Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sad But Not Surprising : Merino Closed in Buckhead

After adding Merino to DeathWatch third quarter 2010, the store closed not long after. While I was unable to determine the exact day, I'm told the store closed around the end of the year. (According to their Facebook page, they will continue operations via a soon-to-launch website) Merino opened April, 2008 in the former CompUSA training space at The Shops Around Lenox. There was an extensive remodel that included new windows, stone flooring and other expensive elements. The store's intention was to carry little known and new designers, and expose Atlanta to their designs. The problem with this was that the cost of the product was high, given the store's single location and inability to buy in bulk, and the tremendous and expensive amount of marketing that would be necessary to effectively promote the merchandise in the competitive Buckhead market.

Nearby businesses observed that the store was empty most of the time, aside from the single sales associate. Others say their sales were so small that they were essentially nonexistent. While it was not out of the ordinary to see the store empty, the inside is bare and it is evident that the business is closed for good.

Big corporate chains are able to buy more and therefore take risks and incur losses more easily than "mom and pop" boutiques like Merino. I never hope that businesses like this fail, but it takes a tremendous amount of money and a very creative approach to succeed in independent retail. Blue Genes closed in 2009 and Rhinoceros Boutique relocated then closed in The Shops Around Lenox last year, Decatur's Dresscodes closed at the end of 2008, and Kaleidoscope, a mainstay in Decatur for years, closed this past year. Also in 2010, Lexie + Jane opened and closed inside of three months and is now home to Vetted. LUXE Atlanta and 1*FIVE*O both closed in West Midtown in 2009 and P. Valentine, Knitch and Taste proved having entertainers backing you does not necessarily equate to a successful business, as all have since closed.

Not to be a Debby Downer, but even Barney's New York CoOp at Phipps Plaza has struggled, and may soon cease operations. Emerlyn & Ester, which was recently opened (by entertainer Ne-Yo's girlfriend Monyetta Shaw), nearby retailer Raw Denim, and Jedal at Phipps Plaza, are all in danger of falling under similar circumstances given their locations and product assortment.

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