About 50 years ago, if someone had asked you if you visited a boutique shop, you might have said no. Boutiques were once considered a luxury shop with high-end merchandise made for the wealthy.

Now, however, almost everyone has experience with a boutique, whether online or in-person. It’s all part of the shopping experience, whether you’re after a fancy dress or a casual pair of leggings.

Boutiques through history

The word boutique is French, meaning “small shop.” However, it also has roots in the Greek word “apotheke,” which means “a warehouse” or “place for putting things.” The latter is more likely to be the origin of the word because the first boutique dates back to 5th Century BCE in Greece. The historian Thucydides used the word “apotheca” to describe exclusive shops containing specialty clothing items.

In the 14th century, boutiques surfaced in France, and then later in the 15th century in Naples under the name “potega,” a word meaning “shop” in Italian. Across Europe, a boutique has also been referred to as a “hostal ou bouticle,” “bude,” and “boutiquiere.” These were considered simple, humble shops containing everyday items sold by small business owners.

All that changed when the word was introduced to Britain and America. Here, it exclusively meant a Parisian shop. Since French trends have always been considered the height of the fashion world, these boutiques were understandably highly sought-after in English society. Beginning in the 1800’s, you could expect to find only the best Parisian fashions in these luxury shops.

A notable boutique in British history was the Derby Mercury, which opened in 1827 by Alfred Lewis. It was designated as a shop where only the gentry and noble could make purchases. It carried jewellry, perfume, fine china, fashion accessories, and French clothing styles. It was one of the most exclusive shopping experiences in England as the elite only had 14 days to do all the shopping they wanted.

This was just one of many examples of exclusive boutiques during this time period. After the 1950’s, however, boutique shops began popping up all over the United States and Britain. With time, they started to become more affordable and more accessible. Although the items are not as affordable as some big box stores, boutique items can now be purchased easily by those in the middle class.

Boutiques are now everywhere  

According to research from IBIS World, boutiques have generated more than $21 billion in revenue with a projected rapid growth rate. There are more than 154,730 operating boutiques employing more than a quarter of a million individuals.

The primary reason for these plentifull clothing shops is the ease of opening and operating them. The ecommerce sector requires just a domain name, a well-designed website, and an integrated secure payment system to create an online boutique.

Boutique owners can order their clothing and accessory items from the many wholesalers throughout the world who sell fashion items for cheaper than cost. Because your shop is attached to the word “boutique,” you can mark up the prices far higher than you would see in a big box store and make an excellent profit by selling them to people all over the world.

The term boutique no longer represents Parisian origins, however. It’s now used pervasively all over the internet to represent small, individually-owned shops selling clothing, accessories, and specialty items that can’t always be found in big-box stores. It’s a great way to make a living as a business owner and customers love the exclusive feeling that comes from purchasing items from a “boutique.”

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