Competitive Edge: Bumbershute vs. Bluebird Boutique

Competitive Edge: Bumbershute vs. Bluebird Boutique

At 50th & France, shopkeepers focus on perfecting their niches and minding one another’s turf

More than 20 independent fashion boutiques are crammed into Edina’s 50th & France shopping district, leaving each with the difficult task of distinguishing itself. Kathryn Paulsrud, owner of Bumbershute, concentrates on edgy fashions and accessories from luxury lines like Helmut Lang and 3.1 Phillip Lim. Sacha Martin, co-owner of Bluebird Boutique, caters to stylish stay-at-home moms with designer jeans, T-shirts, and separates. “Our boutiques are for sure the most fashion-forward,” says Martin, placing Bumbershute and Bluebird among the cool kids in the neighborhood. “We have a lot of crossover customers.”

Paulsrud says her goal is to generate $1 million in annual sales. Martin’s business is slightly larger, thanks in part to an additional outpost in Maple Grove, though she declined to provide precise figures. Bumbershute and Bluebird are among the corner’s small- to mid-size businesses, according to Rachel Thelemann, executive director of the 50th & France Business and Professional Association. So how do they compete with the area’s larger players, including national chains like Anthropologie and local powerhouse Dana’s?

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Paulsrud and Martin are careful not to encroach on each other’s niche. Bumbershute is known for a slightly higher price point and more big-time labels than Bluebird. When Martin was offered an account from IRO, a line of luxe denim and other casual French fashions, she simply forwarded the info to Paulsrud, who now stocks the brand successfully. “This has always been the unspoken neighborhood rule,” says Thelemann.