Saturday, June 30, 2007

Retail Sales And How to Increase Them

You know prior to getting into soapmaking I would make attempts to start a business and then would just give up when I felt it wasn't successful. Of course I'm talking about a very small business adventure on the scale of a lemonade stand but done by an adult (me) Each venture was started with such enthusiam, like the time I made Angel dolls out of muslin. This was a sewing project that I loved to do and at the time I was charging $20 for each angel doll. My first craft show I was so hopeful standing there looking at the potential customers hoping they would love my angels. Some did and some bought but then I thought I was spenting way too much time making those angels and not enough money was made to conpensate for that time. Now I realize I didn't give myself the opportunity to learn, grow and build that craft. I let this happen to me repeatedly. I had the wrong idea about being in a business for myself. Years later I would label myself as a quitter, you know when the going gets rough I QUIT. So back in "99" when I started my soapmaking business I vowed (of course I was 50 at the time and somewhat wiser) that I wouldn't be a quitter in this business. Well it's 8 years later and I'm still at it and there were many times that quitting would of been an easy option but I stuck to my guns. Now I tried different things to market my soapmaking the first being craft shows. That's a lot of work. Then I went to wholesaling which is also a very hard nut to crack.

Then I moved to Florida and I thought I'd take my business into the retail arena with a store. I had very little experience in retail but hey how hard could it be? Well retail is hard and especially in todays economic climate. I also made the mistake of renting a store just a bit off the beaten path. The bit off is enough to limit the amount of customers I get. So between the economy, the problems that Florida is facing now and my location my thinking of quitting is surfacing again. You know that old saying when the going gets rough the tough keep going. Plus I have a new saying that for every problem there is a solution and it isn't quitting. Time to think outside the box.

I'm not a big fan of advertising in the newspaper. I don't believe it's effective. at least for my type of store. I did put an ad in a local tourist type of magazine and even that I'm not sure if it's getting me any attention. I know I have a very cute store. People love my soap products so with those things going for me I had to come up with another way to get people to my store and also generate sales. Well this past week I held a spa party at my home. I invited about 30 people thinking that maybe half would show up. Some of those were my good friends who I knew I could count on to come. Had a postcard printed at VistaPrint for practically nothing and gave them out. 11 woman showed up for the party. I had a large amount of my products displayed on my table. I served a tropical punch that was to die for (I'll gladly share the recipe) along with chicken wings, cheese and crackers. The last guests left at 11:30 and all couldn't stop telling me how much fun they had. My friends were so supportive of my venture and all in all it was a wonderful time. Plus I sold more product at my home then I did all month at the store. Days after these woman would come up to me (most of those who came were from my complex) and rave about my products. These woman will be customers of mine for a long time.

So I'm on to doing my second home party at my store where I'll advertise the Home Spa Event in a local small publication called the Flyer (it's sort of like a Pennysaver from up north)

Sometimes we just can't lay down and play dead, we have to rethink things and stop spending money on advertising that isn't working and putting those dollars to use somewhere else. Ebay is another area that I'll be exploring for both my retail and wholesale business. I've done a few auctions in the past, didn't really get anything out of it and again I quit. I realize that I was approaching Ebay with the wrong attitude ( my younger years philosophy of giving up)

So I encourage all you store owners to brain storm and come up with something new and different to seperate you from the rest. It can be done and only quitters say it can't.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

What Creativity Created

I belong to a wonderful woman's group called S.H.E. Support Her Endeavors and at one of those meetings a fellow member spoke of wanting a life size mermaid for her store. My friend who's also a member. after doing some decoupage work and finding she loved it said "I can do that" She had no real experience in sculpturing with chicken wire and doing any kind of paper mache work but felt that she could create a life size mermaid. I was skeptical!!

Well each day as she progressed in creating this life size mermaid she would call me over to show me her progress. I knew she was going to be able to do it after I saw how she sculptured the face, it was amazing. Then the project seemed to take on a life of it's own. Solutions to questions on the creativity of this mermaid were always answered in some unconventional way. It was exciting to watch it just happen.

Being creative is a gift and each and everyone of us has it in us. You see you never know what you can do unless you are willing to try it. It took my friend several weeks to complete this masterpiece. I am extremely proud of her.

This mermaid is now in it's new home at a store in Tarpon Springs standing at 7' long .

Saturday, June 16, 2007

It's New

Well I'm convinced that blogging is here to stay so I might as well join the club. Hopefully this will serve as a spot to journal my experience in both the retail and wholesale business of soap selling.

I have a retail store in Tarpon Springs Florida that I love. I love retail and the best part for me is doing up displays. Recently we had to cut our store down to half it's size due to needing more production for our handcrafted soaps. It was a challenge to put all of our merchandise in less space but I think the store looks so cute now.

One thing I love about displaying is getting the store to look like a fun place to visit. A place that will make you smile. So I do chairs on the walls and furniture painted in fun colors, use louver doors for shelving and hollow doors as room dividers.

You can see from the picture below that I've taken doors and made a divider out of them that blocks off the productions area. I also hung some sheer fabric in a yellow gold color that isn't visable from the picture. This color yellow gold matches our yellow ceiling. The doors acts as another display area that I've hung some cute sea shell wreaths. I also used some old louver shutter closet doors as a shelving unit. These were so much fun to do and so inexpensive. Because they were used they already had a white paint on them and that saved the step of painting them (louver doors are one of the worst paint jobs) I just wasn't 100% happy with a stark white look so I washed them with some yellow paint thined with water, that took me no time. One set of doors cost me $15 and the shelving unit in the picture has 2 sets of doors plus 1/2 set for the back.

I love to go to thrift stores, salvage yards and garage sales looking for something different to use as a display piece. Chairs have become my new favorite thing to buy. Right now I have 4 chairs as display pieces set up very high in the store. So this one in the picture has some loofahs in a metal tin bucket and because the merchandise on these chairs isn't reachable for the customer I make sure I have more of that merchandise on the selling floor. Customers never fail to comment on the chairs and they think it's neat. I think it's important to do something different in a store that a customer would enjoy seeing. Because I love old chairs I'm trying to incorporate more of them in my design of my store. I have some made up as planters that sit outside my store and then I'll do some more shelving looks with some others that I have waiting to be done up.

One thing I've noticed about picture taking is that it tells the truth. Seems to me after viewing this picture that I need more chairs on the walls. LOL I'll be happy about doing up more of them.