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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Economy Be Damned....Many Crafty Retailers are Beating the Odds!

For those of you looking for the post on the Craft Industry's "Dirty Little Secret" is here.
For those of you who want to read about Crafty Retail Rock Star Paula on!  

My family took a quick week-end trip to visit Nana Eileen this past week-end.  Nana is my husband's 86 year old mother and she is truly the Matriarch of the family.  It is a gift to have her around and it has been too long since I visited my old hometown of Columbus, Georgia.  My son was in rare form as he tormented Nana by walking around flexing his muscles.   She does not like muscles and he thinks that she is funny.  My 17 year old daughter found adequate mall time, my husband considered a toupee and even Rosie, our newly three legged dog was clowning around.  A good time was had by all.

One extra treat was a chance to pop in to one of the finest bead stores in the country:  The Bead Cage.  The Bead Cage was established 7 years ago and is owned by Paula and David Rosenberg.  I have known the pair for several years, having first met them at the Tucson Gem Show  a while back.  The duo is incredibly business savvy.  David, a radiologist, designed the killer acrylic bead bins used in the shop and Paula is a talented artist whose tiny size and sweet southern accent belie the business savvy she possesses.  A winning team, to be sure.  I was delighted ---but not at all surprised---when Paula reported that 2010 was up by almost 100% over 2009.

What makes them different?

When I got to the shop late on Saturday, the place was busy.  Very busy. Nonetheless, within seconds of my arrival a friendly staff member approached me and immediately commented upon a piece of jewelry I was wearing.  She "Oohed" and "Aahed" in a genuinely interested manner.  She asked knowledgeable questions about the technique used to make the piece. I was impressed and the exchange made me feel good.  Our shared interest gave us something to talk about.  I was already into the experience.   How does your staff compare?  When I commented on the excellent staff, Paula smiled and said that she has an outstanding team.  She employs 8 employees, 4 part timers and 4 full timers.  When I visited David was away on "doctor" business.  He called in to report on his side trip to 4 different bead stores in the town he was visiting.  He noted that out of the four visits, only ONE SALESPERSON GREETED HIM!  Hmmm......  He also observed that the shops were low on basic inventory...with empty bins announcing the fact to all who were looking.  Bad Service.  Sad Inventory.  Coincidence?  What do YOU think?

Paula has worked aggressively to maintain a reputation as "the" place to go for beady education.  She regularly brings in national instructors which draw students from much larger cities, such as Atlanta (100 miles away).  Additionally, this year will mark the second annual Southern Bead Retreat, which will be at Callaway Gardens.  The instructors are industry rock stars:  Sheri Serafini, Cynthia Rutledge, Diane Fitzgerald, Laura McCabe, and Huib Petersen.  Paula carries an impressive selection of the basics which are often utilized in the classes.  However, she knows that a beader willing to drop cash on quality instruction will be equally inclined to splurge on an unusual bead---so she has plenty of them, as well.


Despite the name, the The Bead Cage sells much more than just beads.  Paula told me that although she is a passionate beader, the city's demographics are such that beads alone would not sustain her retail store.  Accordingly, she made the decision to incorporate several different lines of fun and unusual gift items.  Beads take up about 1/3 of the shop's 5000 square feet, while gift items take up the remaining 2/3, with proportional sales revenues.  The Bead Cage is a great place to go for a wedding gift, birthday present, or a special gift for yourself!  Paula noted that most beaders are women and all women wear shoes.  Yup...that explained the expansive selection of "Switch Flops."   I want a pair for summer!  They are cute and functional and have little interchangeable snaps:  plain/festive/sparkly/etc.

Paula and David use the Microsoft Retail Point of Sale system.  Every item in the store is bar coded so inventory is a snap.  Additionally, Paula has a plethora of valuable reports at her fingertips and most of her work day is spent working on the business, rather than on the sales floor.  In a hilarious side conversation, Paula explained to me that it is better for everyone if she is not on the sales floor, noting in the cutest little accent that she does not have "the friendliest face and tends to roll her eyes or make a face if a customer says something stupid."  Note to readers:  Paula has a very friendly face and is an absolute delight.  My guess is that she simply prefers the strategic side of the business!   Her ability to establish systems and processes enables her to make decisions based on logic rather than emotion.  If a product is under performing, she can quickly identify it and get it out the door, which brings us to her next attribute....

