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Disaster Planning

Disaster planning

Disaster planning: what a bleak topic to address, right? Despite it’s lack of appeal, it is important for your business to prepare for whatever this winter may throw your way.

Communicate

Do you have an easy way to contact your employees to let them know if the store will close during inclement weather? What if their checks are delivered by mail? Some changes your business could make (like switching to direct deposit) will make your life easier in the long run too.

After letting your employees know they can stay at home, send an email blast to your customers letting them know too. Don’t forget to post on social media as well (and the best part is you can do all of this while still in your pajamas).

Review

You likely already have systems in place to help with the aftermath of a disaster. Review your insurance policy to make sure things your business may be susceptible to (flooding for instance) is covered. Knowing what your insurance covers before you use it can help alleviate the stress that comes from disasters; coverages can even include things such as shrubs, business continuation, and much more. Speak with your insurance agent to find out more.

Plan

It goes without saying, but a big part of disaster planning is the planning part. Is your business ready in case the power goes out? Keep extra blankets and flashlights handy in case this happens.

Regularly checking smoke and carbon monoxide detectors is always a good idea. If you don’t already have escape routes planned for fires, then add that to your list too (and post the routes in each room). Your employees will only be ready during a disaster if tools are provided before, so for everyone’s safety, educate your employees on how to handle themselves and customers during a worst-case scenario.


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How to make (and use) a QR code

QR Code

Has your business ever used a QR code? QR codes are found everywhere today; brochures, billboards, social media, you name it. Not only will this post outline how to make your own QR codes, but how your business can use them as well.

First, what is a QR code? A QR code contains an array of machine-readable black and white squares that includes information about a product—typically a URL—and is accessed by the camera on a smartphone (fun fact, QR stands for quick response and was invented for the automotive industry in Japan).

How to make a QR code

Start with a simple Google search. Like all trends in technology, the software to make QR codes changes as much as the weather.  One good thing is that you can still make these codes for free.

Some older QR coding websites include RCode Monkey, QR Stuff, and Scanova. A more recent Google search shows QR Code Generator as the search engine’s best option. The more you use and play around with QR code generators, the quicker you’ll develop a preference.

Going back to the example, QR Code Generator provides extensive options, in both files to include in the code (MP3, email, SMS to name a few) as well as display options for your code (Want a border? They have it! Want your company’s logo? No problem!).

Where to use QR codes

QR code generator outlines the best design and printing options for you code on brochures, business cards, banners, labels, food packaging, tickets, and more. Depending how much you want to pay, the site also allows you to track your campaign, update your QR code via the website so you don’t have to reprint your materials, and allows multiple people access to the same account.

QR codes are a great way to measure how many people are viewing your advertisements or are interested in your events. Remember to include them in your next marketing campaign to see just how far your reach really goes.


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Crafts for Fall

Halloween is just around the corner, and with how quickly this summer went by, it’s not a bad idea to start on your fall crafts (if you haven’t already). Here are some ideas to get your store ready.

Craft Ideas

  1. Pumpkin pin cushions. Turn this into an event or make some during your down time to throw around the store (you can even sell some of what you make). Check out this tutorial from YouTube to get a free step-by-step guide.
  2. Costume area. Take some of the tulle from the fabric area and move it to a special area just for making costumes. Also include a lot of orange, black, and seasonal fabrics. Throwing in some costume patterns wouldn’t hurt either.
  3. Window display. Freshen up your window display with easy projects. Paint pumpkins, pine cones, and include baskets of apples for easy options.
  4. Wreaths. Wreaths are becoming decorating options year round, but take full force in the Fall. Practice for the holiday season with leaf, scarecrow, or acorn-themed wreaths. This could also be part of your crafting event, or just something else to add to your window display.
  5. Flower arrangement. Order a Fall-themed flower arrangement from your local flower store to keep at the checkout counter. Not only will your customers enjoy the personal touch, but you will too.

People just can’t seem to get enough of Fall—the flavors, the activities, and the colors. Make sure your store capitalizes on this season with these quick and easy ideas.

Does your store have any fall traditions? Comment below what your team does to make the most of America’s favorite season.


