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Monday, June 22, 2009

Use a Marketing Calendar to Beat the Recession into Submission!

More than a few businesses have posted signage which declares that they have chosen "not to participate" in the recession. Hmmm ... I get it .... I think. Such optimistic bravado is an attempt to push past the negative news that we read in the newspapers and hear on the nightly news. Good in theory, but not particularly effective in the real world.

If I choose not to participate on a diet I generally find myself with jeans that don't fit. If I choose not to participate in the discipline of my children, I wind up with spoiled brats. Ignoring reality does not make it go away, regardless of the rosy tint of your glasses! People are losing jobs, belts are tightening across the nation and many folks simply don't have a choice about participating in the recession! It's here. Rather than ignore the recession, beat it into submission!

Unemployment numbers in my home state are at the highest level in 35 years, and yet many retailers are thriving. Are they the lucky few? Nahhhh! It has been my experience that the harder I work, the luckier I get! I am sure that the same is true for those "lucky" shop owners. Is it true for YOU? You have great product, you have wonderful employees, but the economy might be taking its toll.

What is the Crafty Retailer to do?

Create a Marketing Calendar and do some event planning! NO EXCUSES, NO MORE DELAY. Promotions are the life blood of a successful retail store. A marketing calendar is a versatile document that will help you keep track of your promotional objectives by outlining what is going on and where you should turn your attention next. You do not need any fancy software; rather, you can use an excel spreadsheet or a word document. Simply break the next 6 months into four week blocks and plan at least one activity for each week of each month. The activity can be relatively passive (a book club knit-a-long) or a more monumental event (a wine and cheese product launch). Your marketing calendar might include the following columns: Week, Event Name, Description of Event, Date of Event, Projected Cost, Advertising/Promotion plan, and Event Critique. This detailed event log will prove invaluable over the months as you endeavor to refine and improve your promotional savvy. Send me an email at and I will send you a copy of the spreadsheet I use!

Need some inspiration? Joyce Rapezzi of My Craft Room in Troy, Michigan knows how to get it done, despite living in a state with a 14% unemployment rate. The upscale craft store showcases beads, yarn, cardmaking, and more. Joyce has owned the store for six years and works hard to attract the "Cross Over" Crafter. She knows that the woman who comes in to buy yarn probably has a smattering of other craft projects in the works and she wants to get her share of that creative dollar too! My Craft Room has a number of promotional events in the works at all times. Some of my favorites:

Free Classes for the Unemployed: If a customer or her spouse has lost a job within the last year, Joyce encourages her to come in and take some classes at no cost. Moreover, all class materials are provided FOR FREE and information on selling home made crafts on sites such as Etsy is passed along to attendees. In addition to providing a much needed boost to someone who probably needs it, Joyce has garnered some priceless publicity for her efforts.

Customer's Garage Sale: This one is brilliant! Customers are encouraged to bring their gently used craft supplies to the store for a "Garage Sale." Each customer is assigned a number and as sales are rung up during the event, they are recorded appropriately. Upon the conclusion of the sale the participants are awarded a store gift certificate for the amount of their sales.

Big Bag Event: Customers are offered 25% off of everything they can fit into the "big bag." If the bag breaks, the deal is off!

Yarn Tasting: New Yarns are displayed in Cocktail glasses, food and beverages are served, and a good time is had by all!

Christmas in July: No explanation needed! The time is now....get this promotion scheduled as there are holiday gifts to be made! There are only six months left until Christmas....pick one week next month to decorate the store, wear your jingle bell earrings, turn down the air conditioner, and serve up some hot chocolate!

Corny? Yup! Effective? Yup!

RETAIL STORE CHALLENGE FOR JUNE: You have one more week left to tell us how you are RESURRECTING DEAD INVENTORY and turning it into CASH! Get rid of your dead inventory this month! Procrastination is not an option....December will be here before you know it and then you will have a choice to make: Write off the loss or pay tax on an unmarketable asset. Talk about adding insult to injury! You need to unload the duds but we want to make it fun! Email us with the details of your Dead Inventory Resurrection promotions and five winners will be announced the first week of July. You have a month to unload the baggage and win an embellishment package featuring Swarovski beads and hand dyed silk ribbon!

ETHICAL QUESTION FOR RETAILERS: A customer told me a story recently that got me seems that she had scheduled a trunk show with a popular vendor and had spent a significant amount of money promoting the event. Cards had been mailed, e-mails had been sent, and phone call reminders made. The big week-end came and went with dismal sales. It seems that her competitor had learned of the event and decided to put all of that vendor's product on sale in her store at 50% off. My customer was frustrated and disappointed. What do you think of her competitor's actions? Fair or foul? Would you do it? Let us know your thoughts!


  1. The store owner should have come up with a different trunk show than a line her competitor already carried, esp a line that they were prepard to dump just to prove a point.
    Clearly a feud is going on here,(one shop copies another, one shop stabs the other) better to put energies into something more positive

  2. I imagine that the competitor's willingness to dump stock came as a bit of a surprise to the shop hosting the trunk show. The dumped stock was not identical; rather, it was a necessary industry basic that carries a low margin. The trunk show promotional items were higher end. Regardless, business IS business and perhaps all is fair in love, war, and retail. I had numerous competitors when I owned my retail store and one in particular made it a point to "trash talk" the others. The strategy never made much sense to me ... my need to protect my personal karma made it easy to keep my mouth shut!

  3. I believe in karma... what goes around comes around. All we can do is put our best foot forward in life and business every day. We can't control the actions of others... only our own actions and reactions. Rather than try to squash the "competition" we need to figure out how to co-exist and build upon our individual strengths.

  4. I couldn't agree more, Sandy! I have never had a reason to regret taking the high road and on those occasions when I have strayed off the path, there have been consequences! We may get more wrinkled as we age, but if we are lucky we get a bit wiser along the way!

  5. I think that's a low blow... and I do agree that it will come back around to the other store. But a heartbreak, none the less, to the store that put all the effort and expense into promoting something special. --- The rest of the post was fantastic! I had my perspective shift when you addressed "relatively passive events", like a knit along, as a marketing move. I had never thought of it that way! So true that those enjoyable gatherings do get people talking and when they get to know you as a person, it seems to make your product/art that much more desirable!
    Thanks for always providing the tips and tricks of your trade!