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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Last Minute Holiday Make and Take Projects can get customers in the door!

The holiday countdown has begun but it is not too late for some last minute low cost marketing magic!  A quick internet search has revealed a treasure trove of crafty goodness that would be perfect for a Holiday Make and Take Event or free afternoon workshop.  Get the hot chocolate brewing, put some cookies on the counter, and show your customers some crafty love. 

For example, The Purl Bee's Betz White has a tutorial on these "Oldie but Goodie" Slippers....so awful that they are fabulous!  Seriously...I am strangely compelled to whip up a pair.  Crochet doesn't get much easier than granny squares and if they are not nice to me, every member of my family will find a set under the tree!  Yup...punitive gift giving. 

Speaking of which, how about a contest asking your customers to describe the worst gift they ever received?  Offer a shop gift certificate to the winner to make up for the horror.

In a shameless bit of self promotion, consider a Felted Soap Make and Take!  No previous felting experience is required and everyone leaves happy.  Truly, I have never met a person who was not delighted by the project.    Written instructions can be found here and for those who prefer a video demo...you can find that here.


Holiday ornaments are always a gratifying project.  I am currently working on some crochet stars courtesy of a free Ravelry download designed by Daniela Herbertz.    CraftyPod's Diane Gilleland has a simple tutorial which makes terrific use of fabric scraps to make Japanese inspired "Upholstered" ornaments like the nifty tree pictured at left.  Diane's blog is always a wonderful resource for crafty How To's and I visit her cyber home weekly!

Promote economical AND fabulous by offering a free REMAKE IT-TAKE IT jewelry event.  Etsy is filled with stunning examples of artists who fashion relevant jewelry from the broken bits and pieces that all of us have in our stash.   The charming necklace at left was crafted by Etsy artist BlueMoss and reminded me that I have a number of enamel flower pins gathering dust in the back of a drawer.  I am already daydreaming about a project for my daughter. 

Check out the stylish cuff at left ---a great use of jewelry remnants by All Things Tinsel.   My mind is abuzz with the possibilities and  I am glad to have saved all of those broken pieces that were too pretty to throw away!

Get the word out FAST with a quick e-mail blast or Facebook update.  Crafty Retail Superstar Debbie Huntoon, of Alada Beads in Michigan, uses her store Facebook page as well as just about any Crafty Retailer I have seen.     Her customers have learned to check it every few days if they don't want to miss out on a great deal.  Deb uses the page to randomly --but frequently-- to announce "today only" specials.  Great marketing...after all, everyone likes a surprise!  Facebook is a great vehicle to reinforce your brand and reach out to your customers without a direct email.  Deb also puts out a great newsletter---check out the online version.

[True Confessions:  I have been slow to jump on the business Facebook bandwagon.  NO MORE EXCUSES.  Improving my Facebook presence is on my Business Resolutions List for 2011---how 'bout you?    Help me!  Anyone who goes to my page  and LIKES IT this week will be entered to win a Truly Fabulous Gift Package.  Winner to be announced next week.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Improve your KNOW, LIKE and TRUST Quotient to increase your bottom line!

Successful entrepreneurs know the importance of customer service and it is all about your KLT Quotient.  After all, a shopper who KNOWS, LIKES, and TRUSTS you is a shopper who will spend hard earned money in your store.  Most retailers know how to be charming and engaging, but many fall short when it comes to training their employees to do the same.  After all, we often assume that everyone knows how to answer the phone in a gracious manner, will think to assist an elderly patron with her packages, or will cheerfully distract a whiny child so that Clueless Mom can shop without annoying other customers.  Unfortunately, we all know the problem with making an assumption...too often the reality proves to be quite different than what we had expected.  Are your employees inadvertently sabotaging your efforts to create a warm and fuzzy shopping experience for the folks who pay your rent?  Hmmm....maybe the disconnect is on your side!

Most employees want to perform well.  Nobody likes missing the mark or letting down the boss.  However, it is hard to succeed if the mark is fuzzy and out of focus. 

What is Crafty Retailer to do?

Improve your communication skills, for starters! 

