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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 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.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Etsy/Retail Store Jewelry Design Challenge garnered some incredible talent!

Wow.  I was blown away by the breadth and scope of the talent we uncovered in our latest Jewelry Design challenge.  It is always a kick to see what folks come up with when provided with the same set of "raw materials."  The pieces are truly extraordinary and many of the participants have already submitted their designs to magazines.  Very inspiring, indeed! Take a look and tell us what you think:  there are prizes for the participants, and prizes for those who vote.

This was the kit that each volunteer received, for free!   Included were assorted copper findings, including our own glue in rivoli and rectangle stone components.  We also provided 8mm AB2x bicones, 4139 Cosmic rings, 4439 square stones, rivolis and more.

We have three different categories to consider when looking at the entries: 

1.  OH MY GOD!  I can't believe she made that!
2.  YUM....This is the one I would wear every single day.
3. PERFECT!   This one would make for a spectacular class!



Prize Details to follow...but first....lets take a peak at all of the spectacular sparkle:

1.  AMANDA CARROLL:  Amanda, who owns the Bead Boutique bead store and also maintains an Etsy shop, fashioned the killer cuff pictured at right.  She re-purposed an old purse to get the perfect shade of green she wanted to enhance the Vitrail Medium crystals.

Here is a description of her journey:


It was quite the process to decide what do make! I finally decided on using a brass cuff blank as my base. At first I thought I would rivet the settings to the blank but then I remembered this old purse I'd been hanging onto and it became the perfect background to embroider the elements onto.
I flattened the cuff and traced the outline onto the leather. Then I did a freeform design with the elements.
I cut the leather to size and used e-6000 to glue it to the blank. I then reshaped the cuff and placed a finishing strip on the underside.
I love the lime green background against the crystals.
Thanks for letting me play!

2.  MICHELLE HEIM:  Michelle is the owner of Beadalotta, a Michigan bead store.  Michelle has long inspired me...she is a young woman on a mission!   Michelle hustles to stay on top of trends, navigates social media, sends out newsletters, designs innovative classes, etc.  She designed an embroidered necklace aptly named "Cirque:"


Here is this month's project.  Again...forgot to take pictures of the in progress....
This one went outside of my box of my usual muted colors and warm earthy tones. 
I've called this project Cirque. This project was done with bead embroidery and peyote.  A very small amount of wire work was done to attach the clasp. I used 4 components from the kit--a rivoli,  2 cosmic squares and the large rectangular stone. I added in Delicas, 11/0 seed beads, 10/0 Triangle beads, 3 & 4mm firepolish and 8mm checker-board flatbacks.  The neckstrap was made by tying a larkshead knot around the cosmic squares with recycled sari silk.  This is the 1st time I've used fiber in a piece.  This one kept calling me back to work on it.Completion time:  30-40 hours

3.  MARGE GIRALTE:  Marge is another busy gal...like Michelle, Marge operates a bead and yarn store and maintains an Etsy store too.  Marge used the components in her kit to make an impressive three piece set.
She sent us a picture of her modeling the set with the following:

Might have to find an event to crash wearing this set.
In the words of Mae West, "Too much of a good thing is WONDERFUL!"

 You have to love a woman who quotes 1930's favorite bad girl, Mae West! 

After all...I like to think that there is a little bit of sexy vixen in all of us, don't you?


4.  JENNIFER LAVITE of Dry Gulch Beads is another Crafty Retailer who maintains a separate Etsy site.

  [NOTE TO RETAILERS:  Etsy appears to be a viable revenue stream for those seeking to sell supplies.  Consider it if you would like a supplemental revenue stream!]

I have never been a big believer in "Less is More" when it comes to personal adornment and it appears that Jennifer and I might be cut from the same cloth:

It is finished!!!!!!!!
I love the way the necklace turned out and I had a great time working with the extravagant materials you sent for this challenge.   
 


5.  JAMIE NORTH is a talented bead designer and consummate professional.   Jamie met the deadline while juggling an emergency trip to the vet and final preparations for the Bead & Button Show.   I was not surprised to learn that she is teaching at THE place to teach...her piece demonstrates a sophisticated eye and wonderful sense of balance and texture.   Yum...



