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Monday, November 9, 2009

Holiday Shoppers are feeling more "Bah Humbug" than frivolous.

The National Retail Federation just published its "Top 10 Holiday Trends" report and the news was daunting. You will need focus and imagination to get your share of the shrinking holiday dollar this season. The list, in a nutshell, is as follows:

1. The Recession is real. American's believe that the recession has NOT ended, looking to unemployment figures, rather than stock market activity, to gauge the pulse of the economy;

2. James Carvel was right... it is all about the economy! Gift giving will reflect the state of the economy, as more folks give homemade gifts, buy "joint" presents, and focus on necessities. 70% of those surveyed said they will be shopping at discount stores, while 11% said they would shop at thrift stores;

3. Sales and Promotions will rule the day. Consumers are waiting for big markdowns, and retailers are keeping inventory lean. Customers who wait until the last minute in the hopes of crazy discounts might be sorry;

4. Consumers will be reluctant to use credit cards. This provides an opportunity for retailers who offer layaway.

5. It is the thought that counts. People will be spending 17% less on friends, and 15% on co-workers this year;

6. We are all going to be eating more! Food related holiday spending is predicted to rise $10 per person, as we give gifts of food, or invite guests over for holiday fun.

7. People want to RECEIVE gift cards. This makes an era of extreme financial restraint, gift cards are like found money....more practical than another package of bath salts.

8. The internet will impact holiday purchases. One in three holiday sales will be impacted by the internet. Moreover, Savvy online retailers will use social media to connect with their customers. In fact, about 60% of the retailers surveyed said that they have improved their Facebook and Twitter pages in an effort to reach consumers.

9. Department Stores are where it is at for the 18-24 year old market; and

10. Impulse buying will be nothing more than a gleam in the shopper's eye. Budget constraints will rule the day.

Sigh. Retail ain't for sissies. The facts are simple:

Bad economy + Holidays =
Reduced Holiday Spending.

What is The Crafty Retailer to do?

Put on your blinders, shut out the naysayers, and BE IN IT TO WIN IT! people will be spending less this year. I bet you knew that before you read this blog post. Nonetheless, people will be spending SOMETHING. Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to ensure that the money that is spent...however paltry the spent IN YOUR STORE!

*Show your customers that shopping with you will enable them to stick to their budget. Offer store samples that reflect $10, $20, $30 price tags. Promote these Recession Busters in your newsletters and Bag Stuffers.

*Schedule classes that are in sync with the times. Consider a "How to Etsy," class that teaches your customers how to earn money with their love of crafting. Eva Arias of The Bead Boutique in Brandon, Florida has had great success with her Etsy class. The teacher is a customer who happened to mention that she sold on Etsy. Eva snagged her for the class and it has proven to be a store staple. "Recycle, Reclaim, Reuse" classes have gained in popularity as consumers have become more thrifty and more environmentally aware. Creative folks are using thrift store finds as a basis to "re-purpose" an object to give it a second life. An old sweater becomes a handbag, a pair of jeans becomes a pillow. A quick Google search of “reuse and recycle thrift store finds” turns up 445,000 hits! Ellen Luckett Baker of The Long Thread has a great tutorial for the holiday trees pictured at left, using old sweaters. Imagine a tree embellished with beads purchased from your store, or some crocheted embellishment from yarn on your shelves.

The Green movement is a trend that is here to stay, so you might as well embrace it. While you will not make as much money on a sale that is centered upon up-cycling an old garment, you will be able to sell the ancillary beads, yarn, etc. needed to turn the thrift store find into a masterpiece. Moreover, your willingness to provide a place to gather and craft will make you a hub of the crafty community. People will hang out and before you know it, you will have created a following that will be around when the economy recovers. Need more inspiration? Check out the latest issue of Altered Couture for creative eye candy.

Folks facing a crisis feel more in control when they are able to take action. It is your job to help your customer find the connection between the turbulent economy and the solace that crafting can provide.

Crafting is truly uncomplicated joy...spread the word!

Your shop newsletter plays a critical role in your economic success. Use the newsletter as you would a letter to a friend. It should be warm, educational and playful. Give your customers a reason to read it, beyond the obvious desire to sell them something! Include a link to an interesting site, a free tutorial, or even a recipe. Here is one to get you started:

World's Greatest Banana Bread
2 cups of flour 1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1 1/2 cups sugar 1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups shortening (Crisco) 3 over ripe bananas (the kind you would throw away!)
2 eggs Topping (1/3 cup sugar plus 3 teaspoons of cinnamon)
5 tablespoons milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two loaf pans.
Combine flour and sugar, then add all other ingredients except topping items and mix together. Pour batter into the pans and smooth tops. Bake for 10 minutes.

Sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over top of bread. Bake for 35 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.


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