By Liz Johnson
Photography by Kevin Crawford

A few things to know about Karen Thompson, who owns a dozen stores throughout Peddler’s Village, Princeton, and Cape May, including Lace Silhouettes Lingerie and Fox and Holly, a 5,000-square-foot boutique department store.

For one, she considers herself in the hospitality business, not the retail business. Two, while she cut her teeth on intimate apparel, she has since dove into almost every sector of the retail industry. And three, her goal is to own a business that gets to celebrate a 100-year mark, a sign that her business has made it through the peaks and valleys. “We’re at 33 years right now,” said Karen. And she’s planning for the next 20 years.

Thompson’s enthusiasm and sense of adventure drive her staff. “The one thing I love about this job is that there’s something different and exciting every day,” said Taylor Jackson.  “We are always innovating and seeking new ways to elevate the guest shopping experience.”

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Thompson and her team kept pushing to keep the company strong and went looking for partnerships with other willing manufacturers who were happy to oblige. “We had to make some tough decisions,” Thompson said. “Even through the uncertain times of the global pandemic, Karen created something amazing,” said Taylor Jackson, marketing coordinator for LSL for the past year and a half. Jackson graduated from Philadelphia University with a degree in marketing and a passion for fashion. She worked in a department store through college and fell in love with the deeper “connection” that LSL Brands’ stores have with their shoppers.

“I’ve met so many amazing guests, heard their stories, and felt like I’ve gained a friend when they leave the store,” she said, using Karen’s term for shoppers. It’s a philosophy the entire company believes in, that shoppers are guests in their ‘home’ and treated like family, which helps explain the decision to make LSL Brands a hospitality company and not a retailer.

“Karen’s optimism during the uncertainty has definitely had a positive impact,” said Jackson. “Her enthusiasm and sense of adventure drive her staff. She likes to get everyone involved, and is always eager to learn and grow as a team.”

While the pandemic led to a downsizing of Fox and Holly, it didn’t slow Karen down elsewhere. Just this past May, Karen opened a new store in Cape May’s Washington Street Mall called Sunflowers of Cape May. The store has a light and airy atmosphere and features high-quality, yet affordable brands for men and women. She’s also working on the launch of the Cape May Pajama Company. This store will feature a curated collection of unique and cozy pj’s with comfort and self-care in mind. “I have a passion for pajamas,” Thompson confessed.

As the retail industry faces its share of challenges, Karen Thompson has found a way to make each one an adventure. She’s shied away from opening up in a mall, choosing outdoor shopping venues such as Peddler’s Village in Pennsylvania, Palmer Square in Princeton, and the Washington Street Mall in Cape May for her stores.

“I started my career in a mall. I love all that grandeur, and I use it as part of my inspiration for our specialty stores,” said Karen, who's working on her own “new and innovative experience” for her guests. “It comes down to people, and people want engagement. People want to support a small retailer,” she said. “You have to identify their lifestyle issues. Then you know what they want next.” For example, at Fox and Holly, guests can choose an outfit for a barbecue, then they can buy a Big Green Egg all-in-one outdoor grill or Yeti coolers to host the event.

And there are other plans to make shopping fun, like partnering with local wineries to host sip and shop events or outdoor pop-up shops highlighting local artisans involved in jewelry-making and woodworking, pottery, and more. “In every challenge, there’s an opportunity,” she said. Karen credits her family’s support for much of her success. Her son, Kerry, is the chain’s visual director. Kerry did a year at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, then moved on to Ralph Lauren, where he traveled the country doing visual merchandising. “He uses his past experiences as inspiration for our brands,” said Karen. Kerry admits to a love of fashion, the support of innovative parents, and the drive to see the company surpass the 100-year mark in business. “It’s going beyond what is normal, beyond ourselves. It means looking where no one else is looking,” he said.

Colleen Sewell, a corporate selling manager, and Fox & Holly stylist, has been working in retail for 30 years, the last seven of them with Karen Thompson’s LSL Brands.“I always loved the feeling of going into the shop at Lace Silhouettes,” she said. One day, she asked if there was an opening. Two hours later she was on the phone with Karen. “It was a wonderful experience. We shared the strength of being businesswomen and being proactive. We are not here for failure,” she said. Sewell said that listening is the key to offering shoppers the service they need.

“I always start with a greeting that segues into a conversation about what’s going on. You do it in a way that’s not selling a product, but being a matchmaker. We always want them to feel welcome,” she said.

Karen’s other son, Colin, plays tight end for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. He hosts a podcast called Not For Long and offers free marketing advice when she needs it, she said. Her husband Dave, former owner of Thompson Networks in Doylestown, is her biggest supporter, she said. He also handles the technological operations of LSL Brands. As important as family has been to the success of LSL Brands, so has the community. Whether it’s listening to guests’ concerns when they walk into the shop, or donating a gift certificate to a good local cause, or hosting a denim fashion gala for Pine2Pink, a local breast cancer nonprofit. “We love being philanthropic, and supporting our communities and local families,” said Kerry.

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By |2021-09-08T08:33:15-04:00June 29th, 2021|1 Featured and Sliders, Bucks Happening, Featured, Instagram, Shopping|

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