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The Retail Grind

Working retail is the source of dread for many.

And rightfully so, with sales like Black Friday that everyone and their mom takes advantage of, it’s easy to see why so many former-retail employees cringe at the thought.

We’ve all been there, rummaging through piles of picked-through jeans to find our size, just to discover that it’s been sold out for hours from the all-too-blunt employee. Nobody is happy they woke up so early to get to work or take advantage of a deal, but nobody needs the attitude either.

That’s why it’s so important to eliminate that aspect from your business. No matter what you do, make sure that entering your store becomes a source of joy for every shopper.

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Find ways to motivate your employees. Post encouraging notes around your shop; in the break room, in the bathroom, by the register.

Bring up the importance of being well mannered and thoughtful in every huddle you have with your team. The employees who make being cheerful with customers their priority will get it, and you’ll likely know who those employees are.

But the employees who sometimes let their guard down will need the reminder! Another plug never hurts.

And if you have an employee who still doesn’t “get it,” keep them off the floor. One of the most important things you can do is ensure that a negative experience with a customer is avoided at all costs.

Think about this the next time you have a negative retail experience; what went wrong? What could have made the situation better? As a manager what would you have done? Asking these questions can help you prepare for any scenario you may encounter in your store.

At the end of the day, remember that the customer is always right and if you don’t have anything nice to say then don’t say anything at all. If you follow these two rules, you’re off to a great customer service start.


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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New Education Director named for International Quilt Market

Screen Shot 2018-02-05 at 8.45.41 PM.pngYou heard it here first folks—Marcia Barker has been named the new Director of Education for the International Quilt Festival and Quilt Market.

Barker is replacing the late Judy Murrah and will be in charge of directing 150 faculty members and planning over 500 classes and lectures for both the Quilt Market and Quilt Festivals.

Barker’s main goal is to fulfill the big shoes left for her from Murrah, as well as listen to what the consumers want most.

Other team members include Education Manager Jill Benge and Education Assistant Barbara Cline.

In her personal life, Barker has been married to her husband Tom for over 40 years and together they have two children and two grandchildren. She also spends her time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity as well as performing across the world with variety dance group Up with People.

On a professional level, Barker has worked with Quilts, Inc. since 2000, and has been a member of the Education show team (including Education show team leader).

Quilting and planning are not new to Barker as she has been coordinator of the Bernina Fashion Show and has been sewing since she was nine years old.

American Quilt Retailer has been a regular supporter of both the International Quilt Festival and the International Quilt Market; even having an education class at the last International Quilt Market called the “Schoolhouse Series.”

AQR is excited to work alongside Barker in her new role, and wish her the best luck!

Check out Quilts, Inc. for more industry news, classes, and events.


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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Stretch the bottom line

In any business, cash is king. Making, and keeping, that cash can be the problem. Follow these tips to make the most of your money.

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Ask for help. Delegating tasks in the most effective way is easier said than done, but it’s amazing how far a little reflection can go in your business. Take two weeks and keep a journal with everything you had to do that someone else could have done, and any question you had to answer that you shouldn’t have had to. After two weeks the answer to making the most of your time (and time is money) will be obvious.

Stick to your guns. The next time you budget, chose a dollar amount for every line item and then refuse to go over it. Download an app to help you stay on track—like Mint—that links to your bank account and shows where you’re spending your money. If you’ve never kept data on your expenses, be ready for a wake up call. Numbers don’t lie though, and sometimes a wake up call is necessary. The app will send you alerts when you’re approaching your budget and tell you when you’re spending too much on something.

Purge, baby, purge. After sticking to your budget, check for ways to cut costs. The ways you can save money begin to be pretty apparent after using a data-driven budgeting app; start making those changes effective immediately.

Weigh your UPS and FedEx packages. You’d be amazed when you start doing this yourself how much you’re overcharged. Of course this isn’t the only money saving tip, but as our stores are inventory-driven, this is one process you could add that may end up saving some big bucks.

Use your resources. Chances are you’re a member of a trade association, but when was the last time you logged in and checked out what options are available to you? Save (and actually read) the next email blast or promotion you receive from them as a reminder to take a minute and peruse new ways to use your association membership.

Take your time. Money can be one of the most anxiety-inducing parts of our lives. If you’re hesitant about making any of these changes, sleep on it. If when you wake up (and after you’ve weighed your options) you realize the pros are greater than the cons, follow through. Change isn’t always a bad thing, especially when it saves you hard-earned cash.

money money.jpgIf you have had any success making a change in your business, and reaped the benefits financially, we’d love to hear about it! Contact American Quilt Retailer through our Facebook page today.