Most craft stores are owned by women and some women have a difficult time defining their expectations in a clear, concise and meaningful way.  Assertiveness seems to go against our DNA....we have an innate desire to be liked and to avoid confrontation.  Moreover, our employees  often become our friends in a way that is not true in a more Testosterone driven environment.  My husband would never think to discuss personal "stuff" with his staff and he certainly doesn't want to hear any intimate details from them, either.  Me?  I want all the sordid details, sister!  The people who work for me know about my dog's health issues, my daughter's last date, and my struggle with the scale.  C'mon....'fess up!  It is probably true with you, as well.

It doesn't take long before many of us are sharing snippets of life with our employees.  It makes work more interesting and companionable, to be sure.  The down side is that  it feels really uncomfortable to "boss around" our friends.  Accordingly, we often give a directive in a manner that sounds more like a suggestion than a requirement.  You know what I mean.....you ask an employee if she can rearrange a display when she has a minute, rather than asking her to have it done by Friday.  You assume that it will be done within the next week and she assumes that it will get done if she has the time.

It is likely that the week will go by with the employee never finding that free minute.  You will be left frustrated and annoyed, staying late to create the display yourself, missing your son's soccer game and grumbling all the while.  Meanwhile, the poor employee senses your irritation but has no clue as to the cause, simply shrugging it off to Menopause----After all, she has been listening to you complain about hot flashes for weeks.  Ouch.

 It is easy to lose control of your shop if you do not establish clear processes and procedures. You have a right to expect the people you pay to do what is necessary to move the store forward.  However, you have a concomitant responsibility to make your expectations well defined and easy to discern.   Get over your fear of appearing bitchy--- You are not a bitch by making your expectations clear; rather, you are only a bitch if you communicate those expectations in a hostile or aggressive manner.  Channel your inner Steel Magnolia and get the job done!


 Cover the basics:  gum chewing, cell phone usage and texting, attire, attitude, etc.  

Put it in writing!
If you want the phone to be answered in a certain way, establish a procedure for it, discuss it at the weekly staff meeting (you are having weekly staff meetings, aren't you?), and put it in writing!  Keep a copy of the memo near the phone as a reminder. 


Train your employees as to the proper way to greet a customer.  "Let me know if you have any questions" is not an option.  Some more creative suggestions:

Is this your first time in the store?
If yes, then you have a wonderful opportunity to give a little tour and point out shop highlights.  If the answer is No, you can inquire as to her current project or ask what brings her in this time.

Whatcha working on?
We all love talking about our projects.  Nothing makes me feel better than having a chance to speak CraftyLove with another addict.  We have an instant bond and it adds to the whole KNOW/LIKE/TRUST factor that will turn customers in fans.

OMG!  I LOVE your sweater/scarf/necklace!  
Did you knit/crochet/weave it yourself?  Let me see it up close!
 I went into an office furniture store today to scout out my husband's competition.  I was immediately approached by a beautiful, well appointed woman who greeted me with a wide smile.  She stuck out her hand to shake mine but noticed my scarf (pictured at right)  and immediately changed gears....it was all about the scarf for the next minute.  She was genuine and delightful----too bad she is the competition because I could tell that it would be easy to KNOW/LIKE/TRUST her!  Interested in the Scarf  Tutorial?  Check it out here.

Give your trusted employees a degree of autonomy and decision making authority.
It will increase morale and inure to your benefit.  I had an encounter today where a strict an adherence to corporate policy would have been poison.  Fortunately, the employee had the authority to step outside of the corporate box to make an on the spot decision that made me KNOW/LIKE/TRUST the company.   I went to pick up some wall decals that I had designed as a giveaway for hubby's business. They were a special order and I knew that they were "non-returnable."   Unfortunately, the resolution of the image that I had sent was--unbeknownst to me--- inadequate, resulting in a flawed decal.  I was dissatisfied with the product and annoyed that the printer had not contacted me before the final printing to apprise me of the problem.   He was irritated because he figured that I knew what I was sending ---- he simply printed what he saw.    Clearly, we were at a bit of an impasse.    I could almost see the wheels turning as the salesman debated how to proceed.  Fortunately, he turned the situation into a win-win.  I will provide a better image and he will reprint the decals.  He even took the time to give me a bit of an education on his product line so that I can avoid a similar mistake in the future.

