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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

MORE Marketing Ideas for the Financially Challenged Craft Retailer!

The response to last week's post was generated more hits than any previous post, and also resulted in a unusually high number of follow up emails and phone calls from readers. Clearly, retailers are recognizing a need to do more than dust off the inventory and unlock the front door in order to generate the sales numbers required to keep the bill collector at bay.

It isn't hard to come up with a marketing plan. Simply brainstorm with your employees or business partner over a glass of wine or two and you will be amazed by how quickly your list grows. Nope, the HARD PART comes later---when it is time to quit talking and put your plans into action. How many of you have the knowledge required to lose that annoying extra 15 pounds? I bet every single one of you knows HOW to do it. After all, it is theory. You simply need to eat less and exercise more. So why do so many women (including me) choose to do otherwise?

The answer is obvious: Implementing a Diet and Exercise Routine takes work and discipline. It doesn't matter what your mirror reflects back, it doesn't matter that your jeans no longer will not take action until you are ready. There comes a point where the pain of not changing becomes greater than the pain of accepting change and you find that you are ready. The same is true in business. Unfortunately, a refusal to take the steps that are critical to your success can have more dire consequences than simply looking bad in a pair of jeans. It is no fun to watch your sales slide, or lay awake at night worrying about how you are going to meet payroll.

What is the Crafty Retailer to do?

You already know what you need to do, but I will spell it out if I must: the time is NOW to become a "shoppertainment" expert. Provide your customers with the fun and inspiration necessary to engender fanatical loyalty. Your new role as party planner might feel a bit uncomfortable at first, but it will grow on you, I promise! Get out your marketing calendar (I will send you a copy of the one I use if you need a sample) and finalize your store promotional events through the end of the year.

Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling:

1. October is National Popcorn Popping Month. Rent a machine for a day, week, or entire month and offer your customers a snack! Worried about them touching the merchandise? Then give them a bag on their way out the door. Mention it in your newsletter and include a recipe for Kettle Korn or Caramel Corn!

2. Use your newsletter as a resource for your customers. After all, if the content is all about you and what you need (ie, customers to spend money in your store), you will lose readership fast. Include extras like seasonal recipes or fashion news to keep them interested! One of my customers included the pictures and the blurb from last week's post on The Uniform Project in her recent email. Not surprisingly, the addition of a fun factoid resulted in a much higher click-through rate.

3. October 2 is National Denim Day. Consider offering a coupon for every pair of jeans donated by a customer and then donate the clothing to charity. Don't forget to write a press release!

4. October 26 is Mother-In-Law Day. Sponsor a contest for the best/worst Mother In Law stories and post the entries on the store bulletin board. Have customers vote for the winner.

5. HALLOWEEN, HALLOWEEN, HALLOWEEN. October promotions are no-brainers. You should have a lot of fun with this holiday and inspiration is merely a mouse click away. For example:

Crocheted and Felted Candy Corn Bag is an easy project for beginners.

Monster Embroidery patterns from Sublime Stitching's Jenny Hart would be fun to use to embellish a T-Shirt or hand towel.

A wealth of creative ideas can be found at Instructables which provides an exhaustive repertoire of DIY craft projects to inspire you and your customers.

6. Teach a new skill--for FREE--every month. When I had my bead store I taught a particular stitch every month and offered a free pattern for folks to "learn on." We met every Wednesday for "lunch bunch" and worked on the project together. It was great fun and built a wonderful sense of community. There was no pressure on anybody to spend money, because I was confident that the seeds I was planting would sprout and go on to bear fruit. My evil plan worked and we had a lot of fun ---and sold a lot of beads--in the process.

7. Ask every customer who walks in your door what other crafty projects she is working on. I found some of my best teachers/in store demonstration resources this way. For example, I learned that a customer I had been working with for years was actually a very accomplished glass artist. I promptly scheduled her to conduct a hot glass demonstration. We didn't carry any hot glass products, but the artists sold a ton of art beads and we sold a lot of supporting products. WIN-WIN

8. Schedule a class or a demonstration outside of your genre. Just because you do not have the deep pockets of a big box craft store doesn't mean that you can't offer a similar variety--- you just need to do it differently. After all, most crafters craft in many mediums, often at the same time. During the last week I knitted, felted and beaded. Tomorrow I am spending the afternoon with a nephew who is home schooled and we are playing with clay. I am willing to guess that your customers are equally versatile and want to learn other mediums. Bring in teachers who complement your inventory, even if they are outside of the genre. For example, a bead store customer of mine just scheduled a class in making silk paper. The teacher will bring the paper making supplies but it is understood that the project must be heavily embellished with beads. You can bet that the proprietor will have lots of embellishment beads ready to sell! The customers are exposed to something new and the store owner is able to test drive a new inventory possibility with little expense. WIN-WIN

9. November 3 in National Sandwich feed your customers! November 3 falls on a Saturday...get a deli to partner with you for this event and make it BIG!

10. Craft a charity event. "GO KNIT" is one of the best promotions to come across my desk recently. It was the brainchild of Seasalt, a UK clothing company that wanted to raise money for a charity that provides a haven for pets whose owners have died or become incapacitated. Seasalt put out a call to the knitting/crochet community to donate handmade scarves to be displayed in the shop window. All proceeds from the sale of the scarves went to the charity. Community response was enormous. C'mon...who isn't a sucker for pets? No one wants to imagine Fluffy heading to the animal shelter after a lifetime of pampered love and affection simply because her owner had to be hospitalized. The charity tugged at heartstrings and compassionate crafters answered the call. The event raised close to $5000 for the charity! Almost any craft store could adapt the concept. A bead store could easily promote the event by substituting jewelry for scarves and the baubles could be displayed in the window of the area's toniest boutique. Seasalt received international press for its efforts and there is no reason why you need to reinvent the wheel. It is a great idea...swish it around in your brain and adapt it so that it works for you!

Now get busy...there is work to be done! Please take a minute to drop me a line and let me know what spectacular fun YOU have planned for your store this Fall! Give up the goods and you will have a chance to win a $50 Gift Certificate.


  1. Hi there!

    Seasalt's campaign is back for its second year, this time to support The Bumblebee Conservation Trust, a lovely charity that is responding to the plight of the declining population of our bees and we wondered if you could help?
    If you could donate a scarf we would really appreciate it!
    Each of the scarves will have a large ‘hand-knitted by…’ tag which is clearly visible to everyone passing the window. Both your name and your website information can be written on the tag, giving your business some recognition here in Cornwall – and of course helping us to help the bees! We will also be promoting the project on our website so you’ll get a mention there too, the link is
    If you would like to support our campaign please send any scarf donations to:
    Kathryn Wild
    1 Church Street
    TR11 3DN
    The scarves will be displayed throughout October, sorry, we know it’s short notice! It would be great to have any scarves by the 1st October, or soon after as we will continually re-stock the charity window as scarves arrive.
    If you would like any more information please email us at or call Leigh or Chloe on 01326 312478 (ext 1007)

    Many thanks,
    Leigh, Chloe …and the bees!

  2. Chloe:
    Thanks so much for the update...what a brilliant promotion...from both a marketing AND an altruistic perspective. While it is probably too late for folks in the US to participate this year, please keep us in the loop for the next event! Good luck!

  3. Hi Pat, another great article! I'm still putting together my plan for my 1 year anniversary. Definitely needed that "kick in the butt". I would love it if you would send a copy of your calendar to cathy @ (pls remove the spaces). Thank you!