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Your Competitor’s Store

Competitor

Keeping up with your competitors can feel like Keeping up with the Jones’—a never ending process that includes keeping constant tabs on social media and websites.

As it turns out, comparing your business to your competitor’s requires more work than just stopping by. Check out this list for how to best approach an in-store visit.

Prepare

Start by making a list of everything you want to compare. This can include pricing and signage, and overall things like customer experience, first impression, appearance, customer flow, and in-person experience.

Let’s be honest, walking into your competitor’s store can feel uncomfortable. Pick a reliable and trustworthy friend to make the trip for you! Have them read your prep list so they know what to keep an eye out for, and make sure they stop by the restrooms and classrooms while they’re there, too. Better yet, chose a topic they have knowledge about to ask a sales associate while they’re scouting your competition; this is a tell-tale sign of both training and how your competitor is trying to sell.

Review

After you visit your competitor’s store, see how you stack up. Make a list of everything you need to improve on, and schedule it into your next few weeks. Every time you complete a task, cross if off the list.

Visiting your competitor’s stores should be done at least every quarter—trust us when we say your competitors are definitely shopping you.

*Inspiration for this post comes from Georgeanne Bender and Rich Kizer. Check out their website to find out more about them and their services.


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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Selling on Amazon

Amazon

How do you know if selling on Amazon is the right move for your business? This post will help answer some of your preliminary questions and give you a gist of the service so you can make the right decision before putting any money down.

Currently, 44% of shoppers start on Amazon and 40% of Americans purchase products on the site every month. This step-by-step breakdown will give you a preview of the process.

Pick a selling plan

As a business owner, you’ll likely chose the Professional Plan, which comes out to $39.99 a month. You can also chose to sell as an individual, and will be charged $0.99 for every item purchased through the site. Amazon recommends the Professional Plan if you plan on selling more than 40 products a month. This of course, is assuming the products you sell are approved to sell (you can check out a list of products that require pre-approval here).

Register on Amazon Seller Central

After you create your account, you can manage your products and start uploading photos. Batch options are available with the Professional Plan and photos can be uploaded one at a time with the Individual Plan. If your product is already listed in Amazon, the only other information required is the amount, condition, and shipping options. Otherwise, you’ll need to have the SKU ready.

Choose your shipping options

Speaking of shipping, the best way to go is to sign up for the Fulfillment by Amazon option. Fulfillment by Amazon takes away the hassle of packing and shipping, and even deals with returns. Through this you get a check every two weeks of the products sold two weeks prior, less Amazon’s fees. Fulfillment by Amazon also makes your product eligible for Prime, and helps your product to be listed higher on the search page.

Promote your products

There are multiple ways to promote your own products, including good, clean, and concise copy, encouraging reviews, and running ads on the site. The three factors that contribute to higher listings are price, feedback rating, and fulfillment method.

Analyze your performance

Similar to Google analytics, Amazon Seller Central provides interactive charts and numbers that help you compare your sales to other industry averages. Checking these statistics before and after making changes to your process can help you optimize the Amazon experience.

Does your store sell on Amazon? Have you found the service useful? Have your experiences been good, or bad? Share your comments to help your comrades in the quilt retail community.


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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Be Your Own Advocate

Advocate

Tired of customers saying they’ve never seen your store before? Sounds like it’s time to be your own advocate.

Do you ever go to an event and wonder how to hype your events up as much as the one you’re at? Well, one way is to create the buzz yourself.

Start by making or ordering signs to go in your store and front display. Send email blasts every other week about the event, and post in one form or another on your social media (actual posts, adding to your story, etc).

Press release

Another way to advocate yourself is through advertising. You already know how to advertise on Facebook and by purchasing an advertisement in your local newspaper, but have you considered writing a press release?

The best way to accomplish this is by writing the release yourself. Google “press release” to find examples of others, but the biggest thing to remember is to include the who, what, when, and where. Spice up the release by including some personal quotes, and wrap up the piece with your company’s typical pitch (the more impressive you can seem, whether it be the number of trade shows you’ve attended or the book you published, the better).

When submitting your press release, the best way to advocate your business is through a great headline. Try to say the point of the press release in 10 words or less—remember, the fewer the better.

Take photos

Any method you use to advocate for yourself—whether through a press release, advertisement, or sign—can be enhanced through photos.

As with anything, the more visual you can make your message, the better. We all know we live in a photo-centric society, but also remember to stay organized and catalog your images after each event.

