Talbots creates a local boutique feel from a national brand

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Talbots will be hosting the afternoon fashion show at What Women Want, bringing their classic and chic touch to the runway. And regardless of a person’s style, whether they reach for the professional wear, business casual or athleisure, “I will fix you up so you look absolutely fabulous,” promised Sheri Kent, sales manager.

Talbots has been dressing ladies at its current Dover location since 1990.

“We’re in a small little shopping nook,” and although it’s a national brand, “We’re more of a boutique shop, and we specialize in our classic clothing,” said Kent.

Over the decades, the brand has broadened its design style. “It has classic clothing, but now Talbots knows you have to appeal to several age groups. When my daughters visit, I say, ‘Come down here — it’s not what you think it is,” said Vickie McGown, store manager. “It doesn’t go out of style because it’s classic clothing. As long as you take care of it, it’ll be around forever.”

Where everyone knows your name — and your style

Talbots is a place where a shopper might have a favorite sales associate, who understands her style.

“We develop relationships with these women. We know about their kids and their families,” said McGown. Some repeat customers will come in and say, “‘I’m going on vacation; can you help me find some new things?’ … and we’ve worked with them so we know their style. They can make an appointment with their favorite associate.”

The shopkeepers also keep in touch with clients, through personal thank-you notes and updates on new stock. At a job interview, one applicant even said, ‘This is the kind of store I want to work for’ as she displayed the personalized card she had previously received, as a shopper. That communication makes an impact.

“I’m a former school teacher and counselor. Kathy [Huggins-Lewis] used to work in New York, in corporate America. Vickie owned her own business and owns her own farm. A lot of us, this is our second career, second go-around,” said Kent. “But all of us wanted to do something extra, so all of us found our way to Talbots, selling the clothes we already love.

“And we really do appreciate our customers. Because without them, we wouldn’t have a job, and no company … some of our customers have been Talbots customers for years and years, so they come back and they are accustomed to the personalized service. You don’t feel like one of 1,000 when you come into the store. We know them by name.”

Branching out, in color and career

Really talking to customers means that the staff can share their expertise to complement a person’s individual taste.

“Some people are really stuck on a certain color, but we try to get them off of that. If you like black and brown — add a little pink or red!” said Kathleen Huggins-Lewis, a sales associate who previously had a 30-plus-year career in financial banking.

“I handled accounts for the money managers for a Swiss bank and then I moved to Pennsylvania to send my son to private school and eventually moved to Delaware … and I just love it.”

Huggins-Lewis started as a receptionist at her first bank and worked her way up to an account clerk and eventually to foreign currency exchange. Fast forward past the Great Recession and family caregiving, and Huggins-Lewis got into retail, eventually coming to Talbots in Dover.

“And I totally, totally love it. I enjoy the people I work with … I enjoy the customers, and of course we love the clothes. We all can’t wait to see what the next colors are going to be, the next clothes. I have been a Talbots customer since I lived in New York, so it’s been a while.”

Coming from the corporate world, she had a lifetime of neutral-colored work clothes.

“Now I can mix my patterns without hesitation … I feel comfortable doing stuff like that now,” Huggins-Lewis said. “I guess as you get older, you like brighter colors.”

“When customers come in, they’re like ‘Oh my god, I love the colors! Right now, it’s the yellows and corals and light blues,” McGown said.

Talbots and the spring line is found at 1404 Forrest Avenue, Dover, Del. Learn more at (302) 677-1899.

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