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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Affordable Foot Traffic

Affordable foot traffic—is that even a thing? And what does it even mean? If you want to increase your foot traffic without breaking the bank, follow these suggestions.

  1. Ask yourself one question: what is one thing my business could to to _______? Then answer that question honestly.
  2. The second step is to fill in that blank! What is one thing my business could do to increase foot traffic? Host an event! When you answer that question honestly, you’ll probably come up with an event that you would want to attend if it wasn’t your store. Don’t forget to think outside the box, the event should attract a new demographic and offer a sale. And since events are low budget the biggest resource you’ll use is the time it takes to plan it.
  3. Use social media. Email blasts should be sent every 15 days, and budget to spend at least $2 a day on Facebook ads.
  4. Offer coupons. Coupons are different then sales, every store can offer a sale. Set yourself apart by using coupons; statistics show 96% of consumers use coupons and 85% of consumers look for coupons before visiting a store. The more you know!
  5. Last but not least, put time and effort into your store display— it is more important than many business owners realize. The display can also be one of the most fun parts of running a store, so have fun with it!

foot traffic

All of these things take advanced planning, so be sure to include these topics in your company meetings. Not to use one liners, but these are tried and true statements: remember, more hands make light work and the early bird gets the worm.


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 Advertising

Each day we are inundated with advertisements, for things we need (and maybe things we don’t need), on more platforms than I’m sure any advertising professional ever thought possible. With all the options it’s hard to decide which to chose. Use these tips below to help you with the process.

Advertising is a much more complex process than people outside the industry would think. The first step to making sure your dollars spent are worthwhile is by knowing your audience. Chances are, you fit into your audience! Think about where you like to shop, what social media you enjoy, or something you saw and you immediately thought, “I want that!” Make a list of these outlets and start there.

The next step is narrowing your list; chose a couple options in your list and focus on advertising within them well. Once you have your outlets chosen, determine how you’re going to measure analytics. Today, with online advertising, sites like Facebook make it easy. There are other effective ways to advertise however (like billboards, trade show advertisements, and radio) that are harder to measure. Include promo codes or “Tell the clerk you heard it on fill-in-the-blank” to help measure this efficiency. And of course, ask friends and trade club members for their input on your advertisement as well.

Knowing when to advertise is the biggest move you can make to get the furthest reach. Things like sales, new products, employees, or partnerships, are wonderful reasons to advertise. If your business is at capacity, then wait until you have some breathing room to start an advertising campaign.

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Making your advertisement look good is not as fun as creatives would like to think. Chances are your business has a “look” also known as a brand. When it comes to advertising you don’t want to stray too far from that look; the more your customers associate the copy, font choice, and colors in the advertisement with your business, the better your sales will be (this just means you’re advertising well!)

Advertising isn’t on the forefront of every small business’s budget, but once you start you realize it should have been. Using these tips can help you get the most bang for your buck — and to know how to prepare for that next advertising move.


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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What’s in stock?

Inventory management. What a scary phrase, right? And when spoken as a task it can sound even worse.

But all business owners know how important inventory management can be. How is anyone supposed to know how much of a new product a business should order? Being small business owners makes these processes a little harder when time is already thin.

For those of you who don’t know, inventory management is the process of tracking assets and stock items. Inventory management follows the flow of goods from the moment you order product from a manufacturer to delivery to your local store and finally to the point of sale.

The goal is to keep as good of records as possible for each new and returned item in your store.

Inventory management

Building your own excel sheet is a good start for keeping track of your inventory. Another way to make the numbers more personal is by including the cost of the inventory in the spreadsheet as well.

Stock review is an important manual step in the inventory management process; simply analyze what’s on hand versus what you will need in the future. Of course you can always order product for a customer if they request it; but isn’t it handy for both of you when it’s already in supply?

Another plus of inventory management is that the process forces you to keep records; be sure to review these records once a year to know your best selling products during certain seasons. This can also help with new product predictions too. Keep in mind the ABC system when you’re doing this to keep you focused and organized, where

  • A equals high-value, low quantity goods,
  • B equals moderate value, moderate quantity goods, and
  • C equals low value, high quantity goods.

There are systems in place now to help with the financial side of inventory as well. Since each business owner has their own personal preference, I recommend this article that may help you make the best decision for yourself on what system to purchase.

Once you get this system in place, it can help you determine your reorder point and the amount of stock you want to keep on hand. Knowledge is power, and the more quality data you have on your inventory can save you time and money.


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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.

business conversation


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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.


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.