*Thanks to Georgeanne Bender and Rich Kizer for the inspiration behind this post. Find out more about them and their services at their website.


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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Product Photography

Product photography

I’ve learned the most about product photography from following vintage clothing accounts on Instagram.

You heard that right, I learn from an outside source that has almost nothing to do with the quilting industry.

But in a lot of ways, it does. These accounts are small businesses that have to set themselves apart from their competition. Assuming their brand is what separates them, they have to stay as true to that as possible.

When people think of product photography, I think people think of what they see when they shop online; a plain, bright white background that makes the product pop.

Don’t feel like you have to have this, and also don’t feel like you have to go out and purchase photography lights, backdrop boxes, or even an expensive lens for your camera.

Be Consistent

The most important thing to remember about product photography is to be consistent. Use the same device to snap the photos (so the quality is the same) and preferably the same place (to take out other inconsistencies, like lighting).

Keep in mind that the higher the image quality, the better for your customer. This is especially important when choosing which product photo to post on your website/Instagram/Facebook story.

If you haven’t invested in a tripod before, now may be the time to do so (even if you take photos from your phone). Being the same distance and height from the products each and every time is key to remaining consistent.

If you chose to edit your photos (which I recommend—photo editing can separate the boys from the men), make sure you use the same filter every time. Filters play into your company’s brand more than you realize, think about how some photos can soften a look while others can make them more sharp.

Lastly, consider mixing in-context images with your product-only images so the consumer can get the best idea of what your product is and does before making their purchase.

What time saving tips have you found to keep up with your product photography? Share your comments to help the quilt retail community.


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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Quilting and Technology

Technology

Quilting has come a long way since it’s origins thanks to advances in technology and society. Like most other industries, quilting has made even more progress in the past three decades than the rest of it’s history combined.

Quilts can now now be much more elaborate and patterns much more varied thanks to the artistic freedom technology provides. Fabrics come in all colors and designs, and the number of tools available to quilters continues to grow.

On the flip side, dedicated quilters are also spending more time online. The amount of time they spend researching the quilting industry increased from 2.5 hours to nearly 8 hours a week since 2014. Further, “68% of dedicated quilters were buying fabric, batting, and thread online,” as of 2017.

Technology is disrupting the traditional business model that brick-and-mortar stores follow. In order to compete now you have to learn how to establish an online presence as well as make your product as easy as possible to get into the hands of the consumer.

Industry professionals feel like they’re behind in more ways than one. Common areas they want education include:

  • Product photography
  • Video workshops with best practices for Instagram and YouTube
  • Best ways to sell fabric on Shopify
  • The ins and outs of selling through Amazon
  • Copywriting for social media posts and online content in general
  • Shipping logistics
  • Email marketing with details on specifics like list segmentation and more

What’s Next?

The times are always changing and it’s up to us to keep up with them so our businesses stay relevant to our consumers. How is technology helping your business and how is technology making things more difficult? What tech-related skills do you want to learn?

American Quilt Retailer is dedicated to connecting you with like-minded professionals to help out with problems like these and many more. Share your tips about what technological advances have been the best moves for your business.


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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Trends from Quilt Market

Trend

Everyone knows that one of the best benefits from attending Quilt Market is finding out what’s trending this season in the craft industry. Check out this list to stay up to date on what consumers want.

What’s trending this season

  1. Ombré. Ombré is back, only this time in prints. The design is the same as the solid color gradient, just with polka dots or other shapes thrown on top.
  2. Butterflies. Just in time for summer, everyone’s favorite insect is adding it’s beauty to inspire quilts and fabrics.
  3. Nontraditional bom. Quilts featuring a variety of bom (or bill of materials) are everywhere in quilt design. Think Scandinavian design, or lines that form one overall pattern (instead of the traditional repeated block). The techniques used to create these quilts also differ, with regular piecing and applique used in the same project.
  4. Wool. Wool doesn’t have to be drab, this material offers an abundance of colors differing from the usual reds and browns. The texture wool provides continues to be a fan favorite, for both crafts and quilts.
  5. DIY Softies. Thought to attract a new generation of crafters, softies prove to be great gifts for babies and little ones. Think beanie babies or small pillows, it doesn’t get any cuter than this.
  6. Farmhouse style. Nostalgia for the farm doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, with curly script and farm animals, country icons are sprinkled through all sorts of craft and fabric design.
  7. Fantasy. Even though the most-watched TV show, Game of Thrones,  is over, the love for all-things medieval isn’t. Designs range from pretty pink unicorns to fire breathing dragons.
  8. Deep blue sea. Continuing with the summer theme, ocean animals are this season’s trend.
  9. Old becoming new. Staying true to it’s beginning, reusing old material and making the most of what you have was trending at Quilt Market. Rugs made of old rags and flannel shirts recycled into quilts were just some of the projects on display.
  10. Soft color palette. Even though Easter is over, soft color palettes can still be found everywhere. The lighter the better it seems this season.