GET RID OF DEAD INVENTORY QUICKLY AND RUTHLESSLY.  Paula identifies her deadbeat inventory before it has a chance to strangle her cash flow.  If a product is on the floor for six months without selling, it is marked for termination.  Month 1:  sale at 25% off.  Month 2:  sale at 50% off.  Month 3:  donated to her favorite local woman's charity. 

Paula also knows that the gift buying, shoe wearing, bead loving gals who shop in her store probably like their homes smelling fresh and fragrant. She offers the Lampe Berger lamp line.  The "common" fragrance oils found at the big box stores will ruin this fuel based lamp, so her customers must come back to her for refills.  The residual sale is a big part of Paula's overall strategy.  She likes to stock inventory that requires a follow up purchase from her customer.  Buy one pair of Switch Flops and spend lots more money on the snaps.  Buy one Lampe Berger and come back often for the fuel and for new scents. She offers great product lines so her customers are happy to return.  Win-Win! BRILLIANT! 

Impressed?  I am!  Paula is an inspiration to see...a veritable Steel Magnolia!  You will learn more about her and some other retail success stories in the coming weeks.

In other news
 We have been getting in wonderful pictures from our MARCH CRAFT CHALLENGE volunteers.  The participants were given several colors of Swarovski cup chain and asked to play with it in whatever manner tickled their fancy.  The cuff bracelet pictured at left makes it easy to see why Kelli Burns of The Hole Bead Shoppe has had her work featured on two separate covers of  Bead Unique magazine!  We were blown away by the breadth and scope of the talent!  Click here to see the other equally creative contributions!


The April Challenge kits have been mailed to the lucky participants and we are looking forward to seeing what they can do with the components pictured at right.  Pictures are due on May 1.


The "Crafty Retailers Create" Challenge series has proven so successful that we are launching a new Challenge geared to Etsy Jewelry Designers.  We have 24 kits identical to the one pictured above.  The kit has a retail value of over $100 and is free to the lucky participants who will be chosen in a random drawing on April 15.  Send an email with your Etsy Store identified and we will enter your name in the drawing.  Check out contest details.


.... I want to talk about more important my current crafty personal projects!   I have been spending a whole lot of time in vet waiting rooms of late, so I needed some easy lap work.  Nothing complex, nothing that required thought.  I was looking for soothing, repetitive, "thumb suck" kind of work.  I found it with this great ripple afghan project.  The pattern is from Attic 24 and the instructions are absolutely fantastic.  I chose unusually bright colors, but plan to use it to bring some color to a dark leather couch.  Although the summers get wicked warm in Florida, my daughter loves cozying up on the couch with a blanket regardless of the temperature.  This cotton afghan will be perfect!

 I seem to have been bitten with the crochet bug again and am considering a granny square ensemble for my bed.   I saw this wonderful patten on Wonderland5, which is from a retro Better Home and Garden publication.  I was able to score the book from an Amazon affiliate for only $3 and should have it this week...I am very excited!

So...what is on your crafty agenda?


  1. After reading about the Bead Cage, I feel proud to announce that we are doing some of the same things and getting busier and busier! After seeing my store, my one silver rep keeps telling other bead stores that you have to put in other lines because you will not survive on just beads. We started with Staxx jewelry; we have added Kameleon, Miche bags, large hole charm beads from many different places, Magnabilities, Happy Balls, and will soon be getting Maggiez flip flops. All of these lines are interchangeable, which is an idea that we promote and it makes total sense. Why go on vacation with many different shoes, purses, or loads of jewelry when you can have several base pieces and change the colors daily? Now I'm running out of room and will have to start hanging things from the ceiling, but it's been fun! We also promote bridal jewelry a lot as well and do quite a bit of business in that area. You really have to keep coming up with that "next best thing"!

  2. Congratulations on being so responsive to the market and making your shop a destination store! It definitely makes sense to expand your potential customer base in this economy. Way to go, Kathy!