 

6.  MAGGIE MCCLOUD operates an on-line store and is a talented jewelry designer and textile artist. She  fashioned the piece at left almost exclusively from the items provided in her kit.  Love, love, love the clasp.  The lucky owner of this piece will look as pretty coming or going!



7.  HEDY LATOS is a Canadian Designer who managed to put together a smashing necklace, despite having a kit with some missing pieces. 
Hedy works with her daughter, designer Andrea Latos.
One of the things that intrigued me about Hedy's design was that she designed it to be reversable!

I had a lot of fun working with the materials.  The colour combinations and materials are quite different than what we normally work with.  After I took the materials out of the packaging, I spread everything out on the table and spent some time moving the components around.  I knew that I wanted to make a necklace and so this was my starting point.  I decided to limit the materials to what I had received, adding very little.  In the end, I used some stringing wire, glue, a clasp and several 4mm bicones in gold tones to blend in with the pearls.  I left out the crystal squares and the seed beads (I never did receive the crystal rings).

I had originally planned on gluing the crystal squares to the copper filigree squares.  However, when I did this, I felt that the necklace looked overdone.  I removed the squares before the glue had time to set.

What I like about this design is that it's reversible.  It's colourful and sparkly on one side and is a more subdued but rich copper/blue combination on the other.  The gold pearls were a lovely contrast to the bright AB crystals.

8.  STACY SCHOELL:  Stacy is another of those talented multi taskers!  She is the owner of The Bead Bin and also maintains an Etsy shop.  Whew!  [UNRELATED ANECDOTE:  Stacy came up with a great Workshop/Customer Event with the "Sisterhood of the Traveling Jean Jacket."  Check out how it worked here.]  Here is what she had to say:

I have created a bib style necklace utilizing  all of the beads/crystals that were sent in the challenge kit.  The only item I did not use was the large rectangle crystal.  Instead I made the large focal bead with a silvered glass which was then encased in clear.  All of the lampwork accent beads are of the same glass and glass frit and pick up on the pink and purple shades in the rivoli crystals.  I also added 4mm Swarorovski bicones in Fucia, copper and seed beads that complement the colors and in the necklace.  I placed the rivolis and focal bead to one side creating a asymmetrical design.  I placed the square copper accents on top of the square crystal creating a medallion to suspend the necklace
.

9.  SHANNON JAMBARD is the talented owner of Meant to Bead.  Her elegant set would be a hit with the beady ladies that frequented my shop.  Shannon shared the following:

 
Here is what Meant to Bead LLC finished with for your Challenge project.  I gotta say I loved working on this challenge.  When the package came in the mail and we opened it.  We were at blown away with the beauty of the crystals, then came the actual “you want us to put all that together and make it look good?” part.  As you can see I feel we have met the challenge with flying colors!  We decided to go for the Victorian look.  As we are a bead store we went for a formal jewelry set .  We decided to pull together a little bit of advice from many of my artist/teachers.  “One said Chain maile , You must use chain maile “  Another said “I think it would look nice if you did some wire working and cage each stone.”  “ I had the idea of a rosary chain ”  When we took bits and pieces of each I think it turned out quite stunning.  Thank you for including us in this challenge.  Please put our name in the pool for next time  Our store is ALWAYS up for a CHALLENGE! A lot of Ideas never even got used we have plenty more to add to another project.
























10.  MELISSA MERCER is a true Indie Artist!  She works with Stampington by day and is a talented jewelry designer by night.  Her Etsy store can be found hereMelissa has a style that I love...equal parts  urban chic and winsome sweetness!

She used a Vintaj ring blank to fashion a ring with spectacular  sparkle!
 









10.  COURTNEY LEUTHAUS is another Indie crafter whose work is showcased on Etsy.  She utilized the Challenge Kit to craft a show stopping necklace and ring set.  As with Melissa, Courtney opted for FULL ON BLING when it comes to the ring.  TREND ALERT:  My 17 year old daughter and all of her friends are riding the Big Ring wave.  Ring blanks  are readily available, making RINGS a great Make and Take project for stores.  Check out the ring blanks from Helby and Vintaj.



