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Monday, August 24, 2009

Refine your Brand Identity to Enhance your Profitability!

Children all over America might be enjoying the waning days of summer, but their mothers are counting the seconds until the school bus starts making the rounds again! Summer vacation is a struggle for want to provide your child with a wonderful break from routine, but you still have a business to run. Many retail craft store owners put the business on cruise control June through August as they turn their attention to the family. You have to do it, but the reality is that the business suffers. You have a lot of catch up work this Fall!

Plan NOW to ensure that you get your share of the shrinking shopping dollar during the holiday season. Use this "lull before the storm" to take a clinical look at your business. Pat yourself on the back where you deserve it, but be merciless where you must. Consumers have a world of shopping choices today. The internet is cheap, easy, and fast. Your brick and mortar competitors are working hard to persuade your customers to shop with them instead of you.

What is the crafty retailer to do?

Take the steps necessary to ensure that Carly Crafter will get in her car and drive past your competitor to shop in your store!

One of the biggest challenges facing craft retailers today is the need to establish a clear and compelling brand identity. Many of the independent craft stores that I visit look like clones of one another. Seriously...they are "cookie cutter" identical. It is apparent that many buy from the same vendors and they stock "commodity" inventory rather than one of a kind pieces. Ho Hum. Face it: If it is the same stuff that can be found on-line and in the shop down the street, then it will have to be dirt cheap to attract clientele. Unfortunately, if you have to "give it away" to customers who are loyal only to price point, then it is a bad business model and you shouldn't be stocking it anyway!

A successful retail craft store needs to be a CREATIVE DESTINATION worthy of a customer's time and money! It must be a oasis from the mundane. Look objectively at your own store and ask yourself a few questions. Do you carry a product line that no one else carries? Do you offer innovative classes that cannot be found elsewhere? Does your brand evoke warm and fuzzy feelings that customers find irresistible? It is critical that you differentiate yourself from the competition. The wonderful qualities that make you unique must be consistently expressed in every single thing that you do: from extraordinary product to exemplary service, from clever business cards to compatible store signage, from a delightful store atmosphere to a winning employee culture. Your must be able to articulate your vision to your staff so that they understand your store brand and their responsibility for promoting it. Are you making the grade?

Steven Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, has been very inspirational to me and countless others. One of his life changing "habits" is to begin every journey "with the end in mind." The idea is that you should identify your destination so that all of your future actions will be taken with an eye toward achieving your goal. He describes an airplane pilot who operates pursuant to a specific flight plan in order to get from Point A to Point B. Weather considerations might force the pilot to alter his course temporarily, but as soon as is practical the pilot reverts to the original flight plan in order to reach his destination. The same is true for all of us! Success doesn't "just happen." Nope...the harder you work, the luckier you get! Define your goals and stay on course! You will deviate from the plan from time to time as you deal with family pressures, financial challenges and the like, but if you keep focused and get back on the path you will ultimately reach your destination.

I think back to my experiences as a young mother. My friend and I had children around the same time and we were determined to be the best mothers in the world. We read the books, attended "mommy and me" classes, and documented every giggle and burp. We were really good moms. We were certainly not like those OTHER mothers! We would always be patient and our precious progeny would never be seen in public with runny noses. I still remember the day I watched her tie a bottle to the crib, positioning it so that her infant could feed himself while she dealt with one of her other children. Mind you, this woman had four children under the age of four and it was a matter of survival...for everyone. Nonetheless, I was uncomfortable....propped up bottles and infants wriggling around searching for the nipple weren't in the plan! The point is, life sometimes gets crazy and things don't always work out as planned, but you don't give up. My friend was having a bad day and she forgot her "mother of the year" goals for the moment. However, she quickly got it together, jumped back on the path, and her kids morphed into productive, amazing adults who have managed to avoid therapy and jail time! In fact, despite having been seen in public with a runny nose or two, my kids are equally productive. All is good and we are still in the running for the "Best Mom" trophy.

The same is true in business. Do you remember the store that you envisioned when you first decided to go into retail? It was going to be warm, happy, busy, and fun. By George, you were going to be rolling in the dough. You had a plan. Have you achieved your goal? Every step you take must be consistent with your vision so that you can turn the store of your realty into the store of your dreams. We all lose our way from time to time....just make sure you get back on the path that will lead you to your goal...RIGHT NOW!

Refine your focus, spiff up your brand and get marketing. Do your business cards need a face lift? If they are not advertising who you are...or who you want to is time for a change. Spend the money for a professional to design your will be worth it in the long run. The font, the graphics, the colors and the "flavor" will set the tone for your in-store signage, your newsletters, your print ads and beyond. It will give you a starting point for creating the image you want to promote.

Does your store atmosphere promote your brand? The lighting should be bright and cheerful. There should be ample room for crafting and creativity. Music should be playing and if possible, food and drinks are always a plus. Customers should be able to move about freely and not forced to navigate tight aisles. You should be scheduling at least one major promotional event and three minor events every single month.

Your staff is part of your brand. Are your employees reaching out to a limited audience? How many times have you walked into your local yarn/bead/scrapbook/paper store to find every employee twenty or thirty years older than you? I frequently hear complaints from younger Indie artists that they do not feel welcome at these establishments. Maybe it is time to rethink your hiring practices so that your employees further your brand identity. One of my most effective employees was a young cutie whose tattoos and piercings were way ahead of her time. However, her enthusiasm was contagious and customers seemed to enjoy soaking up her "coolness" by association.

Need some inspiration? Check out these retailers, each of whom has an established brand identity that works:
You've Got to Be Beading in Mystic Connecticut
Paper Tales in San Diego, California
The Yarn Garage in Rosemount, Minnesota
Ornamentea in Raleigh, North Carolina

Change is always hard, but going out of business is even harder. Carve out some time this week to articulate your vision. Brainstorm with your staff and put it in writing. Determine what it is that is special about your store and capitalize on it. Spread the word, talk the talk, and train your employees to do the same. Stay on the path and focus on the goal. Success is within your reach!


Congratulations to Cathy McKillip of Wish Upon a Quilt and Kathy Withers of Unique Designs by Kathy. Each lady won a beautiful hand dyed velvet fabric package for their contributions to our "True Confessions" Challenge Question last week. Ladies: please contact me with shipping information so that we can get your goodies to you ASAP.

Challenge Question: What steps have your recently taken, or are you going to take in the next month, to reinforce your brand identity? Shoot us an email by Sunday, August 30 to share the creative wealth and you might win a Swarovski Crystal embellishment package!

Coming next Week: We are going to focus on how to write an effective customer newsletter! Most store owners would rather have a root canal than get a newsletter out. We will give you a winning formula to take the misery out of this important marketing tool.


  1. I have been thinking of the importance of creating a "brand" for my store. Since I have moved across the street to a larger and much more elegant storefront, this has loomed large in my mind.

    To that end, we have solidified our colors to reinforce our look, in that the color on the walls works with with our business cards and hot stamping on our bags and boxes. Our website is done in the same color family and feel. I have finally hit on a newsletter format that I like, with a nice photo of the outside of our shop, again in a color that is cohesive with our physical store.

    Coming soon will be new signage within the shop. I am soon to be working with a graphic designer to create signage and tags with our logo to pull our look together, making it look more professional and elegant like our store, and keeping our brand front and foremost in the mind of our customers.

    Take care and have a great day.

  2. Congratulations on the move, Joanne! The fact that you are expanding during this constricted economy says a great deal about your ability to establish your brand identity...good for you!