 He was excited and enthusiastic about his job, knowledgeable about his industry, and eager to move forward to make me a happy customer.  We are both confident that we will do more business together in the future.  His boss is lucky to have him and was wise to have given him a degree of latitude in daily operations.After a shaky start, this incredible sales guy went out of his way to get me to KNOW, LIKE, and TRUST him.  It worked....I doubled my initial order, placed an additional order, and left happy.   Win-Win.


IN THE STUDIO:

The holidays are hectic for every business owner and a complicated craft project would push me over the edge right now.  Accordingly, I am DELIGHTED to be working on my latest, somewhat mindless, endeavor....a rag rug crocheted from colorful old T-Shirts.  I get to be thrifty and wax nostalgic at the same time!   My daughter wants to save every shirt as a "momento" but is willing to let me raid her stash to make a commemorative rug.  It will go in a bright corner of our kitchen once it reaches 48 inches. This would be a killer first project for a teen age crochet class because of the large hook size and easy to see stitches.    I adapted the Hexagon Tutorial from Lucy at Attic 24.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Retail success is all about the branding!


I am back from my hiatus and delighted to be here.  A comforting diet of Merlot and cookies---as well as the support of a good pal----kept me going as I adapted to new demands on my time.    Happily, humans are resilient  and with practice, I have learned to keep all of the balls in the air ...for the time being...well, most of the time, anyway.  Truth be told, things are blissfully under control for the moment....and I am tickled to be back in blog land.

My Fiber/Crystal business has become a  part-time endeavor as I focus more intensely on helping my husband get his new company, an office furniture business, off the ground. [ NOTE:  I said "Part Time."   We still love to sell fiber and crystal.   You can see our current special here.]

No doubt about it, the challenges of  this new business are a bit daunting.  The store is housed in a somewhat forlorn warehouse on a great street.   The carpet is a disaster.  The interior signage is non-existent.  The website is an embarrassment.  The office cubicles utilized by the staff--and visible to the public--are old, mismatched and in disrepair.  Did I mention that it is an office furniture business? 

The business hemorrhaged cash for many months, making Husband reluctant to spend money on marketing.  Since I am all about marketing, his reticence caused me a degree of anxiety.  Of course, as often happens, the delay proved to be a good thing.    We did not have a feel for our niche in the market until recently, so an early move toward branding would have been premature.  We needed the last few months to learn who we are as a business and to identify what we want to grow into over the next few years.

Part of the education came as a result of  research investigating the websites of Office Furniture businesses all over the country.  It was a real eye opener.  I learned of trade associations that I had never heard of, found new vendors, saw what product others were dumping, etc.  It was good exercise and I encourage every small business owner to do the same thing.  You might uncover an idea for a class, store promotion, or free pattern that would never have occurred to you.

One take away:  most office furniture web sites look exactly the same...each one indistinguishable from the next.   BORING!  Worse, most folks consider an office furniture purchase to be a chore, as well as an unwelcome expense.  Customers are not coming to our store for warm fuzzies, they are coming because it cannot be put off any longer.  Further, most of our competitors sell similar items at an identical price point and competition in this tepid economy is fierce.   Our target customer is looking for a bargain.  Sound familiar?

My current challenge is to develop a brand that is memorable even thought the  product is not.   After all, one more showroom with a sea of  wooden desks and one more website with pictures of even more wooden desks will simply get lost in a sea of mediocrity!  Ho Hum.   Accordingly, we are endeavoring to build a brand  that is a  informal and a bit charming, so that visitors remember the experience... 
          ...using virtually no cash!

In the immortal words of my former business partner......

I guess it is time to pull another miracle out of my ass.

No sweat...I am up for that! 

First, a quick fix to the interior:

I am building life size cut outs of "Mad Men" stylized "characters" to populate the sales floor.  Unexpected and fun.   Our signage will incorporate an old fashioned "typewriter" font to reinforce the vintage message.  We have created interesting vignettes -- previously non-existent--using typewriters and office supplies from the 1950's and 1960's to add interest to  the stuffy executive desks.  We are using vintage toys to inject playful pops of color to make the store even more engaging.  Remember the good old days?  The days when life was simple and people were honest and true?  Yup, that's us.  We even have plates of fresh cookies scattered about the place.

