COLONIAL COUTURE
WOMEN’S BETTERWEAR, SINGLE DOOR BINN’S OF WILLIAMSBURG, WILLIAMSBURG, VA.

Byline: Subira Shaw

Binn’s of Williamsburg may be in the business of selling women’s wear, but its staff often fulfills its customers nonretail related requests, including making hotel reservations and researching dog breeders.
“We get involved in some things we probably shouldn’t be involved in, but we keep people coming back,” said the store’s chief executive officer, Kim Jones. “‘Whatever it takes’ is our motto, and we really do all it takes to own our customers, and genuinely. We really care about them, we know what’s going on in their lives, and they trust us enough to understand that we’re not just here to take their money for the day; we’re here for the long haul.”
Featuring 200 lines, including St. John, Ellen Tracy, Lafayette 148 and Garfield and Marks, Binn’s has a stable customer base of well-to-do women 30 to 100 years old, with some multigenerational branches of the same family, said Jones.
Binn’s has been a fixture of the small colonial community since 1925, when Arabella Binns opened the shop to put her nephew through medical school. She began the store’s tradition of attentive service by holding private interviews with each customer before displaying pieces.
The two-story, 13,000-square-foot house has Persian rugs, chandeliers and antique furniture reminiscent of a grand home.
Some 20 percent of the clientele represents tourists who come to experience historic colonial Williamsburg, while the remaining 80 percent are regional clients who drive in from nearby cities, including Norfolk, Va., and Washington D.C., Jones said.
Binn’s — which has 30 employees, including 20 salespeople — has a big special-order business.
Jones and her team have often called vendors to purchase fabrics and create in-house the item a client prefers when the one on the rack won’t do. They also special-order merchandise at retail cost from other stores.
“It is a loss, because we pay the price and the shipping,” said Jones, “But we focus on the overall picture, which is keeping the customer.”
Along with alterations, deliveries, and at-home wardrobe consulting, Binn’s maintains customer relations with trunk shows, special occasion promotions, local and regional advertising, direct mail programs and friendly phone calls.
According to Jones, these strategies have insulated the store somewhat from a slowdown in consumer spending. With the DIVA award, Jones and staff are excited about the future, which includes the addition of cosmetics to Binn’s’ product mix.

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