Who thought Kearney, Nebraska would be an international fashion center?
Can you imagine rural Nebraska as a hotbed of fashion? Fashion doyens may raise their sculpted eyebrows at the thought, yet Buckle, a leading retailer of branded casual apparel, footwear and accessories, opened its first store in Kearney, Nebraska in 1948. Today, Buckle operates over 450 stores in 43 states yet the company’s roots are firmly planted in rural Nebraska, with corporate offices and design studios still located in Kearney.
When founder David Hirschfeld’s son Dan took over operations in 1965, he began moving the company toward a more casual line of clothing and by the early 1970s, the store became a denim-based retailer. Still known as a denim destination, each store carries a wide selection of fits, styles, and finishes from leading denim brands, including the company’s exclusive brand, BKE. The company went public in 1992 and trades on the NYSE under the symbol BKE.
Buckle’s amazing success story caught our attention at Nebraska Rural Living. With assistance from Lori Cody, Buckle Director of Marketing, we arranged time to experience Buckle’s mission statement which is: “To create the most enjoyable shopping experience possible for our guests” for ourselves.
Our own fashion experts
In an era of big box stores with sparse and mostly disinterested employees, we were skeptical of the “most enjoyable shopping experience”, so we put it to the test. Our test subjects are fourteen-year-old twin girls, Caylin and Christine, who are budding fashionistas and intent upon shopping for school clothes.
We entered into Buckle’s creative, colorful swirl of fashion on a Friday morning by appointment. Lori encouraged us to experience the personal Get-Fitted service offered to Buckle guests by scheduling time with a Buckle “teammate” prior to our shopping experience, so I spoke with Kasha, the store manager, and answered several questions about the girls’ sizes, interests and style preferences.
Stepping through the wide doors of Buckle is like stepping into a tropical rainforest, except instead of forest green, the underlying impression at Buckle is denim blue. A rainbow of orange, turquoise, pink, lavender, yellow and green tops, shirts, and accessories shimmers in the muted blue tones.
The variety and quantity of styles, colors, and accessories intimidated us until Kasha met us with her dazzling smile and welcome. Following introductions, Kasha guided Caylin and Christine to nicely–sized fitting rooms where three combinations of jeans, shirts, vests, accessories, and shoes were arranged for them to try on. Happily, the pants and tops fit each girl perfectly, and they were enthusiastic about Buckle’s Get-Fitted service.
The butterflies emerge
Like butterflies emerging from their cocoons, Caylin and Christine floated out of their fitting rooms amid exclamations of “perfect fit!”, “you look wonderful in that color!”, “that style is adorable on you!”, and “try these shoes!”
“I learned about a style that fits me and looks great and I also learned how to wear the accessories; and I found out that olive is the new black for fall,” Caylin enthused.
“We often use the word creative in our business because fashion is very creative,” Kasha said. “We help our guests learn how to put fashion together; we interpret their unique style through fashion and we try to understand each guest’s personal preference.”
Kasha and her teammates helped Christine and Caylin play with different combinations for each ensemble. They tried on boots, flats, wedges and sporty shoes until the style and the fit satisfied them. Scarves, headbands, necklaces, shirts, tops, skinny jeans, straight jeans, faded, distressed, and many others were among the styles they experienced. The skillful, creative teammates helped them step outside their usual choices and identify the colors and styles that they liked and those that they didn’t. Kasha and her teammates were receptive to their wishes, interests and choices. As Christine put it, “They asked me what I liked, listened to me say what I didn’t like, and helped me understand the colors and the styles that looked best on me.”
Buckle store managers see themselves as entrepreneurs in their own stores. “Buckle store managers hire their sales teammates and provide them with sales training and product knowledge to become a denim specialist and a personal stylist,” Kasha said.
Buckle’s store environment is fast-paced and constantly changing. Kasha said, “Fashion turns so fast, when you see and like an item, and come back tomorrow, it might be gone. New products arrive at the store every day. The variety keeps the teammates and guests excited about the merchandise selection we offer.”
Kasha and the sales teammates admit that they thrive in Buckle’s environment of fashion, creativity, merchandising, sales training and being a personal stylist. Kasha adds, “I’m excited about what I’m going to do for the day, and it starts with the outfit I put on.”
Our productive, efficient and delightful Get-Fitted experience at Buckle impressed us. .We want our readers to know more about Buckle, and how a company dedicated to fashion thrives in rural Nebraska. Join us for Part 2 of Buckle’s story published in the October edition on Nebraska Rural Living www.Nebraskaruralliving.com. In the meantime, admire and enjoy Buckle fashions at a Buckle store near you, or online at http://.www.buckle.com
For more information…
The Buckle, Inc.
2407 W. 24th Street
Kearney, NE 68845