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:

snowman

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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 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 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.

October 24, 2008

Trying to spin a positive yarn

Filed under: Business marketing — heathergooch @ 6:14 pm
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So here I am, ready to take Gooch & Gooch (my half, anyway — my husband can keep on plugging away) into a new direction and focus on helping people in a field that I love. I’m scared to death, but I just got back from a COSE conference and feel emboldened.

Based in Cleveland, COSE is an acronym for the Council of Smaller Enterprises. I’ve just spent two days with some fantastic small-business owners from all over Northeast Ohio. We’ve done a lot of talking about new media and how to harness it. Now it’s time for me to file the business cards away, quit talking about what I want to do and start doing it.

I’ve spent 13 years in business-to-business media, the majority of which has been spent on covering the professional pest management industry. But as great a group as the pest controllers are — Joe the Plumber seriously pales in comparison when it comes to being down to earth, loyal, patriotic and er, licensed — I want to shift my focus toward things that interest me personally. I want to write about, and help publicize, professionals who design with and/or supply the pretties I love so much: beads, yarns, threads, fabrics. What can I say? Sites like Etsy.com and IndiePublic.com were practically designed with me in mind!

Business Directions Owner Sherry Mulne, an absolutely fantastic person and a marketing communications consultant for The National NeedleArts Association, took a chance on me last year as her part-time assistant. I am delighted to report that working for Sherry has been great, and has been a wonderful introduction to the business side of the needle arts (defined as crochet, knit, embroidery, counted cross-stitch and needlepoint; tattoos are merely a matter of personal preference). While I hope to continue fulfilling assignments for Sherry, I want to start taking on additional clients involved in needle arts and related crafts. I want to help build a brand for an independent retail shop. I want to spread the word about some wonderful patterns someone has designed. I want to get someone’s handmade item into everyone’s Christmas stocking.

Want, want, want. I guess I should first pull back and identify the needs.

That’s where you come in. What can I do to help build your business, and in turn, help build mine?

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