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Charming Charlie Moving Full Speed Ahead


Charming Charlie has been on an upward trajectory for the past 10 years, and it shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. With 350 U.S. stores (plus four in Canada), the Houston-based, privately held jewelry and accessories retailer is busy expanding at home and, more recently, abroad. In June, it opened its first-ever location in New York City, a three-level, 16,000-sq.-ft. flagship on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue.

The store, Charming Charlie’s largest to date, is a showcase for the company’s new store concept, with a classic residential-style interior that mixes feminine, mid-century accents with luxe materials and whimsical details. Designed in partnership with Callison, Seattle, it carries the merchant’s full range of product, from jewelry, handbags and small leather goods to scarves, watches and sunglasses, to select footwear and apparel. With a mission of combining high style and value, the company offers price points that start at $5, going upwards to $150 for limited-edition items.

Charming Charlie is also expanding its footprint beyond the United States and Canada. It opened two international locations this year, and more are in the works.

Founded in 2014 by young entrepreneur Charlie Chanaratsopon, who is the company’s CEO, Charming Charlie recently added a new member to its management team, appointing Melissa Boughton as senior VP real estate and construction. Chain Store Age editor Marianne Wilson spoke with the industry veteran about her new position and Charming Charlie’s plans for the future.

You have an accomplished track record in real estate and store development. What are some of the highlights?

I’ve had the privilege of working for great companies, including The Children’s Place, Best Buy and now Charming Charlie. My most memorable moments have come from the incredible teams that I have worked with and the experiences we’ve shared.

What factored into your decision to join Charming Charlie, and can you tell us a little bit about the company?

My joining Charming Charlie had a lot to do with the power of the Charming Charlie brand — we offer a stylish product at an unrivaled value.

In addition, the extremely skilled and experienced executive team attracted me to the company. This management team has a depth of experience and breadth of retail venues. We all bring a unique perspective, which creates a tremendous synergy.

Who do your report to, and what are your main responsibilities?

I report to Steve Lovell, president and chief operating officer at Charming Charlie. My role is leading store development, securing of new sites, design and construction, and maintenance of the new and existing fleet.

What do you see as Charming Charlie’s point of differentiation?

The majority of my past experience has been with rapid growth companies. But what sets Charming Charlie apart is the company’s desire to manage its growth and existing portfolio in a proactive manner. There was a quote that surfaced somewhere in my career that went along the lines of “a well-managed portfolio is a retailers greatest asset; left alone, it quickly becomes their greatest liability.”

Tell us about Charming Charlie’s expansion strategy.

The new store opening trajectory is phenomenal. We are opening up to 55 stores per year. We have a robust pipeline for new stores and always welcome the opportunity to add additional shops that complement our real estate strategy. We are actively working with a group of industry experts in the broker community. Their landlord relationships and market knowledge provide an additional opportunity to identify and deliver key locations.

Has the company identified how many stores the U.S. market can support?

We believe Charming Charlie can have about 1,000 stores in the United States.

What’s happening on the international front?

The brand opened its first two stores in the Middle East, at Dubai’s City Centre Mirdif and Ibn Battuta Mall, in July. We have further growth planned in the Middle East for the brand in Qatar this year with our partners, Apparel Group, as well as plans to enter the Philippines later this year with another partner, SSI Group. There is great excitement building on the International front.

How would you characterize Charming Charlie’s real estate strategy?

We recently worked with Buxton to develop our real estate strategy. It revolves around identifying our core customer and her spending habits, blending market knowledge, location ranking and site selection to develop targeted sites that deliver maximum profitability. We are successful in many real estate types — lifestyle centers, power centers and malls with interior and exterior entrances. Our target size is 4,500 to 6,000 sq. ft.

Tell us about the store model.

The brand’s newest retail concept features signature double doors in vibrant pink lacquer and a residential-style interior that mixes feminine, mid-century accents with luxe materials and whimsical details. Products continue to be merchandised by color, which is what the brand has become known for today.

What is the biggest challenge in your new position?

We are constantly evolving as a brand, and with that evolution comes change. Success in this field requires a high comfort level with change and the ability to energize our teams, while constantly driving for results.

The construction field in retail has traditionally been overwhelmingly male-dominated. Is that changing?

I think so, albeit slowly. I am interviewing candidates for key roles and have had more female resumes then I ever remember receiving. This field is wide open for women, and I have been most vocal of the rewards. We need to keep reiterating the benefits.

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