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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Can't we all just get along? Bashing your Competition is bad karma, bad for business, and just plain yucky.

Crafty Retail can be awesome, but some days it is kind of like high school.  Yup, high school with wrinkles.  Snarky competitors love to make snide comments when your customers are in their stores, and snarky customers love to come back to you to spread the news....all in your best interest, of course.  They just "think you should know."  Sigh. 

A wise friend once told me that every fight she ever had with her husband boiled down to one of two basic scenarios:  one of them felt that his/her sense of security was threatened, or that his/her sense of significance was threatened.  SECURITY and is right.  Think about your last fight with a significant other....I bet that you can see security or significance at play.   I see it in myself, and I see it in my family.  Heck, I even see it in my dogs.

It is the exact same in Crafty Retail!   When the economy is great, and there are as many customers  lined up at your door as are at the door of your competitor,  you can afford to be magnanimous.  You know----C'est La Vie, Live and Let Live and all that chirpy stuff.  However, when you are worried about making the rent payment, you might not always be up to singing Kum Ba Yah with the lady stealing "your" customers/money/ideas, etc.

The economy is a bitch so the security and sense of significance for crafty retailers is under attack.   Although it is not surprising that there seems to be a tad more bitchy going around these days,  it is kind of gross.   I am always a little bit amazed that smart, savvy business owners fall into the trap.
The most common form of  Crafty Retail Snarkiness  that I hear about is the casually dropped "I've heard that her store is not doing so well."  This is typically said in a hushed sympathetic tone that implies that the Rancorous Retailer would actually be upset if the competitor closed.  PUH-LEESE! You aren't fooling anybody and your bitchiness is showing.

You might do it the same way that my sweet voiced Texas 'friend' does...she ALWAYS punctuates her Acid Sweet Snarkiness with the phrase---- "poor little thing!" as if it will serve to neutralize her bitchiness:

"Have you seen Suzie?  My God, that dress she has on makes her look ridiculous!
...poor little thing!"

YUCK!  I admit, it is funny as hell, but it is still yucky.

Don't fall into the Rancorous Retailer trap!   I get that we are in a business that is riddled with estrogen.  I get that we are stressed out, that our parents need extra help as they transition from old age to infirm, that the babysitter quit, and that you are worried about making your rent payment, but still....don't do it!

I know one shop owner that truly has the patience of Job.  She has held her head high and kept her own mouth shut while dealing with a competitor who is mean spirited, at best.   This Rancorous Retailer has spread ridiculous rumors about her, which include, but is certainly not limited to, the one where she tells folks that the Crafty Retailer has a disabled child that she leaves at home --all alone--because she is uncomfortable being around the wheelchair bound child.  Bear in mind that the "victim" retailer has no kids!  WTF?

Weird, huh?  I mean, seriously!  Where does the lady come up with this stuff?  Both women have been in business for years and each has a loyal following.  The Crafty Retailer is growing frustrated, her feelings are hurt, and she worries that her business is impacted by the slander.

What is the Crafty Retailer to do?

This is a tough one.  I think that I would consider either of the following:

1.  Contact the Rancorous Retailer and ask to schedule time to get together to work on a joint marketing venture. Send her an email so that you don't catch her off guard. Completely ignore the past animosity and work on something together.  Yes, really!  Consider a Shop Hop or a project that requires a visit to each store.  This woman is a bitch because she is insecure...remember, it is all about security and significance.  This will appeal to both and make her feel weirder about trashing you in the future.  You really DO catch more flies with honey than vinegar!

2.  Ignore it.  Who has time for the drama?  Note:  ignoring it means REALLY ignoring it.   If you are whining about it, you are not ignoring it.  Give yourself a 24 hour whine limit per occurrence, otherwise you are playing along. 

What about you?  How would you handle the Rancorous Retailer?  Inquiring minds want to know!

In other news:
Looking for an inexpensive way to expand your market base?  Consider starting a Meet Up group.  It is not the same as a ladies night out, or a stitch and bitch session because you have the chance to attract people way outside of your normal reach.

I had an opportunity to attend a Beads Meet Up group hosted by Holly Hancock of Beads last week.   Fourteen women attended and a local restaurant delivered dinner for anyone who was interested.  Holly had a sweet little spiral bracelet project on the agenda and sent everyone a supply list before the event.  Some ladies came with all of their supplies, while others (like me!) bought everything they needed (and then some!) that night.
Holly told me that although the group started out slowly, it built up over time and is now an important part of her store "community."  It has attained the status of "special event" and sales make it well worth the effort.  It was certainly apparent that the MeetUp members agree.  Barley, the shop mascot, ran to the door with each new arrival, even barking at some favorites as he saw their cars pull into the parking lot.  Store Regular Bonnie Anderson  entertained me when she got Barley to do a "high five" to earn his treat.

Holly has organized two separate for beading and another for dichroic glass.  The cost to the organizer is minimal.  In fact, two weeks ago I formed my own little Fiber Meet Up group in my area, to be sponsored by new "Retail Lite" venture, Urban Stitch Studio.   We already have 10 members and I will be hosting our first meet up event this Saturday.  Wish me luck!  



