Positive Yarn

February 4, 2009

Tuesday musings

It’s been a busy week already, and it’s only Tuesday! I just wanted to publicly thank Mike Hartnett over at Creative Leisure News for publishing my musings about using social media in the craft and needle arts industries. He turned it into two separate technology columns in the January 19 and February 2 editions. When I first retired from my job as managing editor of a business-to-business magazine, I wanted to jump right into doing writing, editing and marketing for things that I loved, like scrapbooking and the fiber arts. Mike’s bi-weekly e-newsletter was one of the first things I signed up for, to educate myself about the business side of the craft and hobby field. Mike himself has always lent a listening ear and a bit of advice along the way, and for that I’m truly grateful!

I still drop everything when I see CLN hit my in-box.

On another note, I just saw the weather forecast here in Northeast Ohio, and tomorrow is bringing more snow. I just can’t believe I look forward to this stuff when I’m sweltering hot in July. I guess I have a short memory.

I’ll leave you with this shot of a “tagged” tree outside Studio Knit in Medina, OH. (By the way, Owner Anita Byrd sent her latest e-newsletter today, which touts that the shop is going green with logoed canvas bags. As an incentive to buy one for $5, she’s offering 5% off future purchases when you use the bag. Kudos, Anita!)

Now this is the kind of snow I like all year long:



January 30, 2009

Another year, another $400 less in spending

Filed under: Business marketing — heathergooch @ 11:08 pm
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I recently came across a post that puts “the economy sucks” into better perspective. Aaron Patzer, CEO and founder of Mint.com, an online personal finance service that claims to have about 900,000 users, throws out some interesting figures based on data from his company:

“If you run a consumer business … your customers are spending $400 less each month than they were a year ago, have burned through half of their savings, and on average have taken on an additional $5k in debt.”

Yikes. So do you resign yourself to the fact that your goods and services might be relegated to the “recession concession” pile, in which customers toss their want for non-essential purchases these days, or are you the port in the storm — the stress outlet, the cheaper-than-buying-it-at-a-store gift inspiration, the “I better start selling my handiwork on the side” supplier and cheerleader?

By the time it’s all said and done, you’ll probably be all of the above. While the info is not exactly energizing, fight back with sales and promotions geared toward the customers who are shorter on cash, but long on the desire to be creative. Showcase patterns that can be done up just as nicely with second-tier products as with top-of-the-line supplies (a sale is still a sale these days, right?). Emphasize that a night spent crafting with the kids or grandkids can be cheaper and more rewarding than at the movies or the mall. Let students bring in their stash to work alongside some newly purchased materials. Dust off some older inventory and see if a “bargain bin” gets customers going.

Invest in a decent cappuccino machine and let them invest the “bucks” they might be spending across the street at their favorite coffee place back into your shop. Even if you ask for a $1 donation per cup to offset costs, it’s still a deal to them when they’ve resisted for so long not having any flavored java at all.

And good luck!

January 29, 2009

A stitch in time saves memories

Filed under: Business marketing — heathergooch @ 12:53 am
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I love this story.What a fascinating way to commemorate your world travels.

My needlework tends to be tied to my trips, as well — simply because I am the most productive when I have nowhere else to be but in the passenger seat of a car or in a less-than-comfy airport gate seat for hours on end. I can look at a finished piece and recall that it’s “been” to Honolulu, Austin, Fort Lauderdale and countless trips to Canton, OH (shout-out to the in-laws, there), for example. And when I wrap up in a particular granny square afghan, I know my grandmother made the majority of the pieces as an enthusiastic participant on senior citizen bus tours around the country back in the late 1980s.

Business-wise, I think a travel theme is an excellent concept to work into displays. If some of your core customers are excited about an upcoming cruise, for example, see if they might be interested in a special pattern they could do while on board, such as Jessie Armacost’s patterns through her company, Caribbean Images to Cross Stitch. Or perhaps stitch up a pair of cute slippers, belt or sleep mask before they pack. Regardless, it could lead to a sale of a special bag to hold said needlework — after all, if the trip is once-in-a-lifetime, shouldn’t they have a nice bag to match the uniqueness of the occasion? Oh, and don’t forget the stitching journal! (I have one that is about half-complete, for nigh on two years now… but don’t let that deter anyone!)

For recent travelers, what about a “slide show stitch-in” where customers gather to talk about their latest trips and show off their photos in between bits of stitching?

Because this tough economy means that fewer customers are planning to travel (“staycations” becoming more and more of a trend), you can also take the tack of a “virtual vacation” right in your shop. How about hosting Vegas Week, for example, where everything Las Vegas-themed — from cards to dice to showgirls — is on sale and you have a casino-like atmosphere in the shop? Be mindful of gambling regulations in your market, of course. Depending on how outgoing your employees are, let them wear a crazy feathered headdress or a card dealer’s visor.

