When Laura Vinroot Poole, a boutique owner of sixteen years based in Charlotte, North Carolina, found herself in a tight spot in the middle of what she referred to as her least favorite word — “the Recession” — she had a shop filled with luxury goods from Céline, Saint Laurent, and Alaïa with nobody in her immediate vicinity who wanted to purchase them. In effort to spread the message of her items in-store, one of which was a pink snakeskin Céline box bag that had sold out nearly all over the world, Poole launched her own specialized boutique shopping app in January 0f 2013, and christened it House Account. “It was really born out of frustration,” Poole told the Cut. “We have amazing inventory, but we found that even keeping up an e-commerce site is very hard to do that unless you have half a million dollars to do it. It was really born out of my need — we used it just with my clients — and then word of [the app] sort of spread organically.” In the span of a year, House Account’s network has flourished from one boutique to a network of roughly 350 shops sprinkled all over the United States.
Users can first select from a list of local boutiques to follow. Once selected, a stream of products in stores appear in the personalized feed. They can then “like” or comment on products they’re interested in purchasing, easily chat with a sales associate (or boutique owner) who is in the shop, and arrange an in-store pickup or delivery. Boutique owners pay $100 per month to stay in the network, but each sale depends on the individual shop. “Being in retail is not an easy business, so I really wanted to give that control and power back to the stores,” Poole added. “If you’re taking amazing pictures and communicating quickly and well with users, then people are going to want to shop with you, and if you’re not, they’re not.” At the end of the day, the unifying concept behind House Account is that each user can develop a more personal connection to these boutiques. “My best clients in the store all have house accounts, and this is what it is in an app – you can have a House Account with any of the best stores in the country and just message, ‘Hey, put this on hold for me, I’m thousands of miles away and we can pick it up this afternoon.’”