Boutiques versus Department Stores


You are probably accustomed to shopping for women’s fashion and accessories in department stores. As I see it, there are three tiers of department stores in terms of quality, cost and customer service. Higher end stores include Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus, mid level stores include Macy’s and Dillards, and less expensive alternatives include Kohl’s or H&M. Regardless of your preference, department stores tend to be the default option for wardrobe shopping. An alternative is to shop at franchise fashion stores such as Chico’s, White House Black Market or Ann Taylor that all have signature looks at similar mid-point prices.

But, what about boutiques as a third option? By definition, a boutique is a small shop dealing in fashionable clothing or accessories. Boutiques vary in terms of the types and quality of merchandise they carry, as well as the price points they target. As a stylist and personal shopper, I regularly shop at all types of stores, and each has advantages. Even so, here are a few things I particularly like about boutiques:

  • Unique pieces of clothing and accessories you won’t find elsewhere
  • Many brands that are probably new to you
  • Great ‘finds’ for yourself or for a gift
  • Chic store ambiance that makes you feel as if you’re shopping on vacation
  • Excellent service because the shop owner is often the person assisting you
  • Fun and relaxed shopping experience

A drawback to many boutiques, however, is their return policy. Department stores and fashion franchises usually give your money back on returns. Whereas the typical boutique return policy is an exchange or store credit, and the return transaction usually needs to be within 7-10 days. Knowing this, when I find an item I love in a boutique, but know it’s available at another type of store, I’ll opt for the later in case a return is needed. So, take your time when you shop, be certain you love what you buy, and enjoy the benefits of boutique shopping.


© 2017 Beyond Basic Black and Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen Fisch and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



  1. Well said Karen. You got all the girls in our family hooked on the boutique look … unique, personal and local. Thanks.

  2. What an information-rich, thoughtful and beautifully written blog about boutiques. You have a way of capturing the essence of something and making it so relevant to life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *