Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What Do Prosperous Retail Stores Have That You Don't?

Prosperous retail stores have a synergy at work that creates their success that includes the following:

Marketing and Advertising Plan
Great Products
Appealing Displays and Atmosphere

Now having a great location is very important but if you don't then success can be achieved if your other elements take up the slack.

Not enough money for marketing or advertising then you might get away with that if you use the dollars you have creatively and also if your location is great.

Products, you need what the customer wants and plenty of it, you can't get by with less.

The most important element to this synergy is display and atmosphere. You could have a great location, lots of advertising dollars, wonderful products but if your place has an unpleasant look then your customer isn't moved to buy nor come back.

How does your store measure up? Is synergy working or is there a disconnect at one or two of the important elements?

Lets talk again and next time I'll focus on the importance of creating a story (atmosphere) in your store that encourages your customers to buy and come back to visit.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Life Is An Adventure

Meet Linda Kick one of my customers from down the Keys. I met her via phone when she placed her first order with me. I love meeting new people and am always intrigued on where they live and how they got there. Someone living in the Keys sounded so wonderful and I asked how long she lived there etc. Well I loved her story so much I asked if she would write it down so I could put it on my blog. Here's her story in her words.

After 25 years in San Diego, CA. (which by the way is an amazing place and so beautiful) I decided to shake things up a bit. I tell people everyday to go for their dreams, take risks, and live life to the fullest. Upon reflection I discovered I was pretty complacent and so I decided, on a whim, to move to the other coast. Remember, the hardest part of any action is making the decision. Once the decision is made, then you just put one foot in front of the other and take action! So in a period of 4 weeks, I sold or gave away most everything I had.

If it didn't fit in my convertible mustang, it didn't travel with me. That in itself was a major task. Talk about releasing the past! lol. I had 25 years of stuff to go through. It took 4.5 days to drive across the country to the East Coast. I landed in the Florida Keys December 19th, called for an apartment, moved in. It was an amazing feeling to have reached my goal and to know I was beginning a new adventure.

At first I played at being retired or what ever you want to call it...I wasn't working! lol. Lots of sightseeing and getting to know my neighborhood. Then I realized I wasn't growing in any direction so I answered a small ad in the local paper and began working in an art gallery. What fun. Now I am stimulated by beautiful things all day long inside and out. It was not long (about 2 months) when I decided to open my own shop. A 9x12 storage space in the Rain Barrel at Islamorada, Fl. I had a new dream and a new project and I was giving birth to a new journey once again. It seems like once I made the first decision to change my life, the rest began to fall into place. It was so exciting.

Now, with my new shop, Tropical Zen, open only two months, I had an opportunity to grow by taking on a much larger space. Square footage was about 4 times bigger! Yikes. That was scary Would I be able to make the additional rent? Would I be able to afford the additional inventory needed to fill the space? Would I be successful? Let me tell you....On the other side of FEAR is everything I could ever want. If you remember that one thought, you will be brave enough to step through that FEAR and accept all the greatness that is yours. It was my dream, I made the decision to make it real. How would I do it all? That was not a concern, I knew from experience that it would all come together in its own time. And it did!

I started out with an order from First In Line Soaps. Then was able to add aroma therapy soy candles. Inspirational signs followed along with Chi Energy bells and positively green greeting cards. I've recently added some easy fit clothing that flows nicely with the Keys Island life. The store continues to grow along with my income. A dream come true for me.

Now, let me explain a bit about myself. I am not a young entrepreneur. I am now 58 years old, a mother to a grown woman, and a grandmother to a 6th grader. I have been divorced and struggling on my own for some years now. Everyone, and I mean everyone I knew thought I was absolutely crazy to uproot myself from family and friends. My new friends here in Florida couldn't believe I would open a shop during these hard times, especially when they knew I was dumpster diving for old furniture pieces others didn't want just to furnish my apartment! I just want to tell you, it is never too late to make a decision to move forward in your life. Until the day you stop breathing, you have the ability to make wonderful things happen. Just make the decision and take action. Believe in yourself and know you have unlimited potential.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

$22 A Loaf Soaps

Jumble Bubble loafs came about due to overage of soap when we make our regular line of soaps. We started them out as a free loaf for the purchase of 5 loafs. Why did we do that? Well to tell the truth with the economy scare and retail stores struggling we thought that this was a good marketing idea to hopefully get more customers to our site, try our products etc and help the retail stores. The customer didn't get to see what we were giving away free till they opened their order. So now in hind-site I can see that there had to be a bit of trust on the customers part to know that we would send off something that looked good, smelled good and would of course sell for them. So what I thought was a good idea really had some flaws. So we shelved that idea for the above reasons which really was that it wasn't doing what we wanted it to do.

