Hampden Clothing, a Charleston clothing boutique at 314 King St., has leased a 7,200-square-foot distribution center on north Meeting Street to keep up with demand from shoppers both in person and online.
“In-store sales have increased at a pace of 107% over the past year while our e-commerce sales have increased 48% compared to last year. Online sales have grown to be 30% of our current business,” said Stacy Smallwood, founder and owner of Hampden Clothing. “During the pandemic, many of our clients began to utilize our website for the first time and have not looked back.”
Opening a 1,500-square-foot boutique in 2007, Hampden Clothing now occupies more than 10,000 square feet of retail space in adjoining buildings on King Street that includes its designer shoe store, James, along with 5,000 square feet of office space above its storefront where an in-house e-commerce team works.
Sarah Shelley, with NAI Charleston, represented Hampden Clothing in the lease of 747 Meeting St.
Day-to-day life at the distribution center reveals the inner workings of how to keep a thriving boutique and e-commerce site going.
It’s a long and tedious process that includes receiving and processing up to 40 boxes of new clothing every day, carefully photographing items on both a mannequin and model to ensure they appeal to scrolling eyes online and packing and shipping out hundreds of online orders, Smallwood said.
Once new clothing and ecommerce returns are received and inventoried at the distribution site, items are placed in “steam closets” that press 40 garments at a time before either being sent in a Sprinter van to the retail store or packed and shipped across the country.
“On Mondays we typically process 100 orders from the weekend,” Smallwood said.
While Hampden Clothing has always had an online presence, “it has taken a lot of time, energy and effort from our team to get where it is today,” Smallwood said. “An ecommerce website is always evolving and needs constant updating. Every item in store is on our site, and inventory is updated every 15 minutes when sales occur in store and online.”
It will take a team of people for the distribution center to run seamlessly. Hampden Clothing is currently hiring for a chief operating officer, distribution center manager, buying coordinator, social media and marketing coordinator, marketing and events manager, two stock coordinators, stock assistant, receiving coordinator and an ecommerce photographer.
“The logistics and the amount of time it takes to (photograph) the product on not only a mannequin but also on a model with all the coordinating pieces to go with the look… coordinating over 100 different SKUs of product and 2,000 units of product each day…so many people are involved in the process, and there is so much more once the product is live,” Smallwood said.
The company has hired staff for 25 jobs over the past two years, bringing its total employee count upward of 40.
“With 70% of our sales still coming from in store, our growth is still dependent on our relationships and strong customer base,” Smallwood said.
Smallwood continues to expand avenues in e-commerce, including personal Hampden Clothing “styling boxes” sent to clients across the country that allows them to try on items before purchasing. Styling boxes are processed through the distribution center.
“I am looking forward to continuing this growth in the next 15 years as we bring creative jobs to our community, millions of dollars in revenue and millions in tax dollars to our state,” Smallwood said. “Fashion is not often thought of as an industry that can do such things for our community, but I am choosing to base my business in South Carolina, and we want to show the world what we can do.”l