With everyone going stir-crazy from a long, cold winter, bringing a relaxing destination to their sewing basket or crafting table could be just the thing they need to get them through to spring break!

I’d love to hear from you if you tried travel tie-ins in the past, or are planning them this year. What works, what doesn’t, and what are you going to try next?

January 26, 2009

But will she trade clubs for crops?

Martha Stewart’s scrapbooking line makes sense. Paris Hilton’s does not. Or does it?

When I first heard reports from the floor of last weekend’s Craft & Hobby Association (CHA) Show that not only did the heiress lend her name as a scrapbooking and fabric embellishments brand, she was actually at the show to promote it, my jaw dropped. What are they thinking?

Actually, it seems they’re thinking good business thoughts. As the topic made its rounds on the industry message boards, some pointed out that while you may love her or hate her, you know of Paris Hilton, which brings the brand instant status and recognition. In these credit-crunched times, it makes more sense for her to associate with products that are more affordable than, say, a line of high-end clothing that few can afford. It also speaks to people wanting to turn to their home lives and memories for entertainment — a night of scrapping is certainly more affordable than a night on the town.

Another selling point for “Paris Hilton: The Creativity Collection”: It seems to be aimed more at tweens and teens than at soccer moms — or even other women who are Paris’ clubbing-aged equals (although I’m sure someone’s 21st birthday photos might get a special laugh when noted that they’re at least partying on Paris paper).

While some of Ms. Hilton’s past escapades haven’t exactly been rated PG, much of the junior high set is either oblivious to that or can overlook it while being charmed by the pretty pink floral themes. As a parent of a budding photographer, I can attest that putting a camera into a young person’s hands can make you see the world from a different view, where something as mundane as a blanket draped on a chair can be interesting at the right angle. As I’ve banged the drum before, the future of many creative industries rests on the interest of the next generation — if they don’t want to learn how to make something, there won’t be anyone to sell to in the coming years. So kudos to you, Wooky Entertainment. I’ll be interested to see how this all pans out.

However, our fascination with celebrities and their hobbies isn’t a new trend. Look no further than the 1972 Celebrity Needlepoint Book by Joan Scobey and Lee Parr McGrath, a coffee table tome with such luminaries as Princess Grace of Monaco, Mary Tyler Moore, Betty White and even football great Rosey Grier. Mr. Grier is also known for his knitting, as is Madonna, Tracey Ullman, Sarah Jessica Parker and several other famous folks.

Which all leads me to wait patiently for 2010, when avid knitter Julia Roberts graces our movie theater screens with the Friday Night Knitting Club. In the meantime, my recommendation for a cold winter week is to consider warming up your shop with a Hollywood-themed open house. The Academy Awards is just weeks away — why not fill a “Curious Case” with “Benjamin Buttons,” for example? Or for the TV crowd, host a “yarn tasting” that showcases Vanna White’s own brand?

January 16, 2009

Tips and techniques to help set up a children’s program

Filed under: Business marketing,Outreach — heathergooch @ 4:56 pm
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As I wander through the Web, looking at what’s going on in the industry, I’ve constantly amazed at the depth and breadth of the information out there. Case in point is Mary Corbet’s Needle ‘n Thread blog. You may have seen these posts when she originally published them this summer, but she offers excellent advice in both setting up and conducting an embroidery class for 7- to 9-year-olds. From creating a “place setting” so that each child sees everything he or she is about to use, to making sure there’s a cookie break midway through, I applaud Mary’s use of step-by-step photos and conversational tone (it’s obvious she’s a teacher by training!). In addition, several readers share their tips and insights in the comments section.

I’m a big fan of teaching children how to stitch, because it fosters a love of handiwork. Even if it goes dormant as school and other things take precedence, it usually pops up again as a creative outlet in adulthood. It also is a great form of “viral marketing,” inspiring parents, grandparents, siblings and friends to try it out, too.

The Children’s Healing Arts Project (CHAP) is a variation on the theme that crafts can hold kids’ attention and let them explore their creative side. As posted by Michelle Mach, editor of Beading Daily, an interview with CHAP Managing Director Lindsay Ross reveals how a beading program for patients at Portland, OR’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital has been so successful, it’s been adapted to “fit the needs of different areas and populations, including waiting rooms outside of surgery wards, oncology floors, monthly grief counseling meetings for hospital staff, and art days in the lobbies.” Again, the comments to the post confirm the benefits of beading and report similar programs in other areas.

Finally, the Craft Yarn Council of America offers not only a certified instructors program, but 10 tips from the pros regarding keeping kids engaged when learning crochet and knitting basics.

I’d love to hear the pros (and cons) of your experiences of hosting classes for kids, and whether you’d be interested in Positive Yarn offering a white paper on the subject.