So then like all ideas another one came to mind. The customers didn't like the idea that they couldn't see what they were getting, which now makes perfect sense. So I decided to offer our Jumble Bubble soaps again for a price $22.00 which is considerably less than our regular line of soap but this time I'll show them what they are getting. The one pictured here is a Pumpkin Crunch loaf that smells soo good. It's also very pretty looking mixing the colors of chocolate brown with a pearlized orange. As you cut into the loaf no two slices will look the same. There are only 3 loafs of Pumpkin Crunch available and when they are gone they are gone. You can see this loaf and the others we have available here

It's been about two weeks since we put the loafs on our site and with little or no fanfare it's working. So for me when an idea is working I start thinking about how I can enhance it even more.

So in the next week we will slowly be adding new swirl designs at $22. a loaf in the following fragrances.
  • Green Tea
  • Pearberry
  • Sugar Blossom
  • Think Green
  • Sweet Grass
  • Jasmine
  • Chamomile

Friday, October 30, 2009

Undertaking My Web Site! And New Men's Soaps

I've been working on our wholesale web site trying to get it posted and up. Previously my son has done it but with his full time job and working on our retail site www.soapier.com I think he has enough on his plate to do. Besides I like doing the web site.

Here's the problem, I don't know html but the site was made from a Frontpage friendly template. So you would think all would be easy, with a WYSIWYG type of program it would be just insert the changes and viola!! Wrong, but it's not all bad. I'm really enjoying learning it. Microsoft has a wonderful community discussion board that when things go wrong I can just go and ask. Unfortunately sometimes they are speaking in a language I don't know. Thus a trip to the library for Html for Dummies.

So with trying to get orders out and getting soaps made I'm squeezing in some time to learn and get this up and running.

But for now here's a preview of some new soaps we have

We did a new line of men's soaps

Monday, October 19, 2009

Healthy Competition!

I had an incident happen to me recently. I created a soap with a very popular smell (very unsoap like fragrance) due to many requests from my retail customers. The idea of the fragrance got my creative juices going and I came up with a pretty funky bar. Now because I do google alerts I had done one on that soap and low and behold another soap lady was making the same thing, with a different take on the design. If I hadn't had a google alert on that soap I would never of heard of her or her soap company. Anyway, then a week later I notice I got an order from her for one bar of that soap.


Now the only reason she would want to buy one bar of my soap is to compare. So I called her on it and spoke with her on the phone and told her I knew who she was and why did you need one of my bars when she had her own? She said she just wanted to smell it. Right! Well I had a choice of refunding her money or sending it out and I figured if I refunded the money she would get someone else to buy it for her so off it went to her.

So now she's claiming she has the best, she was the first etc etc.

I knew what she was doing when she ordered the soap, something that a lot of business experts tell you to do. Check out your competition, order their products, see how they do it etc etc.

Now I'm talking to you small business owners like myself whether you have a gift shop, do craft fairs, or sell on-line.

I'm not an expert but I think it's WRONG!!

Don't do it because what you are doing is being desperate and trying to take away their customers to be yours. Somehow that just doesn't sit right with me. Why would I want to take your customers? Would I think your customers will be better than the ones I develop myself?

Now I do believe there is plenty of business for all of us but and here's the big BUT you must be creative. You really don't have to steal away any customers from your competition, just give your customers what they want. Don't tell me they want what your competition is selling cause that's not true. They might be buying that but is that the only thing they will ever buy?

What do your customers want? They want to walk into a store or your booth and feel good. They want to see creative things, things that make them smile. Today they want items with a fair value price. They want to see things done creatively that they don't think they can do themselves. They want to see displays done up that tells a story.

Now, tell the truth, do you try and get the same products that your competition has to sell in your store? You think that they are selling a ton of it and you want some of that action. That's a no no.

Think creatively and find different products that sets you apart from the rest. "but Linda there is just so many products out there" Well that might be true, but if they go to the Atlanta show to do there shopping then you go to New York. Not enough different stuff in New York then go to LA. Also you have tons of different artists on line at Etsy.com or wholesalecrafts.com that are looking for wholesale buyers and they aren't at any trade shows. Find some new and different stuff and bring your style into your store and then you will have designed a store that no one can copy. Put your stamp of design on it. Give your customers good customer service, wonderful products and forget about what the other guy is selling and doing. Do your own thing!

"But Linda I'm not creative" Not true, everyone is creative, maybe not in the same ways but we all are. God created the world, we are in his image thus we are creative.

We all work hard at our businesses, we all deserve to be successful, leave your fellow store owner, business owner alone, concentrate on you, not them.

In regards to my business I also had an email from another soapmaker who loved my designs hope she could one day do the same quality of work and to her I gave her my phone # and told her to call me any time, I was willing to help her on her journey.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

New Policies

Sometimes we have to take a hard look at the numbers and do the right thing for the business. My hope has always been that those who buy from me wholesale would be able to make a nice profit from selling my soap. I still have that desire, but a visit with the accountant, a hard look at the numbers has forced me to reconsider some of our policies. New policies will take effect on Monday October 19, 09

Minimum orders
I have always had a minimum order requirement posted on our site and for the last few years it's been $150 for new accounts and $100 for reorders. Many times I've received orders for less than and just let them go thru, we won't be able to do that in the future.

