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Budgeting for Inventory: Part Two

inventory management

Last week we covered how to budget for inventory with funds you have. (Remember, if your inventory account is empty, don’t buy more inventory!) In part two of our budgeting for inventory series, we cover what inventory to stock and how to avoid supplier marketing schemes.

Buy with your customers in mind

First, know who you’re shopping for. If your client description is as overarching as “knitters” “quilters” or “scrapbookers” you’re not differentiating yourself enough.

Second, think of who your best customers are. A list of clients likely jump to mind, but note, your best customer doesn’t have to be the highest spender. Rather, your best customer can also be the most enthusiastic or a promoter of the store.

Once you have a list of 10-20 shoppers, buy with them in mind. Ask yourself before purchasing any product if it is something your best customers would like. If they won’t like it you shouldn’t buy it.

Finally, try to find a happy-medium when ordering inventory. You don’t want to buy so much product that it overwhelms your top customers, but you also want to have enough to satisfy demand.

Shop smart for inventory

Another thing to keep in mind are marketing campaigns from vendors. Vendors will use tactics to create a sense of urgency, such as “limited supply” or “limited-time-offering.” Remember, you should only purchase inventory if it makes sense for your store and you have enough funds in the account.

Inspiration for this post came from The Not-So-Obvious Basics of Buying by Gwen Bortner published in the October 2022 issue of Creative Quilt Retailer.


If you’re looking for more information to guide you in owning a retail business, subscribe to Creative Quilt Retailer today. Already a subscriber? No worries—join our Facebook group for insights and dialogue from industry specialists like you. And don’t forget, you can always purchase single issues if you prefer that instead.

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Using an Avatar for Customer Service

avatar and customer service

Creating an avatar can be a huge time-savings piece for your business. Not only does it allow more flexibility in who responds, but customers can do the self-service they’re looking for. Below are tips and tricks to get an avatar started on your website.

Your Avatar’s Personality

An avatar is a digital representative or persona. When creating this persona, there are a couple things to keep in mind. Will you avatar be a male or female? What is your avatar’s name? What sort of personality will they have? (Note, you don’t have to create an entire character design). Below are a few examples:

  • Suzy Q is the avatar for Suzi Q Quilting. She is polite and friendly. Suzi will validate a customer’s feelings, but hold firm to a store’s policies. She is cheerful and ends every interaction with “Best wishes on your quilting adventures!”
  • Todd is the avatar for another quilt shop. He is firm, but happy, and interacts with humor (often communicating with jokes and emojis). He doesn’t apologize for not bending policies but he does seek solutions to make the customer happy within company protocols.

Avatar Logisitics

Now that you know what sort of avatar you want for your business, there are a few other pieces to work out.

First, determine what employees you’ll dedicate to responding to customer service requests.

Next, create a standardized email that the decided-upon employees can have access to.

Finally, to streamline even further, track responses in a document and create email templates of common responses to frequently asked questions.

Inspiration for this post came from “Consistent Customer Service” by Gwen Bortner published in the October 2021 issue of American Quilt Retailer.

Wait, There’s More!

Interested in a FREE AQR Meetup? Well you’re in luck!

Next Thursday, December 16 at noon CST you can find out what’s on the radar for AQR and AQR Academy in 2022. You’ll also get tips on how to finish 2021 off strong.

Register for the Zoom event here prior to attending. All are welcome (and we’re interested in hearing what you want next year as well)!


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. And don’t forget, you can always purchase single issues if you prefer that instead.

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Decrease Your Expenses

Cut Expenses

One of the ways you can make more money is to decrease your expenses. Check out some of the questions to ask yourself below.

Questions to ask

Make a list of all the expenses you make on your business credit card and separate them into categories. Evaluate which expenses you should keep, and if you’re struggling, these questions should help.

