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Top Notch Customer Service

No matter what your resolution is, for your life or for your business, exceptional customer service should be a priority for your business. Below are some tips to ensure you’re offering the best service you can.

  1. Greet customers with a smile. When selling to strangers, a proper greeting is a must to get that sale. You have 60 seconds to make an impression and every second counts. Not only does it show you’re happy to be there, but you also confirm their time is valuable to you. Starting with a smile can help the conversation that follows.
  2.  Be mindful of pronouns. The most common misused pronoun is “guys.” Instead, ask the customers name and use memory hacks to help you remember it. Whether you associate the name to a friend who has the same one, or with a rhyme that will help trigger your memory, knowing a customers name can go a long way into making them feel appreciated.
  3. Be present. Ask how you can help, and stay within the customer’s sight. If the phone rings during a conversation, the person in front of you takes precedence. If a customer approaches you, stop what you’re doing. At the same time, be mindful of the customers who are consuming too much of your time and honor everyone in the store who may need your assistance.
  4. Go above and beyond. If a customer wants something out of stock, go to the storage room and check your inventory. If that item is still out, offer to order it for the customer. Never use the words “I don’t know,” unless you’re also going to say that you will find out. And no matter how busy you may be, don’t talk about wanting to go on break.
  5. Be tactful. If a card is declined, ask if they would like to use another form of payment. Haste makes waste; spend your time with each customer. Check the items before the customer leaves the store for any damage, and make sure the customer has everything they purchased too. Ask for help when you need it, and don’t forget to smile and thank the customer as they leave your store.

What can often seem as common sense is easy to get lost in the everyday hustle of being a business owner. Start the New Year strong by building and keeping relationships with the people who keep our businesses running.

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Thank You from AQR

As we reflect on the past year, everybody at AQR wants to thank you all for your continued support.

AQR1We’ve had a lot happen; we hired new members, we increased consistency of our blog, and we released our first digital issue. And we’re planning for a lot more to happen in 2018.

And some things stayed the same. We still enjoyed ourselves at the fall Quilt Market (and with our Schoolhouse Series), we still celebrated outstanding quilt shops, and we still learned new techniques to share with our beloved customers.

AQR knows we wouldn’t be where we are today without you, the reader. We take pride in being able to connect a community and encourage small business owners across the nation, so thank you again from the bottom of our hearts. AQR2

We hope as you reflect on 2017 you find yourself content with your successes, and everyone at AQR wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2018.


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Gift ideas for crafters

Christmas is less than a week away, but there is still time to get that last-minute gift for the crafter in your life (while not steering too far away from your budget).

  1. Hot glue gun: the crafter’s tool of choice. Stock up on glue sticks and glue gun accessories like tweezers and a bag to store your gift in. You can never have too many!
  2. Knitting kit: so your crafting friend can knit on-the-go. Kits come in accessible boxes and include almost anything you’d need to complete a pattern.
  3. Washi tape: to scrapbook or spice-up plain gift wrap. Throw in some mod podge, another crafter must-have, to save the creative in your life a trip to the craft store.
  4. Doodling notebook: or adult coloring book, depending on what your friend prefers! Keep all those wonderful ideas in one place or buy Creative Doodling and Beyond, a book that provides doodling inspiration.
  5. Craft storage: to inspire any crafter when it comes time for spring cleaning. Make it a package by also including a tote and cutting mat.
  6. Jars: Mason jars have more uses than can be typed; feel free to decorate them before to make the gift even more special.
  7. Gift card to art class or store: who doesn’t love free money! Enough said.
  8. Crafter’s book: look into staples like Martha Stewart’s Encyclopedia of Crafts, or purchase a craft-specific book for knitting, macrame, and more. The list is limitless!
  9. Wall decor: or wall art that would look good in a crafter’s studio. Whether it is something you make on canvas, a poster, or vinyl you purchased, a crafter is sure to showcase your thoughtfulness.
  10. Magazine subscription to American Quilt Retailer: the gift that keeps on giving!

If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.

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Why Resolutions Matter

New Years resolutions can quickly become fruitless; why make a change on January 1 when you can make a change any day of the year? But, somehow, New Years resolutions are still around.

To some, it is the act of reflection that drives them to create a goal. Looking back at the year can tell us where we went wrong, where we went right, and where we got stuck in a rut. Reflection provides the opportunity to learn from the past and invest in a better self.

To others, it is a renewed attitude. The holidays are supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. But often it becomes a time of body shaming (even though that pie felt so right in the moment), observations of selfishness (when so much money could go to better causes), and a reminder of all of those around us who will spend their holiday alone.

But a resolution is a great way to tackle one aspect of your life and transform it. Tired of feeling heavy? Buy a gym membership. Afraid to check your bank account? Donate money to charities in a friend’s name instead of buying them a gift. Feeling guilty that you haven’t done enough? Volunteer at a homeless shelter throughout the year.

