Uwe Maier, owner of Bungalow & Bel Étage by Bungalow in Stuttgart, Germany, believes that service is the most important ingredient for successful retail. Merchandise is interchangeable. He operates two stors with well-picked assortment of brands such as Acne, Maison Martin Margiela, Alexander Wang, Carven and Vanessa Bruno among others.

What does your store have that others don’t? What sets it apart from others?
The first thing is our commitment to good service and consultations. Then, of course, comes our assortment, which we choose with great care. We don’t have a problem mixing big-name brands with unknowns as long as the style and quality are consistent. We’re always looking for new products so that we can offer our own cultivated style, instead of just displaying an entire collection.
Bel Étage by Bungalow in Stuttgart
Bel Étage by Bungalow in Stuttgart

What led you to open Bungalow the first place? Tell us the story behind your store as well as the new Bel Étage by Bungalow.
Before Bungalow opened, there was a market gap in Stuttgart. We worked out a plan and made a name for ourselves on a national and international level. The idea of Bel Étage by Bungalow had been in our mind for quite some time. Opening a womenswear boutique wasn’t necessarily a logical consequence of it all, but it was a challenge we were keen to take on. The time and circumstances just seemed right.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far as an independent retailer?
The greatest challenge has always been the transition from a single- to multi-brand store and the development and fulfillment of responsibilities that goes along with that.

In your opinion, what is the most important ingredient for successful retail?
Service. Service. Service. Merchandise is interchangeable.
Bel Étage by Bungalow in Stuttgart
Bel Étage by Bungalow in Stuttgart

What are your current bestselling labels and styles? Do you have a personal favorite brand?
All the “new” labels, such as Michael Bastian and Carven, have been very well received. Big labels like Saint Laurent Paris and Prada also do well. Our strength is in the mix and the challenge to keep both components in balance.

Which new brands have you taken on most recently?
For Men: The french label AMI from Alexandre Mattiussi, for example. It’s our first season doing womenswear, so everything is new.

What is the most important garment for winter 2012 and what can we expect for the summer 2013 season?
Winter 2012: Womenswear - leather leggings; menswear - flannel shirts.
Summer 2013: Womenswear - silk blazers; menswear - jersey polos.

What are your most important trends or product groups?
Jackets – blazers, specifically – for both men and women.
Bel Étage by Bungalow in Stuttgart
Bel Étage by Bungalow in Stuttgart

How do you find new merchandise and brands for your stores? And how do you decide that certain items or designers will be a good fit?
We spend a lot of time in our showroom and at fairs and try to watch as much as possible in order to get a great overview, including on things that we don’t like.

How important is the interior and the entire atmosphere of the store?
For us, it’s very important. Our claim is to maintain high quality levels across the board, in staff and merchandise and interiors as well. We aim to give our best and to give a sense of consistency to our atmosphere and overall concept.

Is there a store somewhere in the world that inspires you or serves as a role model?
I am frequently on the move and always on the lookout for different ideas. We find shops all over the world that inspire us. We consider Bungalow and Bel Etage to be quite a unique store concept as any similarities we’ve seen have been limited to specific selections rather than entire shops.

Where do you find inspiration for your buying and information on the latest trends?
We gain a lot from travel and also from the Internet, blogs, friends and magazines.

What do you particularly like about Stuttgart, your location and your customer base?
This isn’t a big city, so you get to know people more intimately. Stuttgart is understated, yet fashionable and open-minded, which I think is often overlooked.

Bungalow in Stuttgart
Bungalow in Stuttgart
Do customers come in looking for certain products or do they usually buy spontaneously?
Fortunately, we get some of both. Lots of shoppers get inspired by our store and buy pieces very spontaneously. Others have a certain idea of what they would like to have and it’s a pleasure for us to help them find it.

How is purchasing behavior developing? Do people want classics or rather unique and individual pieces?
We’re also fortunate enough to have some of both in this regard. We always try to advise according to type and our style is never loud, but always special.

How important is communicating with customers and how do stay in touch with them?
We think this is very important. We talk to our customers frequently and send them information about new merchandise as well as new trends and styles.

Do you have an online strategy? Do you shop online yourself?
We’re focusing on a multichannel strategy rather putting all of attention online. Personally speaking, I do shop online. All of my books and running equipment, for example, I buy online.

Is there a future for real stores?
Yes, I believe in “real shops” and I’m quite convinced that they will endure. We believe that multichannel stores are becoming more and more important. People don’t have time to go through entire collections to find their favorite pieces; they would rather rely on an outstanding selection from various brands. Furthermore, without stores, cities would be empty during the day. Merchants are the face of a city. That’s a beautiful thing and should remain as such.

Store's Contact:

Bel étage by bungalow.
Theodor-Heuss-Strasse 15 - 1. Stock
70174 Stuttgart
Aufgang in der Suite 212
Phone: +49 (0)711 54094630
Mail: info@bungalow-gallery.com

Stiftstrasse 1A
70173 Stuttgart
Phone: +49 (0)711 220 2000
Mail: info@bungalow-gallery.com