July 2, 2022

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — Shawna Perry isn’t afraid to take risks.

Having opened Little Black Dress, a women’s consignment store in Summerside, only weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Prince Edward Island in 2020 and operating it throughout the last two years, Perry is making her biggest move yet as she prepares to open a second shop.

“A lot of people kind of thought we were crazy, opening up another location at this particular time,” she said in a phone interview with SaltWire Network about the second location in Charlottetown.

The new store is situated at the beginning of the downtown’s shopping district on Great George Street in the former David’s Tea location. Perry said the location is exactly what she was looking for and is surrounded by other small businesses she wanted to be near.

“We’re all super excited,” said Perry.

“It’s been good to have that excitement because everything has been kind of down for everyone in general. It’s been a hard winter, so this is definitely something that makes us all really excited to still come to work and keep things moving to get this new store open.”

Shawna Perry, owner of Little Black Dress, says opening a second location in Charlottetown is exciting but also brings with it a bit of concern. – Cody McEachern

Perry said while Little Black Dress has done well over the last two years, operating during the pandemic has left her and her team dealing with constant ups and downs, with most weeks looking different than the one before.

“Just this past December and even November, we had great sales,” she said.

“When the (COVID cases) began to rise again and restrictions were put in place, though, everything went way down. Now it’s just starting to come back up again.”

Taking on a second location for any small business owner is a large risk, let alone during a pandemic, however Perry said it’s a move she knew she needed to make.

“I think it’s the only thing that will keep us in business,” she said, “I think if we don’t open a store in Charlottetown, I really think that Little Black Dress may have to close down.”

Perry said since restrictions came into effect and case numbers climbed, the store has seen fewer of its regular buyers and sellers, most of whom travel from Charlottetown or eastern P.E.I. to shop, which has affected the business. Providing an option closer to home for those customers, she said, was vital to her business.

“I really did feel coming in late December, for the first time since opening and surviving through the last two years of the pandemic, like we had to do something big or we may have to close our doors.”

Things to know

• Little Black Dress specializes in high-end, used women’s clothing, shoes and accessories.

• The store takes things in on consignment and sells items for the seller. If the item sells, the store takes a percentage of the sale, and the original seller gets a percentage.

• Those interested in keeping up with new stock in both locations can visit Little Black Dress online at thelittleblackdressco.com or its Facebook page.

While there is some concern whether the new location will help offset the lows being experienced at the Summerside store, Perry said there is also a lot of excitement surrounding the expansion of the business.

“What I keep saying is, I’ve been continuously taking these risks since we opened in 2020, and I’m a big believer in big risk, big reward,” she said.

“I have a huge support system. I can’t express how amazing my staff is and how much they are making every effort they can to keep us moving forward. That outweighs all the concerns I do have.”

Perry said the new location is currently getting set up for its opening day, which is set for March 15. The store will be run by some of the staff from the Summerside shop, and Perry said each store will display different products.

“The stuff you see in our Charlottetown store will likely never be seen in Summerside, and vice versa. The inventory we decide to keep in Summerside will stay in Summerside, while other stuff we feel would sell better in Charlottetown will be taken there. It certainly won’t be the same in each store.”