Resolution

According to Psychology Today, these resolutions are what our brain needs. Goals provide direction and purpose. This leads to progress, which in turn creates happiness. And this happiness enables us to connect to people around us, providing a more fulfilling life.

So, maybe your plans to travel to Europe didn’t pan out this year. But making a new resolution can provide renewed positivity into your life.

New Year’s resolutions are still around for a reason. Let’s keep that tradition alive by setting goals to not only inspire others, but re-inspire ourselves.


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Top 10 Self Help Books

It’s never too late to start caring for yourself! Read the bios of these self help books to see which most applies to you—or to a friend.

1. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl was originally published in 1946 and is in the top 10 of the most influential books in America. After suffering—and surviving—four holocaust camps, Frankl writes about how to cope with, and move on from, suffering, and how he used these skills in his practice. 1

2. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is both a personal and professional self help book that includes in-depth exercises to put into practice what you’re reading. This landmark book teaches you how to live a life through integrity, fairness, honesty, and dignity.

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3. The New Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz was originally published in 1960, but updated to include modern anecdotes. This book walks with you on your way to success, no matter if your goal is to lose weight or grow your business.

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4. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini is a book about why people say yes. Learn how to make people say yes and how to defend yourself against the same tactics through this research-driven read.

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5. Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb is definitely the most business-oriented self help book on this list. Used on Wall Street, this book teaches you about markets and luck.

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6. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie is exactly what the title says; if you’re wanting a worry-free future then this is the book for you. Other tips include time management and financial planning.

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7. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz is yet another book who’s title accurately depicts what you’ll learn on it’s pages, if you reach for the moon you’ll at least land in the stars.

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8. The One Thing by Gary Keller is also listed on the top five business books and has won 12 awards. This book is about mindfulness, cutting clutter out of your life to be the most productive, and how to work on what really matters.

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9. The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene is a book that follows over 3000 years of powerful public figures and narrows their common traits into 48 laws to follow in your life. Read about confidence, humility, self-preservation, and more.

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10. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely shows how humans waste time and money on systemic processes in our lives. Whether you’re buying a car or choosing a romantic partner, this book exposes how humans are predictably irrational.

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AQR knows business owners don’t have access to an infinite amount of spare time, but pick up one of these reads as a gift for a fellow business owner or as a way to kill time while traveling.

*Note: this list was found at Medium.com, another blog founded by the creators of a little app known as Twitter.


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Create your online presence

Now that Black Friday, Small-Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday have all come to a close, you can take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back for surviving the busiest week for retail stores every where.

And as you prepare for the continuing busy holiday schedule, one thing to keep in mind is your online presence.

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Developing an online presence can be intimidating; especially if your business has never had one. But one sure way to ensure you are getting the most success during the holiday season is ensuring your website and social media are as on-point as your store.

Here are some tips to get started:

  • Plan ahead. Have a goal and outline for what you want your website to look like. Think of it as how you plan your store; your business’s website should be clean, welcoming, and easy to manage. Try to follow the three-click rule, meaning you shouldn’t have to click more than three times for customers to find the information they need.
  • Write. Write your own message but keep it short and simple. Feel free to use calls to action and advertise what sales you have going on. Make sure you tell customers what you can do for them even if you don’t have an online shopping option.
  • Seek help. Designing a website isn’t easy, but it is so important in today’s industry, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. The most cost effective way to build a website is through a website builder rather than hiring a designer. Check out this article for an in-depth review on which website hosts are the best for you.
  • Keep it professional. Make sure your website is heavy on visual content; but most importantly, make sure you’re happy with the product! Take your time building the website and try to keep your online brand as consistent as the physical store.
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Another important tip is to test your website on a variety of platforms. Ideally, your website should be transferable to all three. 

I realize the holiday season isn’t the best time to make a website, but with the new year comes new goals. If you already have a website, now is the perfect time to freshen it up! Creatives love to create, think of working on your website as another outlet for your creativity.


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AQR Releases Digital Issue

Have you heard the news? American Quilt Retailer is excited to announce the special digital issue is available for download at our website! And did we mention it’s free?

In this issue you can read all about the International Quilt Market and get bonus’s compared to our print issue, including links to other articles. Just click on the links to dig deeper into your favorite pieces and ideas.

Articles include a synopsis of the Schoolhouse Series presented by Heidi Kaisand and Jody Sanders, product snapchats of favorites found at the market, and who’s who at the market (remember, it’s never too late to start preparing for next year)!

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Heidi Kaisand (left) and Jody Sanders (right) present at their Schoolhouse Series at the International Quilt Market. 

The 50-page issue highlights more than the market in Houston, but includes advice on increasing foot traffic and this year’s quilting industry results. But don’t just take my word for it, check it out for yourself.

The special digital issue is in addition to the regular print magazine, so take advantage of this opportunity! What better way to recommend our magazine to fellow quilt retailers than by referring them to our free issue?

