Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Business Chat - Evolve or die


As always in the crafty world lately I’m hearing a lot of whining about slow sales. “It’s the economy, it’s the weather, it’s construction, the organizers, too many competitors”. It’s always something that you can’t control. 

You know what? No matter what something will always be out of your control. It will never ever be a perfect situation for selling. Maybe you should focus on what you can control. 

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. Because I am having a really great year. (I almost don’t want to say this out loud in case I jinx it). My online sales are up. Every single one of my shows so far has had increased sales over last year. I was telling someone about how things were really good for me and her first question was “why?”. It’s a mighty good question, why am I doing well and others not so much. Because if I can figure that out maybe I can keep doing it. 

In other news, the other day for the first time in forever I went into a large department store. I have to say, it was a horrible experience. The building was run down, there were no signs to tell me where to go, the displays were poorly done and ugly, the place felt like something my grandmother would shop at. The whole time I was there all I could think was that this store was a relic of the past and did no one from head office ever set foot in there to see what was happening? 

With these 2 trains of thought running through my brain this morning I read a long article about how 3 major Canadian chains are running into serious retail trouble. Sears Canada, Reitmans and Indigo are all facing a battle for survival. 

It is a very interesting read and something we should all pay attention to. It’s important not just because these stores are in our neighbourhoods, but because we can learn from this.

Here are some lessons I learnt from this article. 

“Years of complacency, and a failure to innovate, could spell the end of many Canadian retail brands,” said Craig Patterson, a retail analyst and the founder of the Retail Insider. 

Hm, failure to innovate. 

If your customers aren’t buying from you maybe it’s because you don’t have anything new for them to buy. Or to look at. I recognize that not all of my customers will buy every time they stop by (either in my booth or online). Of course they won’t. What I want is for them to continually come by, at some point they will buy and buy again. To keep them around I need to come up with new work on a regular basis, give them a reason to come back. 


“They didn’t, and they don’t, understand their customer,” continued Craig Patterson. Here he is discussing poor merchandising choices, such as Sears stocking lawnmowers in stores in downtown Vancouver where EVERYBODY lives in a condo. 

OK crafters, do you know your customer and what they want? Are you selling in the right venues? 

If you are a painter who insists on making 8’ x 12’ wall pieces have you considered where people who are living in tiny condos will put your art? Maybe you should make prints in smaller sizes. If you are a jewelry designer making huge statement necklaces costing $1,000 then perhaps trying to sell to a bunch of soccer mums in a middle class neighbourhood isn’t the right place for you. 

“People keep going back to some of these horribly dowdy stores thinking ‘there’s nothing here that I want’”. 

That is EXACTLY what I thought when I went into that department store. The ironic thing was that I knew that had something that I wanted but it was so ugly, so uncared for that I couldn’t be bothered looking for my item. 

Take a look at how you are selling your work. Is your booth or online store enticing and spiffy or does it look unloved? Display is so critical to your success both online and at shows. With so much competition around your space must make people (the right people of course) want to come in and find something to buy. 

As I read this I was thinking about why I’m doing well right now. Here’s what I have done that Sears Canada didn’t do. I have a new website and it’s usually up to date with new content. I painted my outdoor booth, put up new photos and changed up my display (not much but enough to look fresh). I have a lot of new work so that long time customers can find something new to buy. I think this is what is working for me. 

There are so many things we can’t control, like the economy, the weather, our competition. It’s really easy to blame outside factors for our lack of success.

Why waste energy on that? Take a look at where you are today think about what you can control. What can you do today to make sure you don’t end up in the same boat as Sears Canada? 

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