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A Christian Lacroix fashion boutique
A German boutique for exclusive casual wear.

A boutique is a small shopping outlet, especially one that specializes in elite and fashionable items such as clothing and jewellery. The word is French for "shop", via Latin from Greek ἀποθήκη (apothēkē), "storehouse".[1][2]

The term entered into everyday English use in the late 1960s when, for a brief period, London was the centre of the fashion trade. Carnaby Street and Kings Road were the focus of much media attention as home to the most fashionable boutiques of the era.

This term can also refer to a specialised firm such as a boutique investment bank or boutique law firm. The word is often used to describe a property in the independent section of the hotel market (such as The Rockwell in London) in order to distinguish themselves from larger chains (such as Hilton Hotels). In such cases, the establishments aim to convey the idea that the operation is elite and highly specialised.

In the strictest sense of the word, boutiques would be one-of-a-kind but more generally speaking, some chains can be referred to as boutiques if they specialize in particular styles.

Recently, the term "boutique" has started being applied to normally-mass-market items that are either niche or produced in intentionally small numbers at very high prices. This may be referred to as boutique manufacturing. For example, before the release of the Wii, a Time Magazine article suggested that Nintendo could become a "boutique video-game company", producing games for niche audiences, rather than trying to compete directly with Microsoft and Sony.[3]

Although some boutiques specialize in hand-made items and other truly one-of-a-kind items, others simply produce t-shirts, stickers, and other fashion accessories in artificially small runs and sell them at high prices.

In late 1990s some European retail traders developed the idea of tailoring a shop towards a lifestyle theme, in the form of "concept stores",[4][5] which specialised in cross-selling without using separate departments. One of the first[when?] concept stores was 10 Corso Como in Milan, Italy followed by Colette[6] in Paris and Quartier 206[7][8] in Berlin. Several well-known American chains such as Urban Outfitters,[9][10] D-A-S-H, and The Gap,[11] Australian chain Billabong and, though less common, Lord & Taylor adapted to the concept store trend after 2000.

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