Second, a new website is under development.  It will reinforce the brand and will be tied to my new small business marketing blog (in the works) so that prospective customers will have a reason to come to the site, even if they aren't in the market for office furniture.  After all, we want our business to be "top of mind"  if and when the need for furniture does arise.  The same sort of marketing would work for you!  Consider offering free patterns on your site--and change them often--to keep your customers connected.

Third, beginning January 2011 we will be hosting monthly networking parties that will feature different speakers well versed in a subject important to small business owners.  January's speaker is a Collection Attorney, February's features a Commercial Landlord offering advice on how to renegotiate your lease, March is all about Web Site Optimization and so on.  We will serve wine and light appetizers and hope to build a sense of community.  Hmm...maybe folks will come in for warm fuzzies after all!
 
In short, we have been working hard and working focused and it seems to be paying off.  Last month was a profitable one, albeit a "so tiny you could hardly see it" kind of profit, but we were exhilarated. 

High five!

 
In the studio:
The last few months have been equally productive, from a crafty perspective.
I have been doing a whole lot of crochet and am also in midst of some fiber projects.  For those interested in a very simple introduction to felting, consider the simple felted headband with Swarovski embellishment pictured at left.  It is quick and easy....the perfect holiday Make and Take for bead or fiber stores.

 Check out the video tutorial:

I also finished a bright crochet pillow inspired by Lucy of Attic 24 The ripple blanket  seen with it is based on one of her tutorials, as well.   Any fiber retailer who is unfamiliar with Lucy's colorful work is missing a wonderful opportunity to get customers thinking beyond the scarf.  She is a gem and has great free tutorials.

I even completed one of the UFOs that had been dogging me for months--yet another rooster pillow.  I love the way the velvet got all brainy looking after the wet felting. 

In other news:

Rosie the Three Legged Dog continues to chase squirrels and chickens, Cancer be damned.

As her adorable Veterinarian  --an Antonio Banderas look- alike--says in his equally adorable Spanish accent:

"The cancer, it will catch her, but it hasn't catched her yet, thanks God."

Thanks, God, indeed.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Life happens....and so you adapt.....and drink wine.

Yikes.  It has been a hell of a month.    I have hit the proverbial fork in the road and decisions have to be made.
 
Too much to do, too little time.

I am back in retail.  Not crafty retail, but retail nonetheless.  Mind you, I have never forgotten the challenge, excitement, terror, and exhilaration of retail---duh!....that is why I moved into the wholesale "business to business" side of the world.  Frankly,  I just didn't need the thrill ride provided by the RETAIL ROLLER COASTER so I took an easier path.    I had a high maintenance husband and spectacular, albeit high maintenance, kids.  I also had  a houseful of critters, an overgrown garden, and a passion for politics.  Yup, I like all of my lives and  the wholesale business was a better fit for me.  I worked out a manageable system to keep all of the balls in the air and have been happily plugging away for years, making mistakes and fixing them, making others and working to fix them, in a manner that became quite comfortable.  Yup....I could do it with my eyes closed........but life changes.

....I SHOULD'VE KNOWN!

Life is never that simple!  I  am not sure why I was shocked when change came a knockin' at my door.

Simple Jack  Pat finally wakes up and gets a clue......

Things are a changin'  no matter how tightly I close my eyes and refuse to see the writing on the wall.  I have been watching myself turn into Miss Angry Face over the last month or two.  I have been stretched thin as I try to shoulder more responsibilities than I can comfortably manage.   .................my hubby is now a full fledged retail guy and I am responsible for his marketing.  The last month has seen me interview techie web guys, start to remodel the showroom, grow his customer database, deal with morphing into an employee who has to dress up to go to work, entertain a parade of out of town company, and squeeze in a family trip.  All good stuff, to be sure, but a little more than I can handle.  

 The bottom line is my spouse has a new livelihood and has asked for my help  to make it work.  I have conducted a  realistic PRIORITY TRIAGE  so that I can get focused on what is most important over the next few months.   Sometimes life forces you to choose between really good stuff. There are only so many hours in the day, blah, blah, blah and I have to adapt to new responsibilities.