On a final note, I hope all the TNNA attendees and exhibitors have a fantastic Winter Show, going on this weekend in San Diego. Please be sure to check out TNNA’s Needlepoint Group’s new consumer Web site, which is making its debut at the show.

January 14, 2009

Celebrating longetivity

Filed under: Business marketing — heathergooch @ 6:52 pm
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I just came across this article in the Wilmette (IL) Pioneer Press. The profile of a needlepoint shop owner, who is celebrating 35 years at her store, is both comforting and inspiring. I love to see an independent shop thriving in this landscape of “for rent” signs, and love even more that the local media can celebrate it in print.

Profiles can often lead to the sharing of good business ideas, and Sally Volkert’s does not disappoint. Here are just a couple take-aways I gleaned from the article:

1. When Volkert and her late sister-in-law, Mary Gee, were running The Canvasback and raising children, they took turns watching the kids and the counter so that child care was never an issue.

2. Volkert teases that the shop has helped many women through their divorces. While I doubt that “getting you through your breakups since 1974” is on her business card, it’s a reality that many shops’ customers face, and it doesn’t hurt to be sensitive to that market segment. Maybe try holding Saturday night stitch-ins at your shop, replete with a kids’ corner where Disney movies are always on the TV. It can give customers something to look forward to besides another weekend at home. Some of the married customers might enjoy it, too! In a similar vein, I know some shops offer “wine and cheese nights” each month to build customer loyalty and attract some new people who are bored with the club scene and want to do something different and constructive. Of course, if Saturday nights are sacred, give something like the “Tuesday night singles club” a try!

3. Finally, Volkert is bridging the brick-and-mortar and online shops admirably. Her site welcomes visitors and conveys well what you might see when you open the door to her shop. Plenty of project photos and a consistent format regarding what classes are being offered when really makes me wish I lived closer! My only quibble is that the site is still showing a holiday sale that ended 12/31, but speaking from experience I know that it is no small task to stay on top of outdated pages.

Kudos to Volkert for allowing her shop to evolve with the times, and meeting customer needs. I wish her continued success.

January 10, 2009

New president, new outlook

Filed under: Business marketing,Technology — heathergooch @ 6:57 pm
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On Jan. 20, Barack Obama becomes our nation’s 44th president. One of the things that’s particularly striking about the inaguration event in particular is how much of it will be celebrated through technology. The National Post has recently blogged about this here, including the fact that the Obama camp has even set up a Twitter account just for the event.

About 1 million Obama supporters first learned of the president-elect’s choice of Joe Biden as a running mate via text message, for example, and the so-called “mobile campaigning” served Obama well throughout the election seasion. And because this technology is moving from teen-agers and techies to mainstream consumers, so should you consider incorporating social media into your marketing plans this year.

Should you text a million people about your next big sale? Probably not. But you can set up text reminders of class sign-ups, create a Facebook account that lets you network with your colleagues and customers, and tweet about how the cool new fibers you just got in.

2009 has been promised to be a year of change and hope, and new technologies have brought people together to work toward those goals in numerous ways. Make it your resolution to explore some of these techniques as ways to build customer loyalty and take your business to new heights.

December 17, 2008

Top 10 colors for spring

Filed under: Business marketing — heathergooch @ 4:03 pm
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Forget Christmas red and green for a minute — do you know what colorways you’ll be stocking inventory in after the holidays?

The Pantone Color Institute, which provides color standards to design industries, offers its Top 10 shades for Spring 2009. Some of it builds upon already-popular colors: Where Fall 2008 had a lot of dark blue and purple, for example, this spring gives way to sky (oh all right, Palace)
blue and lavender.

Here are Pantone’s Top 10. Please note that I’ve just approximated the colors in HTML. In addition, your browser may display the colors slightly differently — that’s why the Pantone Number is included!

Fuchsia Red: PANTONE 18-2328

Salmon Rose: PANTONE 15-1626

Palace Blue: PANTONE 18-4043

Lucite Green: PANTONE 14-5714

Super Lemon: PANTONE 14-0754

Dark Citron: PANTONE 16-0435

Lavender: PANTONE 15-3817

Vibrant Green: PANTONE 16-6339

Slate Gray: PANTONE 16-5804

Rose Dust: PANTONE 14-1307

December 11, 2008

‘Non-disposable’ income

Filed under: Business marketing — heathergooch @ 4:58 pm
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While I stood in line at the library checkout last night, my daughter asked whether she could have the books she picked out to carry in her own bag. Our library system has been providing heavy-duty plastic bags for years, and while I try to reuse them as much as possible, I had only brought one with me.

“Sure,” I said, figuring that was about five less High School Musical junior novels I had to carry.

