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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 will reap the benefits in increased sales and a more engaged clientele!


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:


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!


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.


  1. Big Cartel is an easy to use shopping cart service that a lot of artists and designers use to sell their own work. I think it would be an easy solution for craft supply shops who need to get started in the online retail world:

  2. Thanks so much, Mallory! I checked it out and it does look like a viable means for retailers and artists to sell their crafty work.

  3. Love, Love, Love the wonderful purse! You make the greatest items!

  4. Thanks, Linda. This one was so easy that it surprised me! My daughter even likes it...high praise, indeed!

  5. Love the purse (and the top in your pic is cool too)! Super cute. I've never been a shoe/purse person, but I've been addicted to handmade purses lately! AND those EARRINGS!!!! To DIE for! LOVE LOVE LOVE them! Hmmm....those would look great with my new short hair.

    Thanks for all of the info. I've been rolling it over in my mind of starting a shopping cart and this just confirms what I need to do.

    Have a great week! We're off to Bead and Button for just 2 short days!

  6. I utilized a local company to help me with my website. I guess it is sort of a hybrid...I chose a template, my colors, and they put it together with a program enabling me to add content, and the training to use it. Although I do not sell product online, customers can sign up and pay for classes through Paypal, which I have found extremely easy to use.

  7. Handmade purses rock! I have collected bakelite handbags for years, but wanted something more practical. I hope that this doesn't mean that "practical shoes" are next!

  8. Joanne:
    Which company did you use? It sounds like a great idea for others to consider.

  9. Pat-

    Don't forget for selling supplies. We use it off-an-on to drive new business to our site but it is so inexpensive and easy to link to. We even find local customers who tell us they saw us on Etsy!

    Thanks for the tips!

    Raleigh, NC

  10. Thanks for the reminder, Cynthia! Etsy is a great revenue stream for craft stores! Consider using it as a means to bundle items that have been hard to move---you will have a whole new audience! For those of you who do not know Cynthia...check out her site. She is a MEGA CRAFTY RETAIL SUPERSTAR who recognizes the trends before most are even aware they are out there.

  11. Oh, thank you so much for the mention, Pat! I just stumbled across it today--what a lovely surprise :) Interesting article, too!