It is an election year and I have volunteer work to do on that end.  My youngest child is entering her senior year and there are going to be lots of "last time" moments that I want locked in my heart as she prepares to go to college.  Sadly, my beloved Rosie Mutt  is not doing so well --- I know what I am facing there in the coming months.  My sister is very ill and is a single mom with a young son.  I want to be able to step up there, too.  Yikes.
 

Accordingly, I am taking a hiatus from the Crystal side of my business.  No more weekly crystal specials for the time being.  I have to get used to juggling some new balls.   Although I will continue to focus on the fiber side of my business,  I need to focus more intently on hubby's new Office Furniture Business.  I am working to develop his website, planning store events (cigar tasting, anyone?), and generating customer newsletters.  I will continue with the blog....after all, retail is retail, whether you are selling skeins of yarn or a conference table.

My biggest challenge right now:

Learning to work with my husband.  It ain't easy and we might just kill each other before it is all over.  See...he has a very strong personality.  A very strong personality.   I have been told...once or twice...by those who have worked with me in the past....that I also have a forceful nature.  Yup....It is going to be a wild ride.  A wonderful opportunity for personal growth, yes indeed.  It will build character and bring us closer.  Yes.
Yes. Yes.

I hope.

I need some encouraging words from those who are happily navigating the world of family business dynamics.

Pearls of wisdom anyone?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sales down? Use a NEWSLETTER BLAST to craft a marketing miracle!

Newsletters can be either a boon or a bane for a retail business.  Unfortunately, far too many crafty retailers consider them a chore to be left until the absolute last minute.    The retailer finishes the July class calendar on June 30 (first mistake) and is freaked because the first class is just a few days away.  She is rushed and harried AND HAS NO TIME FOR A NEWSLETTER but knows that she simply must let her customers know about the upcoming class schedule or she will be paying a teacher to sit in an empty class room.  ARGHH!  There is too little planning until it is too late (second mistake).   It is no surprise that the end product is often text heavy, uninspired, and completely devoid of photographs.  The retailer wonders why her classes have poor attendance and  she continues to send out mediocre newsletters.  What a waste!  A well written newsletter will generate immediate sales and a definitive spike in  store traffic.  If your newsletters do not garner a response that you can SEE and MEASURE, then it is time to push up your shirt sleeves and do it right!  There are really no shortcuts to success.

Those of you who read the column regularly know that my husband, John, recently acquired an office furniture store.   John is not an enthusiastic marketer because he has never had to be, but I am making a believer out of him.  He mentioned having a slew of filing cabinets taking up valuable real estate on the showroom floor.  This was my chance!  I took  two hours to play with his customer list and sent out an email newsletter.  It was not brilliant.  It was not clever.   However, it WAS effective. He sold out of all of the advertised product within 6 hours and could have sold more if it were available.  Yup, I generated over $5000 in sales with VIRTUALLY NO EFFORT and hubby thinks I am a genius. It is kind of like getting accolades for store bought Lasagna.  Hey...whatever works...no apologies here!    You can see the email here.  It was short, slightly silly, and got a very high open rate.   

Here is what I think was right about it:


Catchy Subject Line
My subject line was short and sweet:  

               Filing Cabinet Blow Out! 

Wow!  Not really impressive, is it?  

Nonetheless, I gotta work with what I got, and what I got is had was an overabundance of FILING CABINETS.  Filing Cabinets are a basic item that every business needs at one time or another, so I knew the product had broad appeal.    The "Blow Out" language was the hook.  

I kept the promise of the subject line.I promised a Blow Out, so I had to deliver one.   This is the first email that has ever been sent on behalf of the company; accordingly, it was critical  to establish a relationship where the reader can get to "KNOW, LIKE, and TRUST" us.  Doing what we say we are going to do is a step in the right direction.

"Slightly marked down" wasn't going to cut it and might make the reader less likely to read future emails from us. The filing cabinets were used, but I included the price of the same item "new" as a reference point.   I  also included our "regular" price and finally, the "super duper deal" price.  The psychology was that there would be a big enough swing between "new" and "current" pricing that the reader would recognize a HELLUVADEAL when she saw one.  It worked.

