A new app for shopping local fashion

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There's a free shopping app that allows users to find local shops, check out the goods and make purchases through the app. The Nearby launched in January 2013 and debuted in New Orleans in March 2013. Sixteen New Orleans boutiques have joined, and so have nearly 200 stores in more than 30 cities ranging from Atlanta to Washington, D.C.

So what makes this app different from interfacing with a shop via its Facebook page?

"The major difference is communication," says Amanda Weisiger, the app's editor. "Shops post images all day, and users can communicate with the salespeople at the stores. You can say, 'Can you put that on hold for me?' or 'Here's my credit card number; ship it to me.'"

Screen shot from The Nearby
  • Screen shot from The Nearby

"It's also great for traveling," adds app founder Laura Vinroot Poole. "If you're going to a city you've never been to before and you don't want to go to the mall, it tells you all the best local spots to go. This is a curated list of shops, and you can see what each shop has in stock before you head out."

Poole's idea for the app was born from frustration. A boutique owner in Charlotte, N.C., she wanted a way to let people in other markets know about her shop's high-end merchandise. "In the middle of the recession, I had a store full of these amazing clothes, and it was hard to communicate the message to people in New York or L.A. who would have been interested in things like pink Balenciaga bags," she says.

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Facebook didn't offer sophisticated private communication with clients, and Instagram didn't offer a way to make purchases, so Poole got together with a friend who develops software applications and created a vehicle that melds social networking, a Pinterest-style feed and e-commerce. More than 10,000 people have downloaded the app since January, and more than 100 boutiques have joined. The app is free for users. Boutiques pay $100 a month to participate.

Poole says customers love the layout, and personal shoppers use the app for outfitting clients. In addition to women's apparel, The Nearby features jewelry and home items.

New Orleans is one of The Nearby's biggest markets, Weisiger says. "People who love the app are looking for independently owned boutiques instead of the department-store experience," she says. "New Orleans is a natural place to go, because there's a real boutique culture."

A list of NOLA shops on The Nearby
  • A list of NOLA shops on The Nearby

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