As Hannah went to grab one from the counter, the librarian looked over and said “Go ahead and take one, but these are the last that we’re carrying — once these run out, we’re not getting any more.” She turned and pointed to a canvas bag on a wall display behind her. “We’ll start pushing these more.”

While paying $3 for a library-logoed canvas bag isn’t exactly the bargain that the free plastic bags were, it certainly makes a lot of sense from both the library’s budget and carbon footprint points of view. Plus, who says bags are required when you can just carry the books out the door like we did in the “old days”?

It got me to thinking about the needlework shops that I frequent. When I make a purchase, I usually take it out in a nice floral (sometimes striped) paper bag. I’ve only been to one shop that printed its logo on the bag — and I think that’s a missed opportunity for the rest of us.

I’m not saying that your paper bags should go away entirely, but why not test the market for canvas bags with your logo? Diehard customers might like to have a dedicated “ABC Yarns” bag that they use for purchases in your shop, and will also likely find them useful to hold their latest project. Said project might go with them to stitch-ins, airports, doctor offices and other places where your logo (and Web address and phone number, of course!) is exposed.

Plus, by this time next year, the bags might be just the thing a holiday shopper is looking for to round out their gift purchase, either empty or filled. Set aside a table that displays a gift bag special: Your bag holding a couple of slow sellers plus a couple small hot items, all for a set price like $25, could be the magnet that draws in folks who simply aren’t sure what to buy the “stitcher who has everything.”

The bags are also easy value-adds throughout the year:

  1. Take a cue from the cosmetic companies: “Free bag with $50 purchase” during your anniversary sale, for example.
  2. If you’re asked to participate in a fund-raiser auction, the bag filled with some goodies and coupons for your shop delivers a consistent brand message to every bidder who passes by.
  3. Use the bags to hold kits you create for classes (if there are enough materials in each kit so it’s at least semi-full). You can charge a bit of a premium to make up the cost, but the practice separates you from the zipped-top crowd.
  4. Fill a bag with slow sellers and invite people to sign up for a giveaway during an open house sale. On the form, make sure you include a box to check if they want to be added on your mailing list.
  5. Reward employees for a contest, or on an anniversary day, birthday, etc., with a bag containing a surprise. It could be a scarf you made for them, a gift card (I recommend placing such a tiny thing into a big box in the bag, for a quick laugh and to ensure they don’t think you just tossed them a $3 bag), a set of hand lotion, box of their favorite tea, or whatever you’d give them wrapped up anyway.

It’s a simple investment that can pay off in marketing — and feeling good about the environment.

December 1, 2008

What Cyber Monday means to me

Filed under: Business marketing — heathergooch @ 8:27 pm
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Every year, once the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers are stuffed into the fridge, it’s my personal signal to switch into high holiday gear. Sure, I may have picked up a Christmas gift or two back in October, but now it’s time to get serious — put up the tree, make the list of who should get what this year and print umpteen photos of my girls to send in Christmas cards to all the relatives.

I let Black Friday pass me by this year, mostly because I have no desire to get up early on a day off or to fight large crowds. But this relatively new day of “Cyber Monday” is much more my speed. I can browse online, click, shop and wait for my presents to be delivered to my door — even already wrapped if I so choose.

Time magazine has already called Cyber Monday a bust, but I think they’re missing the point. The endless cornucopia of merchandise for sale online (and that includes needlework kits, accessories and necessities, folks) will be at my beck and call for the next three weeks. Sure, I have to build in some time for shipping, but I’m able to get so much more into the spirit of the holiday when I’m curled up in an easy chair with my laptop, cocoa and credit card number at hand, as opposed to when I try to push my cart up and down the hectic, disheveled aisles of my local big box store.

And when I do venture out, I hope to walk into a retail environment that is filled with the sights and sounds of the season, a place that is showing off all the creativity that comes with holiday decorating and making gifts instead of buying them. Does that sound like what you’re offering your customers today? Are you offering classes to harried moms like me who’d love to spend an hour in your shop some weeknight, especially if it means I can have a completed bracelet/scarf/insert beginner project here to give as a special gift?

On a similar note, are you taking advantage of technology to let customers (and potential customers) know what you’ve got going on this season via email and your Web site? Anita Byrd, owner of my local yarn shop, Studio Knit, sent out an email to everyone on her list last Tuesday to wish them a Happy Thanksgiving and a quick, oh by the way, stop by for a “sit, knit and chat” on Fridays and Tuesdays to get cracking on those holiday presents.

Are you allowing people to order online? Online gift cards, in particular, might be a particularly smart move — take Candamar Designs in California as an example of how easy it is for my — er, someone’s husband to get his stitcher wife what she wants.

No matter how you do it, happy shopping and selling this holiday season. Maybe I’ll even see you on Etsy!

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