  1. We have never really experienced overt or obvious bitchiness from our competition. However, we seem to be in a unique position where our competitors actually send in "spies" to our retail store...and, oddly enough (but to our benefit), they are terrible spies. They ask so MANY questions and get so caught up in their "mission", that they end up revealing their "allegiance" to our competitors. So strange. They have even gone so far as to question our business practices (in other words, why do we or don't we do or offer certain things...). We are savvy enough to pick up on this intrusion and have actually been fortunate on more than one occasion to convert these "spies" into repeat customers.

    We have also been super fortunate to hear how our competition fails to measure up to our retail store. We've been around for a long time...been there, done that...and, as our customers have told us, the "new kids on the block" have done nearly everything in their power to copy and mimic our most successful endeavors. (As the old saying goes: Imitation is the highest form of flattery.) However, we're being told by many customers that the new kids aren't really cutting the mustard as they had hoped.

    We are careful in our responses...we absolutely do not spread ill will or make nasty comments or get on the bandwagon when our so-called supportive customers are bad-mouthing the competition. We can only imagine what is being said about us at our competition, but we are hopeful (and maybe naive) that it's only good press. We don't hear bad feedback through the grapevine. Maybe we are just lucky...or maybe the longevity and consistency of our business has truly stood the test of time. But we agree that keeping things positive is really the only way to stay on top.

  2. Good for you, Anonymous! My mom always said "Pretty is as Pretty does" and I have never regretted taking the high road...ever! It is good to know that I have company on the journey. There is plenty of room for ALL of us. After all, there is a reason that Burger King and McDonald's are always sitting across from each other. There are enough meat lovers out there to support both. The same is true for crafty gals!

  3. Indulging in gossip is one of the most dangerous things a business owner can do. It is a sure fire way to kick yourself squarely in the a$$! If it goes around, then you'd better believe it will come back around.

    I live in one of those towns where everyone know everyone else, and their third cousin's brother. Years ago I implemented two policies... first, and foremost, no gossip in the store. PERIOD! I don't care if it's about your boyfriend's, mother's cousin (thrice removed) Betty, who lives in Nova Scotia, don't do it! You never know who knows who.

    This came about because I happened into a bead shop three hours from home, and listened to the owner shred another shop owner (who I happened to know) with a friend. How's that for random? I left without introducing myself, or making a purchase.

    The other policy is the 'No Moan Zone'... that's the sacred space behind the counter. Even if my hair is on fire, my cat left me, or the toilet overflowed and ruined my favorite Jimmy Choo's no one (especially of the customer persuasion) would know about it. When I'm behind the counter, the customer is the star of the show. PERIOD!

    Gossip is an ugly critter, it's the product of insecurity, jealousy and fear. I have very little patience for it. I'd much rather build someone up than tear them down... and although I know not everyone thinks this way, it's me that's looking back at me in the mirror when the mascara goes on. Why on earth would I want to add one more thing to a day that's already full by talking trash about someone else?

    Even in these hard economic times being supportive, and gracious costs nothing. Being a snarky shrew can cost you everything. Ewsh, in the long run, who wants to spend time with someone who's toxic and focused on what someone else is doing? It takes far more energy to mind somebody else's business than it does to just mind your own.

    Different topic... so, this MeetUp thing... is it an East Coastal phenom? I've only just started hearing about it here on the left coast. Sounds like loads of fun!

    Thanks for this great post, and wonderful reminder!


  4. Brilliant, per usual! You certainly have a gift with language! You are funny and gracious and real----it is no wonder that your customers adore you.

    Other topic...MeetUp has been around for years. I have met some interesting people through it---give it a try!

  5. I'm not a shop owner, just a person wading through life with her happy beads. And as I read this, I kept thinking, doesn't this all go back to one very basic rule that is so smart? Do unto others as you would have them do to you? It really does make life nicer, easier and simpler.

  6. ....and much happier, for sure! Thanks, Anonymous!

  7. as always a very topical post! I've only occasionally heard other stores busy-bodying about my shop (5 years in biz) but what I do observe are customers telling tales and trying to influence other customers. Now before you tell me this is just word of mouth, I can honestly say there are some customers who enjoy the sport and competition of their shop being the "it" shop and they make a personal project out of promoting the cult of personality in their chosen shop. I've seen it happen quite a few times and it always leaves me scratching my head wondering a) what did I do to bring this on b) why are people so easily swayed c) does running a craft/retail business always devolve into a a mere popularity contest?

  8. Anonymous:
    Totally agree with you....gossip is indeed "sport" for some and aligning with the "biggest and best-est" store really seems to matter to those folks! It is kind of funny so long as one is not in the midst of it!

  9. We have a strict no-gossip rule on our sales floor. We do not talk about other stores or customers where customers can see and hear us. If we are asked about our competition we say only positive things (even if that's REALLY hard!) If we don't have something a customer wants we call our competitors and identify ourselves 'Hi, this is Cynthia calling from Ornamentea. I have a customer who needs some really ugly cheap beads* and we don't have them in stock. Do you?' If the competition has the beads, we print out a map or give directions...

    We do have competition who talks smack about us. I have had customers come share this with me. My response is always the same; surprise. 'Really, she has such a nice shop?' and then I change the subject...

    *obviously, we'd ask for the actual item but if we don't have it, it's probably ugly, right?

  10. LOL..Cynthia, it is no wonder that you own one of the leading Inspiration Destination Shops in the country.....