How specialty retailers deal with challenges

In an economy that’s leading many shoppers to shut their wallets, Devine Street retailer Arden Korn is doubling her bet.

The owner of Little Lambs & Ivy children’s clothing store for three years, Korn opened a children’s shoe store around the corner on Holly Street just two weeks ago.

Devine Street is a hub for specialty stores in Columbia. For decades, it has attracted higher-end boutiques and eateries that offer unique goods and foods, and heavy customer service, USC retailing professor Richard Clodfelter said.

“Sometimes those kinds of stores can weather an economic downturn like we’ve been facing,” he said. “They tend to know their customer much better and really specialize.”

The folks beyond the storefronts on Devine chose to take on mass merchants, but at a risk. They are betting their livelihoods that they can best the recession.