She’s Unique Truly Is a Unique Jewelry Store in Alexandria, Va.



Video made an Internet star of jewelry retailer Katya Ananieva

Katya Ananieva, co-owner of She’s Unique, a ­jewelry store in the quaint Old Town section of Alexandria, Va., experienced the power of viral videos long before she contemplated running a retail store. Through her 4-year-old lifestyle blog, SpicyCandyDC.com, Ananieva connected regularly with her readers through style videos she produced and posted. “People are so visual nowadays, and it was just a natural way for me to engage readers,” recalls the retailer, who, with her mother, Sibilia, bought She’s Unique from its original owner two years ago. She’s now using video to capture and engage a devoted clientele for the boutique, which specializes in trend-driven ­jewelry from smaller brands such as Phyllis + Rosie ­Jewelry and Leah Alexandra. How-to videos are Ananieva’s forte, and a recent video on how to artfully layer necklaces (which she personally hosted) was featured on Refinery29 and other well-read style blogs in the Washington, D.C., area. Of course, that kind of media attention—though free—requires some elbow grease. “You can’t just post something and think it’s going to do anything by itself,” she says. “You have to really push it out.”

How has She’s Unique changed since you and Sibilia took it over?

It’s been a process of transformation. I kept the name because Old Town is very historic and [people here] like to preserve things. But, with a friend of mine, I redesigned the space and made all of our cases and shelves from scratch. Once all of the physical transformation was done, I started working with designers focused on quality who are working in places like Williamsburg in Brooklyn. I wanted to do something a little more hip, so I started buying what I really love. I was afraid to go there, but people have responded so well. Before this, I was doing project management for a government consulting firm—nothing like retail. 

How has video boosted your business recently?

Video is a really easy way to engage the ­[jewelry] customer. They always want to see how-to’s. You assume your customers know everything, but they don’t. It’s like educating your customer without being too forward. You’re saying, “This is cool, this is how you do it.” Layering is really in right now, so we showed pieces we carry that help customers create a whole story when they’re in our store. [Customers] will come in and get one thing, then come back and get another thing to layer with that. My return customer base is great. It gets people seeing the styles we have and the brands we’re carrying.

How do you put together the videos?

For the layering video, we used a local photographer. We shot it in an hour and he edited it in a day, incorporating text and music. It’s not expensive to do video if you partner with someone you trust. If you want to show someone styling something, you can work with local bloggers—they’re hungry for that stuff too, and will work [for free] a lot. Pick someone who has your aesthetic. You don’t have to pay for those kinds of things. You just have to align your store with the right people.

Once you post the video on the blog, how do you get it out there on the Web?

I post it on all the social networks: Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter. Then I send to bloggers and specific people I want to see it—and hopefully they will talk about it and re-tweet posts. I’ll send a note saying, “We just did this, we hope you think it’s cool.” You have to do your own push. You can’t expect it to go viral on its own. We promoted it everywhere during the week that led up to our two-year anniversary party.

Can video replace traditional advertising?

I think it’s a much better, more organic way to advertise than an ad in a magazine. There’s a lot of talent around and people may even do things for free for you—or for trade. It’s not a financial investment, just an investment of time. But that’s totally worth it.

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