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Fall Trends

Fall Trends

New York Fashion Week may have ended, but Fall trends are just beginning. Stock up on these items in your store to stay ahead of the supply and demand game.

Fall Trends

  1. Brush strokes. Step aside tie-dye, this print is adding pops of color in new ways.
  2. Monochrome. Forget about black, wearing all of one color (either in one shade or multiple) is one of this Fall’s trends.
  3. Colors. Speaking of color, orange, pink, and yellow were seen time and again during NYFW. Even though orange could be found everywhere, pink was another standout. Don’t think of the soft, subtle shade known as millennial pink but instead get bright, bold, almost fuchsia-like shades. Speaking of generations, Generation Z seems to have opted for a pastel and muted yellow to define it’s generational mood.
  4. Half and half. Color may be coming back, but with this new trend you don’t have to pick just one. The half-and-half trend manifests in both horizontal and vertical folds.
  5. Over the top. The more glitter, rhinestone, or shine a material provides the better. This season is all about being in-your-face so don’t shy away from loud fabrics.
  6. Leather. Faux and real leather has always been around, but leather pieces could be found from head to toe.

As the weather transitions to shorter days and cooler temperatures, you may also be transitioning your store and inventory. What trends have you noticed from suppliers or competitors? How often does your store make seasonal changes? If you’re business is in the process of getting rid of summer inventory and restocking for winter, keep the above trends in mind.


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Why You Should Try Superior PIMA™

Superior PIMA

Anytime Superior Threads introduces a new product, we get pretty excited. And this is no exception.

This month, Superior Threads is releasing Superior PIMA™, a 50 wt. 2ply cotton thread ideal for piecing, quilting and even general sewing. It’s made from American-grown Pima cotton and is sold in 50 solid color options in 1,200-yard spools.

PIMAWhat Makes Superior PIMA Different?

Besides the fact that Superior PIMA™ is vibrant and smooth, it’s significant for several other reasons too, including that it is:

  • The first Pima product sold by Superior Threads

Superior Threads is expanding to offer Pima, a specific type of high-quality cotton grown in the United States. Your customers will love it.

  • Exclusively available to businesses and is not sold online by Superior Threads

As part of Superior Threads ongoing support of brick and mortar stores, Superior PIMA™ is only sold to businesses. What does this mean for you? Healthier margins and a competitive advantage. Contact your favorite distributor for additional information or call Superior Threads.

  • A high-quality product for a competitive price

Superior PIMA™ is a strong 2ply cotton thread and is a perfect go-to for piecing, quilting and sewing. The combination of a competitive price and a high-quality product will make this thread the perfect addition to your shop.

Ready to Try Superior PIMA?

You can purchase Superior PIMA™ from your preferred distributor or by calling Superior Threads directly (registered business accounts only). Want to see all the beautiful colors before you buy? Check out the website www. superiorthreads.com/pima.

Lucky you! Superior Threads is offering an exclusive giveaway for American Quilt Retailer blog readers. Go here to enter and win a complete 50 spool collection set of Superior PIMA™ – a $600 value! We hope you win. Giveaway contest ends on October 1, 2019 and winner will be contacted by Superior Threads. Good luck!


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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Small Business Email Marketing

Small business email marketing

Open up your email on any given day and you’ll find an email from one of your favorite stores. Everyone is running email campaigns nowadays, and because of that, it has become so much more than just sending a blast to your devoted customer base.

Read on to find out what email marketing services are offering and what it means for your business.

List segmentation

Email list segmentation is a marketing technique where you segment your marketing list on a number of conditions to ensure relevant communications are being sent to the right customers.

Think about how annoying it is to receive a lot of emails from one company; you don’t like it happening to you so try to avoid doing it to your customers.

List segmentation done right means more opens per campaign and other higher data points. There are a variety of ways to segment your contact list, and how you do it depends on the goals you have set for your business.

Consider adding a “new customer” contact list that automatically sends a welcome email to any first-time shoppers.  

Other ways include tagging certain customers based off their interests, or products they tend to buy. You can spend as much time on this as you’d like as the options are pretty limitless. Segmenting can be done by activity, inactivity, location, and so much more.

Email marketing services

Email marketing services offer different things, so again, the best campaign system for your business hinges on the goals you set forth.

