RIDGELAND — When Donna Cox’s brother and sister-in-law opened a plus-size only shop on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Cox got an idea.
“The more I talked to them, the more it started to make sense,” she said. “We (Edie Wilkinson and I) looked around the Jackson market and thought you know, this would probably work here also.”
So Cox, a partner in the business and CPA, and friend and former co-worker Wilkinson, opened With You in Mind May 1, 2000.
“We’ve found no other stores locally that carry and sell women’s apparel up to size 10X,” Wilkinson said. “And what others do have available more resembles bedspreads with holes for your head and arms than they do lady’s fashions.”
Cox said business has been good. “We’ve been very well received,” she said.
One of the things Cox believes has helped the store’s customer base to grow is that she and Wilkinson listen to what their customers want.
“Edie and I are buyers for the store,” Cox said. “Not only do we work here and operate it and talk to the customers, we are also the people doing the actual buying. So when customers come in with certain requests, we’re listening to the customers and the merchandise is reflecting that.”
With You in Mind’s niche is current women’s fashions from size 14W to 10X and matching accessories. The target is a market that has traditionally been totally ignored — plus-size women, say Wilkinson and Cox.
“You see stores that have current and traditional fashions for the largest of men,” Cox said. “However, the largest of women have been left in the cold, so to speak. Our inventory includes the latest in animal prints and other fashions including accessories and jewelry.”
And although Cox and Wilkinson enjoy seeing new faces in the store, it is the repeat business that has let the two know that they have hit their target market.
“As far as I’m concerned we can never have too many new customers,” Cox said. “But when a customer returns and purchases again, then that gives me more positive feedback that we’re obviously doing something right.
It’s easy for someone to come in the first time. The return customer I think gives you a lot more positive information than someone who happens to wander in off the street.”
According to storeowners Wilkinson and Cox, 700 to 800 people are already listed in the store’s computer database, which is used to send out coupons for sales, newsletters and flyers.
It was in mid-February 2000 that Cox and Wilkinson began talking about the idea of a plus-size only women’s clothing store. Only three months later the idea had come to fruition. Now the store is in its second location less than a year later.
“It was a whirlwind,” Wilkinson said. “We saw no reason to wait (to open).”
Wilkinson said her retail experience helped her to understand the need for customer service at With You in Mind.
“I grew up in a grocery store with my parents in retail,” she said. “That’s different when you’re the teenager getting off the school bus not wanting to be there. But I saw firsthand from the side of ‘the customer is always right.’”
Cox said of Wilkinson “Because she grew up in that environment she understands customer service.”
Letting their market know that With You in Mind exists has been a word-of-mouth process. But, Cox said, “Once they find us, they keep coming back.”
Contact MBJ staff writer Elizabeth Kirkland at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1042.