Less is More: Retailers are Increasing Margins by Embracing Minimalism


There’s no denying that the concept of a minimalist lifestyle is an interesting one. It seems to fly in the face of everything we picture the “American Dream” to be: Work hard and buy the things that make us happy. From a large house with lots of land to cars every couple of years, we are a society obsessed with stuff.

While it’s obvious that minimalism has made an impact on our homes (think open floor plans and Ikea’s classic, clean lines), it’s also taking the retail world by storm. While brands like Apple have been embracing the minimalist aesthetic for years, it’s starting to pick up steam in the small business sector.

That brings up a couple of questions: What exactly is minimalism? What does minimalism have to do with profit margins?

What is Minimalism?

If you ask someone who practices minimalism what it is, they’ll tell you it’s about so much more than embracing a neutral color palette and cleaning out your closets. It’s about making changes to the way you understand and interact with your world from the inside out.

According to minimalist blogger Melissa at Simple Lionheart Life, this lifestyle change comes down to one core idea: intentionality.

At its core, minimalism is being intentional with the way you live your life… [and] only allowing what aligns with your most important values to take up your space and your time.”

Popular blogger Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist echoes the sentiment, explaining “minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we value most and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.”

At its core, minimalism is about editing the things that you use and the things that you purchase down to what truly makes you happy, which brings us to a common myth about this movement.

Many assume that the minimalist lifestyle requires you to get rid of everything you own, down to the bear necessities, and focus on finding joy in experiential pleasures, instead of physical ones.

While true that this lifestyle change would likely require you to get rid of the things around your home and in your life that you don’t use, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have things. You’re still allowed to enjoy your hobbies and collections. You’re still allowed to enjoy decorating for the holidays or buying a beautiful dress. What minimalism does, though, is push you to ask yourself if that dress, hobby, or collection is truly bringing you satisfaction, or if it’s just something else that’s going to clutter your space and your life.

What Does Minimalism Have to Do With Profit Margins

While a requirement of the minimalist lifestyle is not frugality, it is often a side effect. There is an interesting obvious issue with the idea, though. If consumers are embracing the concept of spending less and enjoying what they already own more, won’t retailers suffer?

Not necessarily. The sprawling department store is quickly going to way of the buffalo. In 2018 alone, major retailers have been closing their doors because they simply can’t keep the lights on.

Sears, one of the titans of the shopping industry, has closed 76 of their stores. Claire’s, Toys ‘R Us, Nine West, and Brookstone filed for bankruptcy. According to U.S.A Today, “Global financial services giant Credit Suisse predicted last week that up to 25% of nation's malls could close by 2022.”

Meanwhile, small boutique shops and handcrafted goods are making big gains. There’s something to be said about this move. It seems that shoppers are no longer enjoying the warehouse-like layouts of retailers, where an overabundance of choice is overwhelming and it can take hours just to buy groceries.

After decades of factory-produced goods and the constant siren call to buy the newest, the latest, and the greatest, consumers are craving unique, curated goods that help them stand out from the crowd. People are willing to pay more for less, and that’s a good thing for retailers that respond in kind.

When you’re paying for less space, less product, and less overhead, you’ve got the perfect formula for increasing profit margins. Curating a beautiful space with a few impact pieces and doing the same with your product is going to create a refreshing environment for your customers to enjoy.

People are willing to pay for limited edition, ethically sourced, and handcrafted, and retailers have the chance to create something meaningful and artful with their product. It’s a win-win for a better shopping experience.

Minnesotan Minimalism

Fortunately for native Minnesotans, we’ve always tended to embrace the idea of minimalism. Blame it on our roots. The minimalist lifestyle is par for the course in Scandinavia, where many of our ancestors hail from. That’s a big reason why we boast some of the best boutique shopping in the United States. Check out some of our favorite retailers embracing the concepts of minimalism:

Umei Boutique, 903 N 5th St

Home goods and culture come together to play beautifully at Umei Boutique. Featuring ethically sourced silks, hand painted ceramics, and other global goods, their shop brings a bit of Japan to Minneapolis. Each piece in their collection is elegant, cleanly designed, and perfect for those looking to bring harmony into their home.

Hazel & Rose, 117 N 8th Ave

Bringing together modern design and vintage luxe, Hazel & Rose caters to those with who appreciate a beautiful statement piece. Along with their range of clean-lined wardrobe staples, like this Alpine Dress by Ursa Minor and the Marcell top by Winsome, they bring in vintage pieces that pack a major punch. The woven purse and leather-trimmed wool coat are just a few of our favorites.

Winsome Goods, 201 6th St SE #2

If there’s one thing you’re going to find at Winsome Goods, it’s a selection of well-crafted products that will turn heads (in a good way!). Modern elegance and thoughtful collections abound. They keep only a few pieces in the store at a time, allowing browsers to focus on the perfect wow pieces that will bring their wardrobe to new heights. Some of their most distinctly minimalist pieces on the rack now are the lusciously soft and buttery Beale dress and their take on every professional woman's must-have staple, the button-up white collared shirt.


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