Jochen Hornberger and Allen Popovic have been a retail duo for a while now. After running their Munich-based NoaNoa mono-brand store for five years, they finally decided to get more brands on board and create Milk, a boutique environment for a selection of womenswear brands. In our interview, the two explain what this shift has done to their consumer base, why they do not run an online shop and how fruit prints are going to be a big thing next summer. Interview by Maria Hunstig

Jochen Hornberger, partner of Allen Popovic
Jochen Hornberger, partner of Allen Popovic
Why did you open up your store? Tell us the story behind it!
The store was previously a NoaNoa mono-brand store under our direction for five years. Now we transformed the store into Milk, simply because we wanted to have a more individual, boutique-like selection and appearance again. Additionally, during the past five years, the Gärnterplatz neighbourhood has changed a lot and the clientele has become younger. Therefore we had the desire to complement NoaNoa with new “partners” and put a new label on it. We could already see the success two weeks after the opening: Customers, who would have never entered a NoaNoa store (“my mum buys this”, “too romantic for me”, “isn’t that the brand with the many layers?”) are excited and buy – next to other brands – NoaNoa pieces very enthusiastically. The other reason for changing our concept is, that we did have a multi-brand store for a short while around six month ago – but in a bad location. It was called “Lait Cru”, which means “Raw Milk”, that’s where the new store’s name Milk comes from. During the time in between, there have always been customers demanding for that concept: individual, with brands that no one else stocks and with a good price-performance ratio. Voilà: Here we go again!

What is the most important ingredient for successful retail?
Individuality - a signature. Believing in your own taste and staying true to it. And first of all: Creating customer loyalty via service, friendliness and targeted, competent advice.
Milk, Munich
Milk, Munich

What are your current bestsellers (brands and styles)? What is your personal favourite brand?
Of course NoaNoa is still highly demanded as the “old” customers still come in. But also our new Spanish labels Nice Things and Indo&Cold are very popular, because they are simply different to the mainstream. The more mature customer values Avoca due to their great quality and fits.
Our customers also love and buy a lot of the jewellery by Munich-based brand Indigena – even though it is real jewellery and therefore higher priced. Our personal favourite brand is Nice Things at the moment, because there is simply nothing comparable out there.

Which new brands have you recently added to your assortment?
In our case, everything apart from NoaNoa is new in the assortment. For S/S14 we will add
La Fée Maraboutée – they create wonderful modern dresses.

Milk, Munich
Milk, Munich
Do customers look for special brands and pieces or do they shop spontaneously?
They shop spontaneously. We do consciously offer some less-known labels as well, so customers get convinced by styles, patterns and qualities.

Where do you buy your merchandise? What inspires you? Where do you get information on trends?
We order at the established trade fairs, respectively afterwards at the showrooms. We find inspiration in travelling, flea markets and vintage clothing. When traveling, we spot a lot of trends. London is an especially great source of inspiration and new ideas.

What trends can we expect for Spring/Summer 2014?
For us, Dolce Vita will be a key theme: A journey into Italy of the 50s, Capri images, fruit prints etc. In many collections, there are vintage pieces which could be from that time period. All that gets captured and modernized by elaborate Parisian style and finally by really great jersey dresses again. We nearly didn’t order any black but continue with much colour, however, always in dulled, broken tones. Plus: patterns, patterns, patterns!
Milk, Munich
Milk, Munich

How do you keep in contact with your regulars?
We have a customer mailing ca. once a month where we report on news. We also send out goodies via mail to our 50 top customers once in a while and we are also involved on Facebook.

What does your store have, that others don’t?
It brings a spark of SoHo into the Gärtnerplatz quarter and you can actually buy many of the (vintage) decorations. It’s sort of a mini concept store.

What do you like about your city / location / customers?
The Reichenbachstraße is one of the last streets without a chain store on it. It offers a good mix of individual retail: fashion, jewellery, interior, cosmetics – many different genres and in between a few long-established electronics specialist shops or tailors. Some tourists, especially from Switzerland, do actually compare the area to SoHo very often. The clientele are also very colorful: You can find anyone from a 17-year-old girl, to a 75-year-old professor’s wife here – and all of them love with the area.
Milk, Munich
Milk, Munich

How is customer behaviour developing – do they look for classics or specialties?
Definitely for specialties. Classics can be found everywhere today, even at a cheap rate, and you couldn’t tell the difference. We are also convinced that customer behaviour in the field of textiles at our price point is once again coming back into boutiques and away from the internet and mega stores, because you have a very low frustration barrier there (no service, bad counselling, the feeling of buying mass produced apparel etc.).

Do you have an online shop? Do you run any social media activities?
We are very active on facebook where we post new information on a daily basis. We do not and will not run an online shop.

Is there a role model for Milk? Any store worldwide that inspires you?
Anthropologie is a great idol. We like its style and the mixture with vintage pieces. Moreover, it’s great that they carry a lot of practically unknown, but very beautiful brands with appropriate price points which do not follow every trend but stand on their own.

Store's address:
Reichenbachstraße 41
80469 München
Tel. 089 1895 42 74