House Account: Specialty stores at your fingertips

Want to discover fashion finds from hundreds of specialty stores nationwide? There’s an app for that.

After the recession, Laura Vinroot Poole found her boutiques in Charlotte, North Carolina, filled with investment pieces, but not a lot of customers. Instead of closing her doors, she and childhood friend Travis Parsons, founder and CEO of Cloud Castle, created an app where you can locate high-end clothing and shops wherever you are on your iPhone.

Through House Account, which launched last year, Poole has discovered and curated more than 350 boutiques nationwide. From Charlotte, Poole clues us in to why she created an app and what it takes to be a part of House Account.

Q: Why an app?

A: We are on our phones all day long and use apps. I’ve had my store for 17 years, and my sales people went from the landline to texting. This is how we communicate now.

Q: How does House Account work?

A: It’s a location-based shopping app. Wherever you are, it will tell you where stores are with a photograph and their feed. It’s like an Instagram feed from their stores. You can like items or text and talk directly to a sales person. You can even comment and say who would look great in it.

Q: How did this app come about?

A: During the recession, I had a store full of Saint Laurent and Celine, and I came up with the idea of creating an app where I could sell items directly from my specialty store. Approximately 20-25% of my sales are driven from the app. People can put clothes on hold from their cars, or order clothes from couture shows and market appointments. It’s hard for the small store to compete with a Barneys.com and Net-a-porter.com, so I found a way to communicate in our own special way. This app grew out of my own frustration, and now there are infinite possibilities as to how many stores can benefit from this. We have clients all over the world.

Q: What’s your most unique feature?

A: You are two taps away from a salesperson. Online shopping leaves me cold, but here you are typically texting with the owner or the buyer. I can see your profile and see everything you like from my stores and other stores. It’s interesting to know what they are into, whether it be home, clothing or beauty. We get a quick read of who they are as a shopper.

Q: How does the app make money?

A: It’s free to download for users, but stores pay a monthly fee, and we will have in-app purchasing.

Q: What New York stores are involved?

A: We have 30 stores, like Fivestory, Kirna Zabete, Bird in Brooklyn, and also home and beauty like Mecox Gardens… We edit and review, for we want it to be exclusive. It’s curated.

Q: What’s the median price range?

A: It ranges for every store. I would say $300-$600 per purchase. Each store handles the feed in their own hand, and each specialty store knows their business better than anyone else.

Q: Why did you open your own store?

A: I’m from Charlotte , and I wanted to move back home. I wanted to have access to Saint Laurent and Diptyque candles and I needed certain luxuries. Bank of America and NASCAR are based here, and I had to go to New York or Atlanta for shopping. I started in an 800 square-foot store, and now it’s 4,000 square feet.

Q: Any advice to those interested in the app space?

A: People come to me all the time and tell me they have a website. The first problem is that it’s a website. Mobile is the future.