I always thought that volume selling was the way for First In Line Soap to make money and so I created a program that allowed our customers (you) to get a free loaf with every 5 loafs ordered. Plus my fear for the retail stores in this economy and how I could help was also what prompted the Customer's Come First Program. The program was a success but did not generate enough sales for us to continue with it , so it's being discontinued.

One of the things I'm most proud of is our offer to you of our signs, labels and wrapping paper. I believe that these help you market the soaps. I think we are unusual in this offer and of course I think our label and sign designs are definitely creative. So I had a choice of either increasing our prices for the loafs or start charging for the extras. I thought hard about this and decided that keeping the cost of the loafs the same at $29. was in your best interest for your profit margin. So on the shopping cart you will have the ability to buy the labels, signs and wrappers.

Private Labeling On our web site you will be given the choice for private labeling with an additional cost above the price of our regular labels.

Jumble Bubble loafs, with each loaf we make there is always some extra soap left over that needs a home and that was the intention of the Jumble Bubble. For these loafs we have to pick a fragrance and come up with a design that would be appealing to your customers and you make a tidy profit. Well these loafs are getting to be more work than our regular line of soaps. Time is money so they say and with that we have to increase the price of them to $22. each. My goal is to make them before hand, have pictures of them and then once someone buys it it's gone and then we make more. When you buy the one pictured that's what you will get.

Turn Around Time
Please order with consideration to our turnaround time. We have a two week turnaround time and during the holiday season it can be up to 3 weeks.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Time Management!

What a waste of time!

Searching for items, spending minutes, hours looking for them. Repeating the same things over and over again when you can do it just once. Running errands without a list to find out you forgot something and have to go out again. How much time do you waste? I'm afraid to even know.

Time wasting costs time... but it can also cost money. Being organized... THAT saves you time to do the things that are productive, and it can also make you money!

Time is like your bank account filled with money (I wish) and you get to choose how you will spend it. So lets say you have lots of money and decide to go out and buy an expensive steak dinner. Once you've spent that money it's gone. Now you could have gone to the store bought a great steak, cooked it for you and your friends and spent way less money. You have that choice. The same is true about time.

Your time bank account has lots of resources, but if you are like me you might be spending it foolishly.

I forgot a valuable lesson about this that I learned along time ago when my kids were little.

The moment came for my son (he's the oldest) to start to learn how to tie his own shoes. The thought of teaching him to tie his shoes would arise when we were ready to go out. I had a choice on those occasions to teach him to tie his own shoes or just do it myself. I opted to do it myself because I rationalized that it would take less time. That was true for that particular moment but then I realized if I added up all my shoe tying for him it was a heck of lot more effort than teaching him how to.

That experience happened about 33 years ago and last night I remembered that lesson and realized I was doing the same thing again with my meds. Time wasting.

Each morning and evening I open the bottles and pick out the pills and re-close the bottles and then look at each pill in my hand to make sure I got them all and then I swallow. This happens twice a day 7 days a week. Once I have the bottle opened it would take a bit more time to pick out seven pills drop them in a seven day pill box and then close bottle and repeat till I was done for the whole week. My estimation is it would take me maybe 5 minutes more on one morning of the seven days. Then all I would have to do each of those other 6 days is open the one marked for the day and swallow.

The above example is just one illustration about my time wasting.

So what to do? I have made many attempts to organize my life with to do lists. I love them, love making them, love crossing off what I've done. There are some problems with this though. I usually use a small note book that I thought would be helpful if I carried it around with me in my pocketbook. My goal was to do the list each morning (I'm too tired at night to think straight) The problem with this was half the time I couldn't find the notebook, ( a time waster). The other problem was if I didn't accomplish what I set out to do I gave up.

So I was stuck, wasting time. Well after realizing how I was wasting time on my pill intakes I decided I needed to analysis my other time wasters. I needed to come up with a type of system that would:
  1. keep me on track for goals
  2. figure out how to be a better time spender
So my little to do list page for my 6 day work week (God rested on the 7th day) will be on a clip board in my workroom that stays put so I don't loose it. On it I list the to do's and then what did I do. I call this The Boss. You know that guy who looks over your shoulder making sure he's getting his money worth out of you, the paper has now become my boss, the one I have to answer to.

What will this do?

My hope is that I can see what I've accomplished (hooray) and what I haven't (boo hoo). For the not done I'll ask myself the important questions of why? What happened that kept me from doing all that I wanted to do. I might not be doing things (like soap wrapping) in a productive way and then I can search out better ways to do it.

My purpose in this is not to beat myself up for not getting things done but to improve my life and how I function. I'm excited and really looking forward to being the best I can be.

My worksheet is crude but feel free to use it if you are so inclined to go on the journey of reducing time wasting. You can see it here

Of course keep in mind you and I also have to be realistic in what we can and can't do, you understand that, right? I'm not asking of myself to have a to do list that would take a great time spender a week to accomplish but I want to do it in one day.