It’s been a while since I reported a closing on Market Square. Since a spate of closures around the end of 2014, I don’t think a single business on the square has called it quits. Coldstream Market moved from the square to their new location on Union Avenue and Rococo/Knoxville Graphic House moved to Ailor Ave., but other than that, it’s been a story of continued re-building of the retail market ever since.
That changes with the announced closure of The Impeccable Pig at 23 Market Square. The store is selling down inventory at present and they will officially close the location on June 1. It is the first location (of twenty) the chain has closed, while it continues to maintain locations across much of the south, including one other store in Tennessee (Nashville).
Opened just over twelve months ago, the store joined several boutiques selling women’s clothing on the square. It may be that we’ve reached a saturation point for the moment in that style of women’s clothing. It made competition keen and a stop in the store confirmed that competition may have been a part of the problem. I was told that sometimes the same dress would be available a couple of doors down for as much as $20 less.
Typically, business failures are not as simple as one variable, however, and there were other complications. I learned the business has had three managers in recent months and about a three month period (added together) of no manager at all. That adds up to over half the life of the business in which there was instability.
It was also felt that the frontage, built out with an inset, unlike other store-fronts on the square made it more difficult for the product in the windows to be seen. The local store was also not allowed to have control of their own social media, meaning they could not post new dresses, for example, to Instagram as so many businesses do today. They were also not allowed to do simple things like put balloons on their sign on Market Square when they had a sale or advertise in any other way. All these decisions were made from corporate headquarters.
Interestingly, summer events like the Market Square Farmers’ Market and festivals really helped business, yet the business is closing just as all that gets started. I was also told, by someone who worked there from the beginning, they never had control over their hours and were told they must close at 7:00 PM, which hurt when (as is often now the case), Market Square was at its busiest.
Inventory appears to have also been a problem. Since the Instagram account is a national one, when notices would be posted there of new dresses, often those dresses had not been delivered to the Knoxville store, which led to unhappy customers. Generally, upon request, the dress could be located in Nashville, where it had been delivered. I was told some of the merchandise in the store has been there since last year and not rotated out.
So, there were numerous problems, as is always the case. If what I was told is accurate, and I believe it to be, it doesn’t necessarily mean a chain can’t be successful here, but it does seem to mean that local autonomy would help greatly. We’re pretty good about welcoming businesses if they become a part of our community. Running one from afar to that level of detail just doesn’t seem like good business.