Find out more

Don’t worry if you couldn’t attend this year’s Quilt Market, check out our digital issue to catch up on what you missed!


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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Quilt Market Aftermath

Aftermath

Now that quilt market is over, how do you actually follow through with all those good ideas and big plans?

The aftermath from quilt market, all those samples, being behind at work, and figuring out how to stay inspired, is a problem we all face.

Once you catch up on sleep, organize your life, and start prioritizing and tackling your to-do list, you’ll still have to turn those big ideas into actions. Here are some tips on how to stay inspired so those non-time-sensitive tasks don’t fall by the wayside.

Staying inspired

Since inspiration is a big level idea, the ways to stay inspired are big level too. A good way to keep the motivation after quilt market alive is through your vision. What do you envision your business becoming? How do you envision getting there?

Another way to not fall in to the same rut is finding what motivates you. If that’s money, then that’s okay! Find something concrete to help measure your progress so you can see your ideas to fruition.

Stay healthy

Oddly enough, when reading what keeps other people inspired, the topic of health came up more than once. This makes sense though! If you prioritize a healthy diet and exercise, not only will you feel better, but the endorphines released during your workout last well beyond the 30 minutes of your routine.

Life often seems like a never ending to-do list. But when that to-do list has purpose behind it, it doesn’t seem as daunting. Living a balanced life while trying to accomplish our goals sometimes feels like an extreme sport, but as we entrepreneurs know, the reward is so worth 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.

 

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Finding the Perfect Exit

Exit strategy

This topic may not be something you want to think about, but it’s something every small business owner will have to confront; what is your exit strategy?

An exit strategy is exactly what it sounds, an outline of what will happen to your business when you leave. The goal is for the transition to be as smooth as possible.

There is no right or wrong reason for wanting to leave your small business, but the best exit strategy is making the best decision for your business.

Exit strategy options

  • Lifestyle entrepreneur. Although this isn’t technically an exit strategy, reframing your business plan from growth to stability is an option if you have a steady income.
  • Give the business to a family member. This tactic, also known as having a “legacy,” is great if you have a family member who wants to do what you do. What’s even better is the extra time you have to groom your successor for the position.
  • Find an acquirer. This option is for those who don’t have a legacy, but want to take care of their employees. Remember when it comes to negotiating that your employees came to work for you, not necessarily the business.
  • Get bought out by current employees. This option typically goes a little smoother than the latter option, but don’t forget that different management can have growing pains come with it. It’s also easier to negotiate staying on and working part time if you’ve worked with your successor in the past.
  • Sell your stake. The most “business-as-usual” strategy is to sell your stake to a partner.
  • Plan an IPO. Only 7,000 out of every 1,000,000 companies go with this option, but the more you know.
  • Liquidate the business. This is the most final and no-strings attached option. The cash you make from liquidating will need to go to any debts or unpaid bills, so if making money from your exit strategy is what you want there may be better options.
  • File for bankruptcy. Although nobody wants this, it is an option during times of trouble. Remember, it’s not the end of the world.

Questions to ask yourself

How long do you want to stay in the business? Don’t get offended by this question, everyone wants to enjoy retirement eventually! This will help determine the best option for you.

What are you financial goals? When it comes to planning (and let’s be honest, running the business) this is one of the most important questions. Knowing the answer to this before consulting with your lawyer or accountant will make your choice much more clear than if you go in unprepared.

Of course American Quilt Retailer wishes you the best of luck in your retail endeavors, but we’re also here to help with whatever question you may have. Feel free to comment below what’s helped you the most with your exit strategy.

 


Have you heard the news? American Quilt Retailer is hosting the opening session at spring Quilt Market in Kansas City! Their Schoolhouse Series includes breakout sessions and an opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge from the people who make, design, or write about the products you sell. Register to attend today.

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Quilt Market Boot Camp

Boot Camp

What’s a Quilters Boot Camp? Do you want to own a quilt shop? Is that your lifetime dream? We have a must-attend event for you coming up in mid-May.

