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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rekindle your Creative Muse to Ignite your Customer Base!

Do you remember the rush you felt when you first learned to knit, bead, or [insert your craft of choice here]?  The exhilaration was INTENSE---less sweaty than sex, with zero calories----It was GREAT!  You couldn't stop thinking about it...working out the design in your head again and again, stealing minutes away from work, friends, and even family so that you could work on the project.  It was INTOXICATING!

....and then you opened your store and your Creative Muse got squashed like a bug!
Your daily To Do list is overflowing with more obligations than could be satisfied in a week.  There is inventory to order, inventory to unload, a class calendar to put together, some promotional events to schedule, bills to be paid, phone calls to be made....and a family that needs you, too.  Time spent crafting or learning new techniques has become a guilty pleasure that is limited to coming up with classes for the shop.  Sigh.

What is a Crafty Retailer to do?

Recharge your creative batteries!  Rejuvenate that flaccid muse!  You will feel happier and more fulfilled, while your store will be healthier and more successful.  I recently taught four workshops at the Southeastern Animal Fiber Festival ("SAFF") in Asheville, North Carolina.   Always curious about the state of crafty retail, I took the opportunity to survey some of the folks I met about their brick and mortar retail experiences.  It was no surprise to learn that 100% of those asked told me that they frequently shopped online, both for reasons of price and product availability.   When asked to identify what was special about their favorite brick and mortar stores, most were uniform in their response there as well:  INSPIRATION and EDUCATION.

The US craft market is huge and crafters are still spending, economy be damned.  Seriously, I was astounded by the amount of enthusiastic shopping being done at the event.   I went to teach, with no real intention of buying.  Nonetheless, I still managed to drop $200 on some spectacular Kid Mohair and Wensleydale curls. Clearly, I was not alone as the vendors with whom I spoke were all quite pleased with their overall sales.  People didn't  show up just to shop, though.  Most of the hundreds of workshops that SAFF offered were sold out. is all about Inspiration and Education.

Savvy Crafty Retailers will take that role very seriously. Set aside some high priority/absolutely no interruptions time every week to release your own creative spirit.  I am happiest when I am creating and I grow very resentful when I ignore that need.   I bet the same is true of you.!  After years of living in an artistic wasteland because "I didn't have time," I decided to make Crafting a priority.   I have become  regimented about giving myself the time I require in the studio.  Additionally, I spend several hours a week online, surfing the web, lurking on blogs, conducting Google Image Searches, etc. in an effort to see what is inspiring the rest of the craft world.  There is always something that lights a fire in my own heart and I am soon OFF on a new journey.  My recent interests include stamped metal jewelry, torch fired enamel, and three dimensional fiber work.  The more I learn about other techniques, the more exciting and original my own work becomes as I  incorporate my new passions into my current creations.
 The same will be true in your shop.  Your enthusiasm will be contagious and your customers will respond accordingly.   After all...they are looking to YOU to provide Inspiration and Education!    It is a basic rule of Crafty Retail:  Inspire and the cash will follow.  One side benefit is that you will be able to direct inventory purchases rather than playing a guessing game with new stock.   Stock that we love sells better than stock to which we are indifferent because we push it.  Our genuine enthusiasm shows and the shopper responds with her wallet.   Similarly, it is important to really know what you are selling.  Some retailers jump into a new trend without adequate product knowledge.  They hear about a hot product and figure they should have it on the shelves.  Sadly, such  product will often languish until it eventually moves to the dead inventory "Sale Table" and the shopkeeper considers it an epic fail.   It was a failure all right, but not necessarily because the customers were not interested.  More likely, some customers would have loved it if the retailer had provided some crafty education!

Time is limited and there is no need to reinvent the wheel---shorten your learning curve!  It has never been easier to learn a new technique that can be twisted and tweaked for your shop.  Check out the amazing tutorials available at Beaducation...home of some of the stars in the jewelry world...for an opportunity to learn metalwork, bead weaving, PMC, Chainmail, Wire work and more.  For example, download the tutorial for Tracy Stanley's killer riveted metal ring  for only $24.95!

Etsy is a  Mecca for tutorials and I have learned a ton from the talented artists who maintain Etsy shops.  In fact, just this morning I popped a wire crochet video tutorial into my Etsy shopping cart.   I have seen a number of online tutorials on this subject, but Israeli Artist, Yoola, does the best work I have seen.  I have crochet experience and could probably teach myself, but I know that I will save myself lots of time (and wire) by plunking down the cash and learning from an expert!

Although on line tutorials are awesome, there is no substitute for "hands on" learning, so make it a point to take some classes a few times each year.  I am embarrassed to admit that, until recently, I have been remiss in this regard.   One of my resolutions for 2011 was to focus more on being a student.  I have taken four classes in the last six months and it has been a blast.  I recently took a stamped metal jewelry workshop from Holly Hancock, owner of Beads in Tampa, Florida.  Cold connection metal had been on my To Learn List for several years, but I was too busy and too intimidated to tackle it on my own.   An email newsletter from Holly was all it took --- I got the last spot in her class a few weeks ago.   The class lasted most of the day and I made the sweet little heart pendant Holly had on display, as well as a more personal piece.  My workshop creations were very primitive and clearly the work of a Newbie, but I am SMITTEN!  I bought all of the tools Holly had at the shop and then went on line and bought even more.  I happily used my clothing budget for craft products yet again.  Yup, inspire first and sales will follow...
Are you getting the job done?


  1. Pat, I was very encouraged and inspired by the marketing class you taught at SAFF. Thanks so much for letting Bob and I know we are on the right track. BTW, I really do want that cookies recipe! Thanks again, Misty

  2. Misty:
    Look at you! Trolling blogland and commenting---you marketing maven!

    It was such a treat to meet you and Bob at SAFF....I love the innovative concept of your new store and hope to follow your progress closely in the coming years.

    Regarding the cookie will make an appearance in my stitching blog over the really is decadent, isn't it?

  3. This is so true! I try to take classes at our store when I can...and I head to Art & Soul or Beadfest as often as possible...

    I also have a group of crafty friends (not all customers) who I try to get together with each month. Some are painters, some are potters, some are jewelers, but all of us are craft-hectic on a regular basis. We recharge each other...and share wine and cookies and laughs. A goal is a nice, long, crafty beach weekend...

    Gotta have a dream!

  4. Cynthia:
    I just LIVED the dream...sort of! Carol Cypher came into town to teach at my studio and I invited several crafty friends to fly in for the event. My hubby went to visit his mom and Carol and my pals turned it into a Crafty Diva Slumber Party. WHAT FUN!