Growth Strategies: Market Penetration, Product Expansion, Acquisition

Featuring: Embellish and Willa Collection - Terri Holley

When Terri Holley opened Embellish, the boutique retail store on Frazier Avenue in 2005, she was capitalizing on the success of her investment in Carlisle, an upscale line of women’s clothing sold through independent consultants. The storefront gave her more visibility and a way to offer high-quality shoes to coordinate with each Carlisle clothing look.

Her focus was on growing her business organically and building her market penetration. “It was really important to me when I opened Embellish to grow my business organically. I really wanted us to get to know our clients, understand their needs, and get to know them personally so we could find the right products to meet their needs. That was my focus for a number of years and we experienced good growth.”

After a move to Warehouse Row in 2009 and larger retail space, Holley expanded her product offerings to include accessories, more handbags, scarves, and new lines of shoes. Each year for the next five years, the business experienced double digit growth.

In 2015, Holley acquired the North Chattanooga based Willa Collection. “Willa gave me access to a ready-to-wear business that I could not have entered very easily. It also offered terrific synergies with Embellish, such as clients that I already work with and others who we have not been able to reach. Some women want new shoes for a same outfit, others want to change the outfit.” Currently at 2 North Shore on Manufacturers Road, Willa Collection will rebrand under the Embellish name and move into the Embellish Warehouse Row storefront this fall.

Holley admits the biggest surprise in the acquisition was learning how the buying process for apparel differed from shoes. To help with the transition, she hired store manager Alex Sachel, who has buying experience in New York City. Yet her research and strategies for new shoes and apparel will remain the same: listen intently to clients and watch what is working in markets that match well with the Chattanooga area market.  “The more you get to know your client, the more you understand their needs. You’ve got to be informed. Research, research, research,” she says.

Recently, Holley sold the Carlisle business to focus her energy on Embellish and Willa

Collection. Looking to the future, Holley hints that a second location for Embellish may be in the works.

Article By Camille Platt

Photo By Rich Smith

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