It had lots of pictures and graphics.
You only have a few seconds to capture the reader's attention.  Ya gotta be good, fast!  Readers will ignore an email filled with nothing but text.  Like you, your reader is busy and she has lots of other emails clamoring for her attention.  Pictures add interest and help break up the text for her. 

I subscribe to lots and lots of craft store newsletters and most of them really need to up their game.  The biggest mistake I see...and I see it ALL THE TIME is a verbose description of upcoming classes.... without any class pics!  HUH?  I mean, seriously!  Crafting is all about the images!!!!  You are a dream maker....your reader wants to see a picture that makes her drool, that make her imagine a brighter future, a better world, etc.

Would you buy new dress from a dry description in a catalog?  Of course not!  You want to see a picture of a glamorous model so that you can imagine what the dress could do for you.  It will make you look taller, smarter, sexier, etc.  YA GOTTA  SPRINKLE SOME FAIRY DUST!!!!  Pictures help----I guarantee it!


STAFF MEMBERS RECEIVED A COPY OF THE NEWSLETTER.  
Keep store personnel in the loop...make sure that they each receive a copy of the email ahead of time.  Print up a hard copy to keep by the phone.  It would have been pretty embarrassing for us if the sales personnel learned of the promotion from a customer.  Been there, done that.  Very unprofessional.

I knew my target market.
The company's "niche customer" is a small business owned by a single individual who functions as the main sales force, accountant and chief decision maker.  The owner is not a stuffy corporate sort of person; rather, like most of us, the owner wears too many hats and never has enough time or money.    I had this in mind when I wrote the email...it offered a solution that was sensitive to the wallet, while maintaining a bit of humor.
 
The email did more than get rid of filing cabinets.  The most important take away for me is the realization that we have a lot of work to do relative to our email database.  The business has 2600 customers and only 568 email addresses.  Of those 568 emails, we had 128 bounce due to a bad address.   So....out of 2600 customers, we had only  440 solid email addresses.  BAD, BAD, BAD!  Fortunately, there is now a process in place to capture email addresses and customer web pages.  Do you have a similar process in place?  If not, create one!

One thing that I did not do with this first email, but will certainly do in the future.....


OFFER VALUABLE INFORMATION
My email was a sales tool, period.  A better email would offer something of value to the reader.  That is, in addition to the "I want your money" plea, it is always a good idea to offer something of value so that your customer doesn't feel that you are only in it to deplete her bank account.  A free tutorial here, a link to an inspirational website there.  You know the drill.

Etsy just emailed me the link to a great You Tube interview with a master rug weaver pictured below.  It was a delightful view into a world that is unfamiliar to me.  It was of enough interest that I watched the whole thing.  Consider including something similar in your next email blast.



A funny personal story will also do the trick.  I recently experienced some knitting hilarity at my local hair salon.  My stylist is an adorable young woman named Cynthia...a  Latin beauty who is a devout Christian .  Her best buddy Carrie is a stylist at the same salon.  Carrie is the human version of Jessica Rabbit...she isn't bad, she was just drawn that way.  She is a blond bombshell with  curvy, voluptuous body and a sailor's salty speech.  

They are quite a pair and they have recently taken up knitting.  On a recent visit Cynthia told me about her knitting ear plugs....she found them so very helpful and was able to concentrate so much better with them.
  

KNITTING EARPLUGS?  



Before I could even begin to get my brain wrapped around the concept of knitting earplugs, she went on to tell me that she wore them every time she knit, even though she felt stupid wearing them because they made her look like Shrek.....
OMG...

I suddenly got the picture!  My novice knitting friend was  using point protectors as ear plugs!   Before I could even begin to figure out a way to tell her the true use of her ear plugs, Carrie piped in.  She was frustrated and upset.  If Cynthia had special knitting ear plugs, then by God, she wanted the special ear plugs, too.  She scoffed at her husband's suggestion to just buy regular earplugs and had been all over town looking for them.  She castigated a 110 year old sales lady at Michael's for not knowing about such an integral item, telling me "clearly that woman is not a knitter!"  

Too, too funny!  I asked the gals if they ever had trouble with their knitting slipping off the needles and both said "ALL THE TIME!"  Ah...here was my chance....I simply looked at them and said...you know, I bet those ear plugs would keep the yarn on the needles.


