Clothing store Duo leaves the Corner, transitions completely to online sales

The local new and worn clothing store becomes an fully online retail business

Duo-OJohnson

Duo shut its doors in late February.

Olivia Johnson | Cavalier Daily

Duo, a new and gently-worn women’s clothing store that has been a part of the Corner since 2007, has closed its doors. As of late February, the store has moved out of its Corner location and has transitioned to becoming a full-time, online clothing store based out of Charlottesville.

Greer Johnson, the owner of Duo, said she made the decision to transition her store to its new online format in 2017.

“Opening a new and slightly used clothing store was something I’d always wanted to do,” Johnson said. “It was a great business and continues to be, I just needed to change formats.”

The store itself was on the market for a few months in 2017, with Johnson aiming to sell the store. She changed her mind, however, and took Duo off the market. She closed the brick and mortar location and has now committed herself to developing the store as an online brand. 

“It’s really fun having a brick and mortar store,” Johnson said. “It’s certainly rewarding in a lot of ways, and it’s great chatting with customers and building relationships with people who walk in the store, but at the end of the day you have to look at your numbers and do what’s best for the business.”

Johnson had noticed a trend in retail sales developing over the past few years.

“Over the past couple years we’ve definitely seen a change in our sales, in that our online sales are growing while our in-store sales are decreasing,” Johnson said. “I decided that it made more sense to take the overhead of the brick and mortar store and just focus solely on our online store.”

Although the store website was launched in 2009, the transition to only online will result in changes to the overall store inventory. According to Johnson, the website will include “only selling gently worn clothing as well as a few new accessories, rather than having the new clothing.”

Johnson said Duo has always relied on customers selling their worn clothing to the store in order to maintain inventory, and the new, online format hopes to maintain this dynamic.

Customers will have the option of requesting a “shipping bag” free of charge, which will be sent to their address, filled up with the gently-worn clothing that they want to sell to the store and then returned to the store. The store will then assess the clothing and pay the customer the clothing’s value via PayPal, so that customers anywhere in the nation are able to sell their clothing to Duo.

Since closing the shop, Johnson has already completed at-home clothing pickups for Charlottesville customers, in which she visits a customer at their home to collect used clothing. This service was not possible while Duo was a brick and mortar store.

“I’m excited about the fact that [the transition] frees up a lot of my time to be able to do things like the at-home pickup or some other services that will hopefully make life easier for our customers,” Johnson said. 

Duo had been a popular clothing store for students on the Corner for several years.

“I like how … their second-hand store located upstairs tended to still have higher-quality items that were at a cheaper price compared to other competing clothing stores on the Corner,” said Joan Lee, a third-year College student who has shopped at the store for a year. “I thought it was really convenient.”

Although Johnson’s decision to transition her store is taking into consideration both numbers and marketing trends, students still expressed disappointment about the store’s decision to change formats. 

“I was kind of sad about it,” Lee said. “I think it takes away from the shopping experience of being able to try on clothes and realizing how it fits and being able to touch the material itself.”

Fourth-year College student Grace Kim said she is concerned about the success of Duo without its physical store.

“I feel that because of its physical presence on the Corner, students who were curious were able to learn about the store, but now, Duo might have to find new target audiences,” said Kim, who has shopped at the store since her second year. 

“Let’s say I was going to the Corner — I was going to Grit, for example,” Lee said. “I would possibly stop by Duo along the way, just to check out what they had. Whereas now I have to make a conscious effort to shop online.”

Despite the potential loss of walk-in business on the Corner, Johnson emphasized maintaining and developing Duo’s relationship with its local customer base.

“We definitely want to keep marketing to our Charlottesville customers … because they’re the ones who already know us and have spent the past ten years shopping with us,” Johnson said. “We’ve developed those relationships, so we certainly want to hold on to those, most importantly.”

Moving forward Johnson said she is going to focus on continuing to transition Duo to its new fully-online format.

“I’m pretty optimistic about how it’s going to go as an online-only store just based on the growth we see online recently,” Johnson said. “So for now, I don’t have any major concerns. It’s just sort of being cautiously optimistic, I would say, and moving forward in a smart way that will hopefully allow the business to grow.”

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