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Store Preparation for the New Year

It’s never too early for preparation (especially after the year we’ve had). Consider adding these tasks to your to-do list so you can begin 2021 ahead of schedule.

Event Preparation

If you aren’t already hosting one large event and two smaller events per month, you should. Start 2021 with all three events hosted the first week, then you can alternate weeks the remainder of the year. Some ideas include make-it and take-its, demonstrations, seminars, and vendor days. And remember, an event doesn’t always have to correspond with a sale.

Team Training

Speaking of year long events, if you don’t already have a weekly team training scheduled, put one on the calendar. It may seem difficult to think of topics at first, but eventually your team will have requests of their own.

Some places to start include making a list of “never out” items. These are items that should always be in stock as they can make or break sales. And they should be in extra stock during the busy season.

Another idea includes coming up with bag stuffer ideas. Train your employees to give a 30 second pitch of the bag stuffer as they hand the flyer to the customer. This will prove much more effective than not mentioning the bag stuffer at all.

Finally, review your return policy. Try to be flexible on returns (as other competitors in the market are) but train your staff to ask about an in-store credit or gift card option first.

Gift Cards

If your store uses paper gift certificates instead of plastic gift cards, you’re going to want to switch stat. Retailers that switch from paper to plastic see an increase of sales from 35% to 50%. On top of that, 55% of customers have to go to a store twice to spend the full gift card amount, which is great news for your business.

Inspiration for this post came from 2020 Prep by Georgeanne Bender and Rich Kizer of Kizer and Bender. For more preparation ideas, visit their business expert page.


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Visual Merchandising for Your Quilt Shop

Visual Merchandising

With the Holiday shopping season right around the corner, now is the time to switch up your visual merchandising to optimize your sales floor.

Whether you know it or not, we make subconscious decisions all the time. Shoppers decide within the first 10 seconds of entering your store if they want to spend time in that space. Read on to discover how visual merchandising influences your customer.

Basics of visual merchandising

Fixtures, a simpler term for shelves and wall units, should look nice in your store but should never distract from the product. Also keep in mind that the American for Disabilities Act (ADA) requires 3 feet between fixtures.

Also include a speed bump front and center of your store to feature new items, tell product stories, and place irresistible items.

As for messaging, shoppers should be able to consume your message within 5 seconds or less. And remember, color is important. No matter what color scheme you chose, be sure to stick with it.

Some other interesting changes include replacing a metal display table with a wooden one. This simple switch will automatically increase sales. Also, profits increase the better your store smells. Grapefruit gives a burst of energy, vanilla calms, and cinnamon attracts money.

Layout options

The way you set up your store can also influence sales. Check out these layouts to find out if your store has room for improvement.

  • Sight line: Allow shoppers to view the entire sales floor upon entering. Place shorter items at the front and taller items at the back.
  • Vertical displays: Because we read left to right, placing items vertically guarantees your customer will view an entire selection in one glance.
  • Visual Curve Merchandising: Using slanted shelves or waterfall brackets will increase your customer’s visual strike zone. Without even realizing it, this layout forces the customers gaze forward, up, and down the product.

What are you waiting for? Make some changes in your store and watch your profit margins rise.

Inspiration for this post came from Visual Merchandising for the Holidays be Rich Kizer and Georgeanne Bender.


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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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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.