11.  GLOW.  Glow is the "out of the box" artist that I featured in a recent blog post.  She uses the"bits and pieces" that she finds along the way to craft EXTRAORDINARY jewelry.  Do yourself a favor and check out her Etsy store...you will find the poetic descriptions of her designs as lovely as the pieces themselves!  In true Glow fashion, she crafted a killer piece that features dismembered doll parts:
Here is what she shared with us:


Here are photos of the piece I created for the challenge!  Thanks so much for sending the goods....  Also here is the link to the listing on Etsy.
I had such a great time with all this bling....   Of course, no crimps 
were used by ME!   Just beaded up a mix of the crystals, vintage gold 
plated bar chain links, pukka shells, shabby antique pearly textured beads and even threw in the round cabs in the actual bezels they belonged in(way out of the norm for me... but I like it).  The square connector things gave me a headache but I worked 'em in there in the end(phew!).  Seed 
beads were immediately chucked in the vial along with the small pearls...  
that made things a bit easier for me.  Of course Charlotte came out to play... a legless one, but her arms joined the mix (one shoved in a bullet 
casing and then in the vial)....   I used the third round bezel to cap the 
vial and the larger rectangle bezel as a home to vintage black lace and 
charlotte’s other severed arm.   JEEPERS!  I drone on and on.... ;)

I am rather chuffed with the outcome!  I really love the dark and sparkling nature of it!  I chose the title after a poem I thought was perfectly fitting as this was block building in a way (with old and new!)...
 
Thanks for the experience... Those beads were downright gleaming!

Warm Regards and laughter,
Glow

Wow! Her work is a delight and her writing is equally so.


12.  STEPHANIE TEMPLETON is an Etsy Artist with a sophisticated yet trendy style.  She made three (3!) very different pieces from the Kit, each equally lovely.  Here is what she had to say about them:

#1)  The necklace at left is for the lady who is equally elegant yet bold!  This statement piece will rock the LBD as well as jeans and a t-shirt.  18" length.  Additions:  vintage pin, green pearls, antique finish toggle.
 











#2)  The necklace at right is "Victorian charm meets the 21st century! "  Length- 16 1/2", plus 2 1/2" drop.  Additons:  Peridot teardrop, chain and toggle.
  
#3)  Urban chic!  the piece at left may be worn as a set or individually.  Shorter necklace is 17".  Additions:  Citrine teardrops, swarovski crystals, gold clasp.  Longer necklace is 44" in length.  May be worn long and dramatic of wrapped as a double.


 

Technique I used was basic beading on wire.




13.  HANNAH ROSNER.  Finally, we look to the piece created by artist Hannah Rosner of Good River Gallery.  Is she for real?  I mean, really!   I don't know whether to be embarassed by my work or inspired by Hannah's!   Her hands work magic with a needle and thread and she exhibiting at Bead and Button this year so make sure to stop by and say hello!  Hannah was kind enough to blog about the process, so if you want the "How To", check it out here.


Thank you so much to all of the talented volunteers who participated in the challenge.  WHAT FUN IT WAS TO SEE THE VARIED AND CREATIVE MANNER EACH OF YOU CHOSE WHEN FOLLOWING YOUR CREATIVE MUSE!!!

Now, readers...it is up to you!  Send us your comments and your choice for the winners in following categories:

1.  OH MY GOD!  I can't believe she made that!
2.  YUM....This is the one I would wear every single day.
3. PERFECT!   This one would make for a spectacular class!

Make sure to tell us WHY a particular design appeals to you!

Now for the PRIZE INFO:

EACH CATEGORY WINNER:  will receive a package of Swarovski crystal with a wholesale value of  at least $150!
Three winners will be chosen at random from those who vote!  Each of these winners will receive a package of Swarovski crystal with a wholesale value of $50! 

So let's get some feedback! 






IN OTHER NEWS:

If the idea of a challenge sounds appealing, we have one more kit left for the June challenge, pictured below.  Let me know...fast...if you want to participate!
 
Whew!  This post was longer than expected so look for the Tablerunner tutorial next week.  Now I am off to make dinner!  Ciao!