  • Is this a service or product that I am utilizing every month?
  • Does an annual subscription make more sense? Often times, annual subscriptions save two months of the cost.
  • Does it make sense to pay for this level of service? Look into free or cheaper alternatives.
  • Can I cancel the service? Do I use it anymore?

Other ways to cut expenses

If you justify some expenses by saying “it’s only $25 a month!” remember that comes out to $300 a year.

One way to cut expenses is by salaries. We all agree employees should be paid living wages with appropriate benefits, but are your staffing assumptions based on old data? As business models change, some skill sets can be adjusted or moved to better fit your customer’s buying behavior.

Another way is through rent. Rent is likely the highest expense your business currently makes. How much do you earn per square foot? Can another smaller location fill your business’s needs? If customers are paying for parking, moving to a place that allows for free parking is a great idea as well.

Inspiration for this post came from “Make More Money,” by Gwen Bortner published in the June 2021 issue of American Quilt Retailer.


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. And don’t forget, you can always purchase single issues if you prefer that instead.

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Make Change Last

Change

Everybody experiences a major change at least once in their life. The change can take form in a natural disaster, a change in health, or relationships. The difference right now is everyone is experiencing a significant change at the same time.

Foundational change

Like many businesses, the pandemic highlighted foundational problems in your business. If cash flow became a major issue within week one or two of the quarantine, it was likely always a problem. Same goes for difficult vendors or having too much inventory.

Some solutions to these mean not just increasing sales, but looking at what you have more control of (expenses, inventory, investments, purchasing, savings, etc). Fixing the cash flow problem for your business is the best long-term solution your business can have.

If vendors have been difficult, now is the time to make new relationships. Easier said than done, we know, but everyone needs a helping hand when times are tough.

And last but not least, fix your overstock problem. A rule of thumb is your average wholesale inventory level should be between one-half and one-quarter of your annual gross retail product sales. The closer your inventory is to a quarter of your annual sales, the better you are at managing your inventory stock than most other creative retail businesses.

Review procedures

As with any drastic change, it becomes easier to try new things. If you made a sudden change to better adapt your business to operate during a pandemic, review that policy or procedure. A simple cost-benefit analysis should help you determine whether or not to keep that change, or leave it back in Q2.

For changes that make sense to keep around, determine a plan to ensure they remain moving forward. How can you keep providing online resources? Should you convert a classroom into a warehouse? These questions and more I’m sure are things your business has already considered.

For more information on how to make change last, check out “The Problem Spotlight” by Gwen Bortner published in the June issue of American Quilt Retailer.


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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Staying in business through the pandemic

Pandemic

Times may be strange as the world faces a pandemic for the first time in over 100 years, but many people are going to pick up new hobbies with all of this extra time. Quilt retailers across the nation can fill the creative void by providing craft tools in new ways.

Changes to make during a pandemic

Sales don’t have to decrease; you just may have to evaluate how you’re going to get your product to your customer. This may mean making an online store for the first time ever, or offering door-to-door delivery. Consider offering lessons through video conference calls, or create a virtual class through Facebook.

Be sure to let your customers know of your new services through increased marketing. Go live on social media, increase the frequency of your email blasts, and have employees reach out to loyal patrons through phone calls during the downtime in their work day.

And speaking of reaching out, remember the quilt community is the only community some of our customers have. Look into offering classes in public areas (while following social distancing guidelines), or a virtual quilt show.

Evaluate ways to save

Many of you have already had to make tough decisions; like which employees should you keep working and which will you have to layoff (even if it is just temporary).

If you don’t already, now is a great time to look at budgeting apps for your business’s finances. These apps will list what reoccurring payments your business is currently making that you can do without during the pandemic.

Another way to save money is to talk to your credit card holder or mortgage lender to see if your payments can be adjusted. We often view these expenses as fixed, but as the world isn’t operating normally right now, exceptions can likely be made.

Hang in there American Quilt Retailer community. By working together and sharing ideas, we can keep each other afloat.

Inspiration for this post comes from this article written by Gwen Bortner.


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.