Build your retail muscle in this spring quilt market boot camp

If you’re attending spring Quilt Market in Kansas City, don’t miss your chance to learn from seasoned industry veterans Pepper Cory, Cathy McKillip, and Janice Pope in “The Power of Three – A Blueprint for Success from a Trio of Experienced Quilt Professionals” on Wednesday, May 15 from 9 AM-4 PM.

In this day-long Boot Camp, the three experts will provide insight, business advice, and guidance from their individual perspectives and cumulative knowledge. Providing a mix of corporate business background, quilt shop ownership, and a healthy dose of creative solutions to employee and customer problems, this is the place to get answers.

Receive a guide of “How to Shop at Quilt Market” plus a marketing system for successful shop owners that will grow your business by 15%! Focus sessions include hosting events in your store, improving your customers’ shopping experience, handling difficult customers and “weirdo” employees, and more. Receive a book filled with strategies that can be customized for your business’ success. Leave with a personalized blueprint for actions to take as soon as you get back home. This panel will help you navigate problems and share solutions. And by the way—there will be fabulous door prizes!

About the presenters

Pepper Cory: Longtime quilter, former shop owner, author of seven books (and counting) and present-day fabric designer and teacher, Pepper brings her knowledge to the table with a side helping of humor.

Pepper Cory-boot camp

Cathy McKillip: Daughter of a quilter and seamstress since she was a girl, Cathy McKillip left her high-power corporate job to buy a quilt shop and opened April’s Fool Day 2007. Since then she’s never looked back!

Cathy McKillip-boot camp

Janice Pope: An entrepreneur since childhood, Janice has managed a quilt store, repaired antique quilts, owns a pattern company, and is currently a fabric sales representative. Her store owner customers love her advice and assistance.

Janice Pope-boot camp


Have you heard the news? American Quilt Retailer is hosting the opening session at spring Quilt Market in Kansas City! Their Schoolhouse Series includes breakout sessions and an opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge from the people who make, design, or write about the products you sell. Register to attend today.

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Schoolhouse Series

Schoolhouse Series

Have you heard the news? American Quilt Retailer is hosting the premier and opening session of the Schoolhouse Series at spring Quilt Market in Kansas City.

This year’s quilt market officially runs May 17 – May 19, but the Schoolhouse Series starts May 16 at 10:00 a.m. Be sure to check in before, and breakout sessions begin immediately after.

The goal of the Schoolhouse Series is to provide quilt industry professionals opportunities for increased profitability through education.

Five business experts will help present during AQR’s session over topics including marketing, branding, social media, business coaching, and finance. The goal of this premiere session is to get you started with a mindset inspired to move to action.

Schoolhouse Experts

Here is a breakdown of the opening session presenters:

  1. Life coach Beth Montpas. Beth spent 20 years as a small business owner and now helps women regain confidence saying, “if you don’t like the part you’re playing in your life story, you can write a new script!” Certified by the John Maxwell Team, Beth is a frequent public speaker and contributor to AQR.
  2. Consumer anthropologists Rich Kizer and Georgeanne Bender. This duo has been helping businesses since 1990 while making appearances on MSNBC’s Your Business. They’ve also been named two of Retailing’s Most Influential People saying “Consumers can buy what you sell in any number of places so the experience with you has to be a stand out, every time.”
  3. CEO Leann Pressly. This self-proclaimed #bosslady is CEO of Stitchcraft Marketing and does consulting for craft companies. Leann pulls from her over 20 years of experience to give tips on both Stitchcraft’s blog and podcast and has spoke at such conferences as AFCI.
  4. Consultant Sommer Sharon. Sommer is a long-time business owner who’s company, Sleigh Consulting, specializes in search engine optimization and digital marketing.
  5. Business savvy Tom Shay. Tom offers business help and advice through a variety of platforms including through his website, podcast, speaking engagements, and articles. Tom gets more than anyone what it’s like to own a small business, so that’s why he created Profits Plus, a tool to help small business owners everywhere.

Register Today

The first 800 attendees get an exclusive article by American Quilt Retailer (available only after quilt market for purchase) and 400 blue bags stocked full of giveaways. Check out the link in the signature to register today.


Have you heard the news? American Quilt Retailer is hosting the opening session at spring Quilt Market in Kansas City! Their Schoolhouse Series includes breakout sessions and an opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge from the people who make, design, or write about the products you sell. Register to attend today.