It got very quiet and then everyone in the salon burst out laughing.  It was really a delightful exchange.  So, dear Crafty Retailers, the work you do is very, very important.  You are an educator, a facilitator, and a dream maker.  You would never have let a new knitter wear point protector ear plugs, would you?  Keep the faith, keep the smile, and send out your email blast!

CRAFT CHALLENGE WINNERS:
We are delighted to announce the winners from our recent Etsy/Retailer Design Challenge!  Each of the participants received the kit pictured at right.  The submissions were spectacular...truly inspiring.  You can see them all by scrolling the bottom of this page.
THE WINNER ARE:
1.  OH MY GOD!  I can't believe she made that!    HANNAH ROSNER
2.  YUM....This is the one I would wear every single day.  MELISSA MERCER
3. PERFECT!   This one would make for a spectacular class!  MARGE GIRALTE

Each of the winners will receive a goody bag valued at $150
We also drew names from those who voted.  Congrats to Chew Chew Lew Bakery who will also get a good bag!
ON MY STUDIO TABLE: 
I seem to be in a sewing mood of late.  I had a blast putting together a festive holiday bunting for the 4th of July.  The relentless downpour rained on our parade, but at least the home front was standing proud! 


 I used the miserable weather as an opportunity to park myself in the studio...it was awesome!  I finally finished a sunflower pillow that I had felted a few weeks ago when teaching a young friend to felt.  It is needle felted and then wet felted.  I used some hand dyed satin to create a ruffled edge. The flower is embellished with some Swarovski yarn crochet as well as a Hot Fix Crystal Rock.  What fun!


IN OTHER NEWS:
A friend of a friend saw a man dump a dog in the middle of a busy street during a thunderstorm.  The Good Samaritan saved the dog but all of the shelters were closed for the holiday and she was unable to take it home.  She made some phone calls and the poor little thing is TEMPORARILY residing  with us.  She is a teeny tiny fully grown snippet of a dog...a funny mix of Chihuahua and Pug.  She is shy and worried, so I cannot bear to drop her off at a shelter.  I also cannot bear to have yet another dog.  My daughter and I are on a campaign to find her a new home before Bella the Mastiff has her for lunch.
 HAVE A GREAT WEEK...and send me a copy of your next email blast!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Use your web site to move dead inventory!

The tepid economy has many retailers watching stale inventory grow staler.  It is no fun to see all of that money going down the toilet, is it?   Many of the retailers I speak with tell me that they have way too much stock that has been around much too long--it is old, old, old.  They know it and their regular customers know it.  Thank goodness that craft supplies don't smell rotten when they have outlasted their expiration date! 

 What is the Crafty Retailer to do?

Shake things up a bit!  You can do it several ways:  Get on the phone and call your customers.  Send out an exciting email blast.  Both are quick and easy. Inexpensive store promotions are a great way to expedite the sale of dead inventory and we have promo ideas here, here, here, and here, but one often overlooked means to a profitable quarter is through your website!  Seriously, making better use of your website can make a real difference to your bottom line.  Most of my retail store customers have a web presence, but for too many the site is a stagnant presence that is informational only.  Once the site is live, it is often left to wither on the vine.   There is no opportunity for customer interaction---what a waste!  I mean, seriously!  Unfortunately, many retailers use an anonymous "web guy" and find that getting the site updated in a timely fashion is either an exercise in futility or a major drain on the budget.  If it ain't working, fix it!

Ten years ago I paid over twenty six thousand dollars (yup, $26,000.00 !) to get a web site with a shopping cart. I was an idiot.  My webmaster was competent but painfully slow.  It cost me more to add a new item to the site than I could ever hope to recoup by the addition of the product.   The site was ascetically pleasing but proved to be a functional nightmare.  My experience was fairly typical "back in the day."  My partner and I vowed that we would never again pay big bucks to be held hostage by a web guy!  Bells and whistles are nice, but a simple, functional site THAT YOU CONTROL may better suit your needs.   Easy to follow templates make creating your website a snap.  Shopping carts require a bit more finesse, but you can sell product without one.  Take a great picture of a sample you made from your dead stock and offer a discounted materials package.   Customers can shoot you an email to order.  Sophisticated?  Nope.  Workable?  Yup.  Offer a new enticement every single week to keep folks coming back.

