Ms. Dress-Up

By Malcolm Parry, Vancouver Sunday, July 29, 2010

Laurie Sluchinski, Owner of Boo La La

MS. DRESS-UP: You’d expect a makeover for a 25-year-old firm whose clients want to look like Marie Antoinette or King Kong. It will occur in September, when Carol’s Costume Corner becomes Boo La La and

adds a Sinclair Centre pop-up store to its 3,400-square-foot North Vancouver facility. “Four or five” other pop-ups will follow, said owner Laurie Sluchinski, 35, who bought the firm in 2005, when then-65-year-old founder Carol Ahern decided to study nuclear physics at Simon Fraser University. But former fashion designer Sluchinski, whom the North Vancouver Chamber of Commerce named 2009 Young Entrepreneur of the Year, seeks business far beyond Granville and Hastings Street. She also wants to smooth October’s Halloween spike, when four staff become 20 and half the year’s revenue comes in.

Sluchinski said the Internet and “the huge culture of smartphones” have created a global market for her 5,000-item, $500,000 inventory. Outright sales, rather than rentals, reportedly quadrupled over five years to account for 65 per cent of revenue. They should increase further as Boo La La exploits online opportunities.

The latter include a man who picked up a banana costume last week. He’d searched it from the Congo, and wanted to surprise friends while visiting.

“I see more people wanting to look funny than hot,” Sluchinski said, meaning sexy. That might account for her top sellers being disco costumes. It also points to differences between the Canadian and more aggressively developed U.S. markets: “I have to find and Canadianize trends Americans think are going to be huge and therefore promote,” Sluchinski said. ” They like the blockbuster movies and the hero. Canadians prefer something quirky, like Alice In Wonderland.”

As for clients dressing as Alice or the Mad Hatter, “I pull out the magic people have inside them,” said Sluchinski, who hopes to do the same with Boo La La.

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