By Claire Stuart
It’s possible to find fashionable clothes that are affordable, but the shopping experience in big box stores can be frustrating. A store can simply be too big. It becomes an exhausting chore to push your way through crammed spaces full of crowds of shoppers. You have to rummage through too many bulging racks trying to find what you’re looking for, with no store personnel handy to help you find it or answer your questions.
In October, 81 Outfitters opened their doors in Winchester, providing affordable, stylish clothes for women, men and children. It is not part of a chain but rather a family-owned business operated by Jeff Moen, Chris Bryce, and their families.
The store is bright and airy and the displays are attractive and placed for comfortable, leisurely shopping. Someone will always be right there with a smile and a greeting when you walk in the door.
“Each one of us can say hello!” says Bryce.
“You get the same feeling as when you shop in a higher-end store,” Moen adds, “and you don’t have to work to find our stuff.”
After operating for three years on-line, an excellent location in Apple Valley Square became available where 81 Outfitters could open their brick-and-mortar store. The shopping center includes a large discount grocery store and gets a lot of traffic.
Asked how they hope to compete with established local big-box discount stores, they explained that rather than trying to compete, they are filling a niche. Their aim is to be the affordable clothing store that provides a relaxed, personal shopping experience.
Moen explains that they buy their merchandise from liquidation centers. Much of it is what you see in high-end stores but just out-of-season, as those stores get ready for the next season. This can remedy a problem that has always frustrated shoppers—you realize your kids need new winter coats but stores are sold out and already showing spring clothes.
“We want to be an in-season store,” says Moen.
He reports that they put out 200 to 250 new items every day, five days a week. As a new store, they continue to ask their customers what they want to see. “We look at what we sold and buy more of that. We’ve sold a lot of coats, and we’re trying to get a lot more coats. We just tried selling shoes, and people are asking for more shoes. We take note of the things customers ask about. ”
Moen gestured to a pile of earrings that he’d been sorting for a new display. “We’re trying earrings,” he said, “and we’ll see how they go. We’ll be carrying women’s hats, and we’re figuring out how to display them. We build a lot of our
A lot of thought went into the décor, and the store has a modern industrial feel, casual yet welcoming. “The ceiling is black,” Moen pointed out, “and it’s white in most other stores.” He explained that the black paint absorbs sound to prevent echoes from the high ceiling. He noted that most of the merchandise is displayed on racks designed by his son Tyler, using wooden pallets as the end supports. “All of our stuff comes in on pallets, so we are building with them. We want to be as green as possible. We aren’t corporate, so we can have fun.”
You will find affordable prices at 81 Outfitters on top name clothing like Polo, Ralph Lauren, Levi, Tommy Hilfigerer and more, at prices 60-90% below the major big box stores. Check in often to see what new merchandise has just come in.
“And have a cup of free coffee,” added Bryce. “We have a coffee station. Just ask!”