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Monday, October 19, 2009

Is your Retail Store going to survive the Recession? The choice is up to you!

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it." We have all heard it a million times. Well, maybe it only seems like a million, but we have all heard it, thought it, and repeated it. It is sage advice. After all, if something is working well it makes sense to keep on course. Why is it that we have such difficulty mastering the reverse: "If it IS broken, DO fix it!"

The answer is simple: people are naturally resistant to change. In fact, we will do all sorts of ridiculous things to avoid change, even when the current state is unpleasant for us and we know that the change will relieve the discomfort. I will share a silly, some might say pathetic, personal story by way of illustration:

I have short hair. It has been short for several years and my husband has hated it since the day I cut it. I have resisted his efforts to persuade me to grow it out because (1) it is so darn easy to maintain and (2) he ain't the boss of me. Yup, short hair was working for me just fine....until I gained ten pounds. You know---that whole pear thing---I am not so crazy about the "little head/big butt" juxtaposition. Sigh.

What is a crafty human to do?

The way I see it, I have three doors open to me:

Door #1: Keep the Status Quo, except that in two years my hair will still be short and I will be even heavier.
Door #2: Lose the weight and like the hair again.
Door #3: Grow out the hair.

I will take Door #3, Monty. Yup....I have made the choice to to grow out my hair. I know myself pretty well and I have a clear understanding as to how this little drama will play out. The endeavor will take me at least two years and will require a drawer full of barrettes and an expensive assortment of hair product. I will be frustrated and hair obsessed for the entire debacle. Although I will
continue to avoid the gym and drink wine with dinner, I will persevere in my quest for long lovely locks....BECAUSE....I...AM...NOT....A...QUITTER!!! Finally....after great personal sacrifice and extreme patience on the part of my family, I will have long hair. I will hate the long hair and will pull it into a pony tail to get it out of the way. Ultimately, I will cut it and then complain about my weight. Weird, huh?

Seriously. It is embarrassing to even read this silliness! Rather than take the steps necessary to get to my ideal weight I am going to torture myself in a quest to achieve an outcome that I don't really want. I know what I need to do to knock off the poundage. Why in the world don't I simply take the steps to lose the weight? Where is a therapist when you need one?

This silly story is analogous to what I see playing out with many independent craft retailers today. So come along and join the Ghost of the Retail Present and see if you recognize yourself in the following scenario:

It has been a long, slow day. The store isn't doing well. Heck, none of the shops in the strip center are doing well. You talked to all of the other tenants last week and everyone was complaining. A customer told you that she thought your competitor might be closing because her inventory is so thin. You wonder what they are saying about you. You are starting to get a little bit scared. Your mind starts to wander during the ride home......You know that you need to up your game. You need to plan some promotional events but you don't have the budget. You should get on more of a schedule with the shop newsletter. Your favorite customer recently lost her husband and you keep forgetting to send a note. You vow to do it tonight! In fact, you have a few hours to yourself while your spouse/child/significant other is working late/at practice/out with friends. You will do some research and figure out a marketing strategy. You will discuss it with the staff in the morning. Things are going to change! You have a plan of action! Life is good! You feel better already. You open the front door filled with a sense of purpose. You are on a mission. a
re focused... you are strong... until [insert "life happens " scenario know, the stuff we all deal with all of the time....grumpy child, unexpected company, impatient spouse, sick pet, and so on and so on]. You handle the random minutia of your life for a few hours and when you finally settle down at the computer it is 11:00. You are exhausted and spend a few unproductive minutes trying to work. Oops. You forgot to send that condolence letter. Sigh. You will try again tomorrow.

Except that tomorrow is not much different. Life really does get in the way. There really are too few hours in the day. You can't possibly "up your game"...there is simply no time to spare for research, event planning, note writing, etc. But wait a are working more hours than ever before! You are finding the time to work extra hours every week frantically doing more of the same thing that is keeping you where you are! Weird, huh? Where is a therapist when you need one?

What is a Crafty Retailer to do?

The way I see it, you have three doors open to you:

Door #1: Keep the Status Quo, except it might mean that you will slowly go out of business and drain family resources along the way.
Door #2: Make the changes that need to be made to keep the business viable.
Door #3: Decide, after great thought and contemplation, that you don't want to make the changes required for viability and close the doors. Congratulate yourself for making the decision and enjoy your life.

So, what is it gonna be? Doors #2 and #3 are scary because they require change. It is tempting to "go ostrich" and refuse to make an affirmative decision. Of course, the refusal to make a decision simply opens Door #1----the Retail Death Spiral. Take control and pick the door that will get you where you want to go! There are lots of stores that will thrive in this economy. The degree to which you find success is largely up to you! Hmmm....I guess I should lace up my shoes and head on over to the gym......


Jackie Goff of Uptown Fibers near Toledo, Ohio just told me about an awesome promotion that has met with great success in her shop. She encourages her customers to be "Busy Bees." Anyone who finishes a project within 30 days of purchasing the raw materials gets 10% off their next purchase. Customers bring in a copy of the receipt and show off the finished object. This represents one more inexpensive way to build community and establish a successful store culture. Retailers could have a lot of fun with this concept...put up a BUSY BEE Bulletin Board with pictures of the completed projects and happy owners. It is a great way to encourage folks to finish what they start (and buy what they need for the next project!)

High rent and depleted inventory stressing you out? Consider renting out a few display cases to emerging artists seeking to sell their wares. Do you own a yarn store? Offer consignment space to a talented jewelry designer or paper artist. Own a bead store? How about a crocheted jacket to showcase your necklace sample? You get to flesh out your inventory without a cash outlay and have some news to share with your customers in your next newsletter, and the emerging artists get the exposure. Don't you just love crafting a WIN-WIN?

CHALLENGE: Challenge yourself to do THREE things THIS WEEK to move your business forward. Implement a new system, streamline a process, do something different to bring about change and then tell us about it!

COMING NEXT WEEK: Some real world strategies for coping with the recession and a glimpse at some retail craft stores that are doing it well!


  1. Love reading this because I had to look reality in the eye recently ... my solution was to move my store to another, busier town! It's been a ton of work ... today the doors open on our new place ... ready or not. The hardest part was making the decision. The rest fell into place once it was made.

  2. Roseann:
    I am totally impressed that you are taking the time to read blogs on Opening Day! I had a peak at your website and now I get do a masterful job with social networking...KUDOS! Congratulations on taking the leap to a new location...making the decision to make a decision is the most agonizing part of the process!

  3. Do you do a podcast Pat?
    I would love this (podcast) to roll into Itunes so I could listen to it instead of read it...

    And I LOVED the hair you had in Columbus in June

    Knit 1 Bead 2
    Jerome, AZ

  4. Ahhh...the hair....growing it out is every bit the nightmare I anticipated. I went to the hair salon yesterday intent on chopping it all off again. My stylist talked me out of it...for now!

    Re the is on the agenda. Thanks for the push.