Want a shopping cart but nervous about the investment?  I spent a lot of time, but crazy little money, putting together my site.    There was a heck of a learning curve, and we still have big room for improvement, but it has been well worth it.  I pay  Volusion $100 a month and have total control.  Happy Sigh.  Of course, if you want a site but would rather pay for the convenience, it is doable and it won't cost you a princely sum.  Bead Retailer Brenda Hinesley of Beading  Elements in Sarasota, Florida is opting for a more sophisticated site which will be going live in a few weeks.  Brenda has invested about six thousand dollars and will have a beautiful site, replete with all of the training she needs to maintain it herself.  You go, girl!

Offer web content that has value. Some folks will read your blog, others will read your newsletter, while others will go to your site.  Put the information everywhere!   Like many other crafty bloggers, I offer free tutorials.  It is fun to spread my love for my craft, but it is all part of my evil plan to grow my customer base.  It has brought me a lot of new business.  No time for a tutorial write now?  Link to some cool work by others, provided they are not competitors, and give attribution.   Surf the net for  imagery that would be of interest to your customers.  Post a picture from a site such as What Not to Crochet to garner a giggle.

Showcase an artist whose work would be inspiring to your customer base. Jewelry and fiber aficionados would be charmed to see the work of  Ivy Long of Edera Jewelry.  Ivy has magic fingers, to be sure!

A quick google image search will provide a wealth of imagery to inspire even the most reluctant crafter.  Find it, share it, and offer the materials needed to make it!

Be a resource for your current customer base and your potential customer base.   Use your home page as a fluid means to communicate with your customers.  Shoppers don't like to go into stores that look the same every single visit and web site visitors feel the same way!  Engage your community and change it up often.....you will reap the benefits in increased sales and a more engaged clientele!




IN OTHER NEWS:

We had a bumper crop of peaches this spring on a tree that we planted about five years ago.  What a delight!  I made a peach cobbler a few nights ago that  had my husband and daughter singing my praises.  Honestly, you woulda thunk I was June Cleaver.  Where did I put my pearls?  I have been using this easy recipe for over thirty years and it hasn't failed me yet:



EASY PEACH COBBLER

Step one:  Melt a 3/4 to one stick of butter in a deep baking dish 

Step two:  
Make a batter from:
 1 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of flour
3/4 cup of milk
2 teaspoons of baking powder
pinch of salt 
Pour the batter over the melted butter.  DO NOT STIR!

Step three
Mix together:
2 cups of sliced peaches
1 cup of sugar

Step four:
Put peaches on top of the batter.  DO NOT STIR!
Bake at 350 degrees for about an hour.  Don't forget the vanilla ice cream!


SUMMER PROJECTS:

Warm weather can pose a challenge for fiber retailers.  After all, creative humans generally have more than one crafty muse calling them.   If it is too hot to have a fibery "work in progress" draped across my lap,  I tend to move on to something else...gardening, weaving, sewing....any one of a dozen projects that I have percolating at any given time.  Unfortunately,  yarn shop owners have rent to pay during the summer months, too!   Look for a different sort of project to entice your customers when the weather is wicked hot!

A friend of mine recently turned her son's prized artwork from many years ago into a treasured Softie. You can check out the HOW TO here.



I made a wool project this week-end that is PERFECT for summer fiber enthusiasts!  It was quick and easy, did not require a sewing machine, and can be taught to even a novice crafter.   I used a 1/2 yard scrap of silk and some wool top from my stash to create the sweet summer handbag pictured at left.  Excuse the mess of my studio.  Notice the chicken cage on the table?  Not much room to work these days!  But I digress....the project took me about four hours from start to finish.  It was nuno felted and then hand stitched with a wee bit of bead embellishment.  The strap was made from yarn scraps, including some yummy Swarovski yarn that adds a bit of sparkle.  Even more sparkle was achieved through the addition of Swarovski chessboard hot fix stones for the flowers.  I used an iron to apply them and they are on to stay!   It is light and airy, but strong enough to withstand the beating that I administer to all of my purses.  It is very functional and even has a little pocket for my cell phone.  I am working on the tutorial and hope to have it available next week.