THE NEON GYPSY STORY
Neon Gypsy first opened its doors three years ago on Mount Maunganui’s main strip, but Carole Jarrett’s days of selling bohemian goods can be traced all the way back to the 1970s.
She sourced traditional Balinese lace dresses from Indonesia and brought them back to sell at Auckland’s Cook St markets.
“We always had that affiliation direct to the customer,” Carole says. “We’re salespeople through and through, it’s in the blood.”
This passion for selling at markets continued with her daughter, Chloe, when the two began designing and manufacturing their own clothes in Indonesia and selling them at markets across the country.
Customers at the Coatesville Farmers Market and the Little Big Markets in Mount Maunganui were scooping up the designs with such vigour that the mother-daughter duo couldn’t keep up.
They were also constantly being bombarded with the question: “Do you have a store?”
“We were like, ‘We think we need to open a shop’,” Chloe laughs.
Breaking into bricks-and-mortar
Neon Gypsy Mount Maunganui was born, with the name being a take on a modern woman who likes bohemian-inspired clothing.
It’s also in reference to the Jarretts’ routine business trips to Bali to create their garments.
“The gypsy name comes from us going offshore to source our fabric,” Carole says. “We actually travel to source it all, we don’t just look at a catalogue. Every fabric we produce we’ve actually touched.”
The store opened on Maunganui Rd in 2013 and slowly but surely built a cult-like following.
When its popularity boomed, the pair realised the store needed to expand its stock beyond its own label to keep up with demand.
“Because Neon Gypsy [clothing] was an in-season production and because it was successful, we couldn’t keep up and our tailors couldn’t keep up with us. It got to the stage where we went ‘Okay, we need to buy other brands’,” Carole says.
They went scouting for labels that would complement their own and managed to secure Byron Bay-based Spell and the Gypsy Collective, which was recently named the 2016 Telstra Australian Business of the Year.
The Spell label has proved to be one of their most popular alongside their own.
Despite buying their largest ever order from Spell this summer, items have still sold out and the decision was made to cut website orders off to ensure clothes were still available for Neon Gypsy’s in-store customers.
“It’s been a phenomenal success for them and a phenomenal success for us,” Carole says.
“We’re passionate about it, as soon as we know it’s landed at the airport we rush and pick it up straight from DHL ourselves. We have such a belief in it.”
Other brands that have joined the boutique include Auguste and Kivari, which are both from out of Australia.
Unlike some retail models which operate under a ‘more is better’ mentality, the Jarretts say they’re incredibly picky about what brands they stock.
This helps them cultivate the Neon Gypsy store identity and never stray far from their brand ideals.
“We put a lot of work and energy into our store and we don’t want people to buy the clothes because it’s the specific brand, we want them to buy it because they love it,” Chloe says.
Neon Gypsy’s customer
Though some might assume Neon Gypsy is targeted at a younger audience, its clientele is right across the board.
Carole says having the perspective of herself and her daughter coming together means the boutique’s clothing is crafted to appeal to a wide range of ages, including babies.
“We get two-weeks-old [customers] right up to 98 years old, and we still get elderly people shopping with us. Lots of mothers and daughters, granddaughters and grandmas – it’s a really cool mix. It’s great that you can go into a little shop like Neon Gypsy and there can be something for everyone,” Chloe says.
Despite the ‘gypsy’ name, both are confident there’s something in store for everyone.
“A lot of people have this perception that it’s traditional gypsy clothing, but it’s not like that. We like to think we’ve got something for everyone in here. We’ve got some really bohemian pieces as well as some really casual pieces you can wear every day.”
Last year, the Jarretts decided to branch out to the big smoke and look for a store in Auckland.
The move was made after a bit of customer research discovered nearly every second customer to the Mount Maunganui store was from Auckland.
“We were getting asked constantly if we had a shop in Auckland. They’d come down for day trips and say, ‘My husband brought me down here for my birthday,’” Carole says.
After a long search for the perfect space, they came back to a refurbished store on Ponsonby Rd that “just felt right”.
The store opened its doors in November and business has been busy since, Chloe says.
“We’re finding we’re still building a new client base and we’re working hard to get known in the area, but the response has been very positive.”
As for the year ahead, the pair want to print their own fabric and develop an exclusive Neon Gypsy print, as well as work on developing their ecommerce site.
There is also talk of opening a warehouse due to the boutique running its online arm out of the Mount Maunganui store.
“When we have a busy time on the website, everything’s done in store – we don’t have a factory. The girls have to come in early before work and pack all the orders,” Chloe says.
But for now, they’re focused on staying true to the Neon Gypsy brand which has resonated so well with consumers.
When asked if Neon Gypsy goes beyond clothing into more of a lifestyle, Carole nods.
“I think so. It’s got soul,” she says.