Reading this issue is the next best thing to attending the market, so what are you waiting for? Check out our digital issue while you have the time before the busy holiday season.


If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.

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FreeSpirit Partners with Morris & Co.

William Morris’s legacy lives on thanks to a partnership with FreeSpirit and Morris & Company.

FreeSpirit just released the Kelmscott and Merton lines designed from the archives of The Original Morris & Company. The FreeSpirit line is the most authentic and only place to get designs as close to the Morris style.

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William Morris was born in England in 1834 and was most known as a poet during his lifetime. Posthumous Morris is most known for his design work and influence on pattern through both textiles and wallpaper.

Morris’s style includes influence from nature and has inspired designers for the past 120 years. The possibilities of using this traditional line of patterns in contemporary quilts has the AQR team excited to try them out.

Two designers also excited to try this line are Justin Hancock, third generation quilter of Hancock’s of Paducah, and Pokey Bolton, founder and CEO of Crafting A Life.

“I have such an appreciation for William Morris as both an artist and fabric printer,” Bolton said.

And agreeing with California-based Bolton is Hancock who owns a quilt shop halfway across the country in Kentucky.

“William Morris clearly tapped into the intersection of art and artisanship and I have long been a fan,” Hancock said.

FreeSpirit Fabrics started in 2000 with a goal of being a catalyst in the quilting industry by providing inspiring fabrics with character. Visit their website to peruse their lookbooks, patterns, and designs. You can also read more about Morris by visiting AQR’s first-ever digital issue.


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Winter Window Display

Continuing the theme of Heidi’s iDiscover chat—scheduled for next week on the topic of store design—is the often-overlooked window display. Believe it or not, window displays are still a vital element to retail merchandising. Outlined are tips to get you into the holiday spirit to spice up your window display; and maybe even attract some new customers during your town’s annual holiday festival.

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This window display does a great job at varying height and keeping the product featured at a minimum. Plus, the simple design reflects the company’s brand.

 

  1. Plan one month in advance. Many winter open houses are already less than one month away, but no worries, the sooner you start planning the easier (and more polished) your window display will look. This means sketching your idea, gathering supplies, and having a plan B if your craft doesn’t exactly pan out.
  2. Clean your window before you begin. Just because you don’t think anyone else will notice those dead flies sitting in the sill doesn’t mean you shouldn’t clean your window! I know taking the old display down and storing it for next year is  a daunting task, but a clean window is the foundation for a stunning display.
  3. Have a focal piece. Preferably one of your more-pricey products, but try to keep the number of products in your display to a minimum. Be sure this piece is kept at eye level to grab your customers’ attention.
  4. Layer. Multiple layers of height will add more to your display than you realize, even if your design-style is simple and sleek. And don’t focus on blocking the view into your store, this just gives customers a peek into what they’re missing out on.
  5. Forget the “Sale Sale Sale!” signs. One sign should be plenty to get your sale across. Instead, focus on being consistent with your theme. Plus, the more crafting you get to do, the more fun you’ll have getting this project out of the way. Maybe a customer will even ask how created what you did (aka the ultimate compliment for a crafter)!
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The time spent on this bold window display is evident; don’t be afraid to go big—just start planning now.

The holidays provide plenty of inspiration for what to include in your display, the hard part is deciding on how to narrow that down. Don’t be afraid to be daring; this is your business’s chance to show off just how awesome you really are! Think of your store’s window as the pitch to get customers inside.


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iDiscover Chats

Tune in to the Creativation show on Facebook on Wednesday, November 15 from 2:00-2:15 CST to listen to an inspiring talk given by American Quilt Retailer and Hen and Chicks Studio owner Heidi Kaisand.

The topic will be on creative store design tips, so be sure to schedule this into your day as the video will be broadcast live. Also be sure to join the Facebook page  before this time to make sure you have full access to everything the page has to offer.

Creativation is hosted by the Association for Creative Industries. AFCI is a trade association for creative arts and provides a platform for creative arts professionals to connect and learn from one another.

Creativation

AFCI started in 2004 when two leading crafts associations decided to merge. Since then the association has been dedicated to keeping up with the evolving craft world in order to stay up to date with how ideas are spread as well as encourage creative souls to succeed.

The non-profit is based out of New Jersey and their mission is to “unify, connect, represent and support the growth of the global creative community. We serve members who provide products, services and marketplaces which entertain, educate and instruct and above all inspire consumers.”

AFCI

Past iDiscover chats include “The Future of Storytelling,” by Heather Roach Heuman of Sweet Tea Social Marketing and “Discover the New Generosity Paradigm” by Leann Pressly of Stitchcraft Marketing. Click here to view a complete list of past iDiscover chats.

Outside of their shows, AFCI is also hosting a Creativation convention in January in Phoenix, Arizona, and AFCI even has a philanthropic arm to their non-profit. AQR is excited to contribute to this association and hope you can all tune in to find out how to best style and design your store.


If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to American Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you.