Patty Fluxman has a lot of reasons to celebrate.
Her Miami-based luxury retail store Capretto recently underwent a $250,000 renovation and sharpened its focus on luxury brands. Now she’s preparing to mark the store’s 30th anniversary in 2013. But Fluxman’s biggest accomplishment may be simply surviving the recent downturn in the economy.
In 2006, Fluxman retired from her job as director of corporate human resources for Steiner Leisure Ltd., which was founded by her husband, Leonard Fluxman. However, the leisurely life didn’t suit her. “Three months into it, I said, ‘Wait a minute. I’m too young not to work,’” she explained. “I don’t lunch. I don’t play tennis. So I had to ask myself, what do I truly love? I love fashion. I love shoes. I love handbags and accessories.”
Despite having no experience in retail, Fluxman decided to approach the owner of one of her favorite shoe stores, Capretto, about buying the company. “It was run by a woman who went into business with her sister and she was very good at what she did, but it needed to be brought to the next level and she just didn’t have the energy to do it nor the desire,” Fluxman said. “I could bring the business acumen that she didn’t have and look at [the business] from a completely different point of view.”
The deal closed in 2008, shortly before the financial collapse. Just as the luxury market as a whole felt the sting, so did Capretto.
“It was a struggle for me [initially], but I really didn’t know what to compare it to,” Fluxman said. “I bought it in the worst economic climate. Looking back, I’m almost glad I had nothing to compare it to or else I might have been thinking, ‘Oh, woe is me.’”
Instead, Fluxman went to work evaluating the store’s vendors. “The luxury labels weren’t my concern, because we are one of the few independents left in the country that carry such brands as Prada, Miu Miu, Jimmy Choo and Gucci,” she said. “My concern was with the lines that weren’t moving in the store. People don’t walk in my store looking for Steve Madden.”
Fluxman added new names to help give the store a distinct personality. “I built upon our luxury labels and brought in a lot of the LVMH lines, such as Céline, Givenchy and Fendi. That’s really [what] we needed to differentiate ourselves.”
Top sellers in the store now include Giuseppe Zanotti, Jimmy Choo, Prada, Miu Miu and Isabel Marant. Price points range from $499 to $1,900.
The buying strategy at the store also was honed to target specific customers. “[Now] I know exactly who I’m buying for when I walk in a showroom,” Fluxman said. “It’s very easy for us to do the buying now because we know who our clients are and exactly what they want.”
With smart buying and an aggressive social media strategy, the store steadily rebounded, prompting Fluxman to consider remaking the space.
“I brought in so many upscale lines that we really needed to present them in a way that measured up,” she said. “It was a beautiful store before, but it was old. It needed some life and my own personal touch.”
The renovation, completed in August, took nearly nine weeks. The end result is a modern yet warm environment with dark wood set against white walls, featuring clean lines and custom-made seating. The store is outfitted with hanging lamps that provide ample lighting, as well as a unique design aspect that helps to define the store. “It’s got a very Parisian vibe,” Fluxman said. “The architectural detailing in many ways represents the design of the high-end products being sold. It’s a match that works.”
While Fluxman said it’s too soon to measure how the newly designed store impacts sales, month-over-month results are up in the double digits.
The store’s core customer base also has undergone a bit of a makeover. Prior to 2008, the store mainly catered to affluent stay-at-home mothers. But Fluxman said that demographic has largely disappeared. “That client who would come in and sit down and buy five or six pairs at a time — they aren’t doing that anymore,” she said. “Now we have a completely different mentality, and that has led to a completely different clientele [of professional, working women].”
Jimmy Choo USA President Brian Henke said Capretto has succeeded by providing its customers with an experience unmatched in the marketplace. “Capretto embodies the qualities that make a specialty store unique and successful,” he said. “They intimately know their customer and buy the collection in a very unique, directional way that provides a special experience for their client.”
Looking ahead, Fluxman said she would like to expand her footprint with additional locations, though finding the right market and replicating the Capretto experience could prove difficult, she said.
“I’ve looked at certain areas, but it gets tricky with the radius clause [in vendor contracts that prevents them from working with competing retailers],” she said. “We’ll see. I’m very methodical in my thinking, so it has to make viable financial sense to me. I still feel very new [to the industry], even though it’s been almost five years.”