The top seven services out there right now are:

  • AWeber
  • Campaigner
  • Constant Contact
  • GetResponse
  • iContact
  • MailChimp
  • VerticalResponse

It’s hard to know which is best for you without playing with them to find out which is easiest to use. Some services link directly with social media, but if you’re okay with adding the links every time then maybe that’s something you can live without. Some services offer an abundance of templates and others are more customizable.

Other services make contact management much easier within their system; others Excel spreadsheets still beat. By paying more, some services even allow email tracking and much more data on your users.

To help narrow the search, check out this article for a more in-depth breakdown on which of these seven will be a good fit for you.


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Small Business Shipping Logistics

Shipping logistics

If you think your quality product that consumers need can sell itself, you’re wrong. Unfortunately, how quickly you can get the product to your customer plays a huge role in the success of your business.

When figuring out shipping logistics, keep in mind the following.

What to keep in mind

  • Your company’s objective. This will help determine how much to spend on logistics. If your goal is to get your product in the hands of the consumer as quickly as possible, then spend more on logistics. If your strategy is to be a low-cost alternative, you’ll have to find ways to cut on spending.
  • Service sells. Transparency in the shipping process can be the best move your company makes. Often times it’s not possible to get your product to the customer by the next day, but sometimes all customers want is an efficient communication system.
  • Your management system is just as important as your forklifts and storage. It’s easy to pay big money for things you can see, but an effective management system can save costs on both the front and back end.
  • Keep track of your costs. By knowing how much you’re spending on shipping each item, you’ll know where you need to cut on spending.
  • Get competing quotes. Shop around every few years to make sure you’re getting the best help with your shipping logistics for the best price.
  • Plan ahead. By starting the shipping process before the busy season starts, you won’t feel like you’re drowning when more orders are coming in then your business can really handle.
  • Keep up on sales and operations. By accurately forecasting what your consumers want, you can stay on top of inventory.

Third party logistics

Some small businesses have found that working with a third party provider is too expensive for them, but this isn’t always the case. Check out options like UPS, FedEx, and DHL and their small business units to see how they can help. Often these companies have streamlining options for shipping that you may have missed.

Branding

Packaging is the perfect time to expand your branding. High quality packaging with your high quality product is just another piece of the puzzle to optimize the user experience.


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A Guide to Copywriting

A Guide to Copywriting

Copywriting may seem easy on a surface level, but the best copywriters spend hours trying to come up with the perfect line.

So what is copywriting? Copywriting is the art of writing copy (or the words that go on your website, products, advertisement, etc.) that make your services compelling and initiates your customers to take action.

Sales people reach customers one at a time, and a copywriter reaches them all at once. Although it may just seem like words on a paper, copywriting is a critical part of your business.

Understand your product or service

You should know your product or service inside and outside. If you don’t spend some time with it, researching it, using it, and whatever else you can do. This sets up the baseline and gives you the sales advantage; you should be the service expert so anytime someone asks you a question you know more about it than anyone else.

Create your product/service description

A good way to start this is to answer these questions:

  • What makes the product or service unique?
  • How would you describe the product or service?
  • What benefit does the product or service provide?
  • Is their pain the product or service alleviates?
  • What are the product or services features?

By knowing your product or service better than anyone else, answering these questions should come easy.

Know your customers

Knowing you customers, and what they want, can take some trial and error. One thing that will make this trial and error easier is through research. Here are some questions you should find the answer to:

  • Who currently buys your product or uses your service?
  • Who would you like to buy your product or use your service?
  • What does your typical customer look like?
  • What do they love?

Knowing your customer means you can cater your copy to make it more compelling. Remember, copywriting should be unique, specific, and convey urgency. The combination of these may not seem easy, but with a little work you can become persuasive in 20 words or less.


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Shoppertainment: Hosting events at your store

Events

Hosting events can be tough; it takes a lot of planning and organization to execute them well. If you’re hesitant to make events at your store a regular happening, look no further than American Quilt Retailer to help you through the process.

Check out our step-by-step list to guide you through the moves to make sure your first event (and every event after) is a success.

