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From Zoom Fashion to Virtual Styling: How Philly Couture Has Adapted to Social Distancing

Mary K. Dougherty is a self-made entrepreneur and pioneer in the retail industry in Philadelphia. She owns and operates the Nicole Miller Manayunk boutique, a premier shopping destination and renowned fashion landmark that has been in business for more than 25 years. Dougherty has seen the retail landscape go through a variety of changes over the past few decades, and her adaptability and innovation have helped pave the way for success against all odds. Here, she answers questions about how she’s navigating the current climate, and why she remains optimistic for the future.

The world has gone virtual. How has this changed your strategy?

Relationships are at the forefront of our business—we’ve always been extremely connected to our clients, and now it’s all about finding more creative ways to do that. We offer virtual styling sessions, online shopping and closet clean-outs via FaceTime. We’re shipping and dropping off retail therapy boxes, we’re coordinating with local charities to collaborate on future events and Nicole is designing masks that we’re sending to our customers on the front lines. The world might look different right now, but we still need to be able to offer the same seamless experience and level of service. We’ll also just pick up the phone to call or text and say, “Hey, how are you doing? How is your family?” Now, more than ever, it’s so important to reach out and check-in. We’re all social distancing, but it doesn’t mean we need to self-isolate.

How have shopping patterns changed?

People are still shopping, but their needs have changed. They’re looking for versatile, comfortable pieces that can work for Zoom meetings now and for date nights in the future. It’s less about following the trends and more about functionality without sacrificing fashion. Changing out of your pajamas (even if just into leggings and a top) and putting on lipstick and a pair of earrings lifts your mood and helps to set a positive tone for the day. Our business is designed to make people feel good, and that’s the main reason why I love to do what I do. In the same vein, it has also been very refreshing to see our customers purchasing gifts for others to help cheer them up during these times. Events are being postponed, but milestones like birthdays and graduations are still being celebrated with thoughtful gifts and acts of kindness.

What does the future of retail look like post COVID-19?

It goes without saying that there will be challenges as we come out of this crisis, but I do think these challenges will present opportunities and ultimately bring us together as a community. People will have a new appreciation for shopping local and understand the impact of their purchases when they support small businesses. While I believe everyone will certainly be more cautious and health-focused as we adjust to our new normal, I also know how much we’ll all be looking forward to eating at our favorite restaurants and visiting our favorite stores. We’re all taking it day by day and doing the best we can, but I think it’s important to remain optimistic that we’ll come out of this stronger and more resilient than we ever thought possible.

For more information, please email mdougherty@nicolemillerphiladelphia.com, visit www.marykdougherty.com, or stay connected with them on Instagram at @nicolemiller_philadelphia.