfecting what’s on offer at Contain Boutique, and get to know her customers even better. “Making women look good is such a reward.”