Evaluate

Determining what type of event your store should throw takes some evaluation; will the event attract current customers? Will the event attract new customers? How can the event encourage new customers to come back to your store? If the idea you have in mind addresses all three points than it’s a safe bet to follow through with the plan.

Three to Four Months Before

  • Send letters to vendors requesting merchandise for giveaways (many stores incorporate this into their budgets, you’ll never know if you don’t ask).
  • Ask for in-store help preparing classes and goodie bags.
  • Plan your advertising—what outlets will you use and when do you plan on contacting them to promote the event?
  • Choose your entertainment. DJs are always a good place to start.

Two Months Before

  • Check with staff weekly to make sure everyone is on par with getting their tasks done.
  • Follow up with vendors and entertainment. Check if they have any special needs (electricity is always a big one).
  • Put in your catering order.

One Month Before

  • Schedule social media posts promoting event.
  • Draw layout of sales floor outlining where everything will be day-of.
  • If this is invitation only, design your invites.
  • Start handing out fliers of the event to customers at check out. Be sure to train your staff on a 30-second pitch promoting the event as they put the flier in the bag.

Two Weeks Before

  • Check with staff to make sure everything is going as planned. If you find out things aren’t going as you’d think, you still have time to correct them.
  • Send your invitations.

One Week Before

  • Send press releases around town.
  • Prepare a list of in-store specials (grand-prize drawing 7:15, demo #1 at 7:30, etc.)
  • Talk about your event in your company voicemail.
  • Follow up with entertainment to make sure they’re ready for day-of.
  • Double check refreshment order.
  • Make “jar of beans” for guessing game. Not only do attendees love it, but it’s a great way to get names and contact information.
  • Start to get your sales floor ready for the event.
  • Adjust window displays to go with theme.

Day Before

  • Finalize floor plan.
  • Hang all decorations before you leave for the night.
  • And of course, check your master plan again.

Day-Of

  • Schedule pre-breakfast meeting with staff.
  • Distribute copies of schedule to staff and place by register, cutting areas, etc.
  • Greet guests at door and encourage them to sign a guest book, this is another great way to get contact information from the attendees.
  • Take photos.
  • And have fun!

After the Event

  • Send an anonymous survey to staff to get their opinion about how the event went.
  • Record sales, customer count, advertising process, number of vendors, and even the weather for the day. Keep this on file to compare to other events.
  • Send follow-up press releases of event with images.
  • Send personal letters (not emails) to everyone who helped.

We recommend hosting four major events a year and one to two smaller events a month. The smaller events can be classes, demonstrations, or make-and-takes.

Events can be fun and will become easier to manage with time. Hopefully some events will be such a success they turn into an annual endeavor.

Inspiration for this post comes from Georgeanne Bender and Rich Kizer. You can find out more about them and their product offerings at their website.


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Social Media Video Guide

Video Guide

We get it, video marketing is intimidating. But with 81% of businesses using video marketing in 2018, it’s time for your company to join the trend. Check out this guide on tips and tricks for two of the biggest video platforms out there.

Instagram Video

Even though you can shoot videos from the Instagram app, it’s better to have your video prepared rather than shot in the moment. But, the days of having fancy equipment to shoot a high quality video are over! There are plenty of video-editing apps available that make your phone the only needed piece of equipment.

Videos can be anywhere from 3 to 60 seconds, and figuring out the length that’s best for your audience will come after some trial and error. Be sure to pick a compelling cover photo, and remember that sound is optional on Instagram video. That means your video should make sense even if there isn’t any sound. The options of what you can shoot are limitless—time lapses of projects, tutorials, and clips from events are all good options for this platform.

YouTube

Best practices for YouTube are more traditional. Audio is important on this platform, so make sure the microphone is close to your subject and they speak slowly and clearly. Cue cards can help, too.

Quality is important also. While you still don’t need fancy equipment for YouTube, the video should be stable and tastefully filmed. That means subjects shouldn’t be straight on and the video has a purpose.

There are so many technical aspects about video that make filming just the beginning. What apps does your business like to use? What websites helped you dip your toes into video?

Video has some of the best engagement rates for social media; the trick is finding out what your audience wants to see. Remember, practice makes perfect and the best way to get good at video is simply by doing it.


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.