What's new in various product categories; monthly
The Southern California Local Bead Store
RAn interview with Founder
(June 6, 2011)
Wendy and Scott Remmers operate Brea Bead
Works, a retail store in Brea, CA. Wendy had been a freelance
graphic designer and Scott had worked as a producer of college
sports radio broadcasts and as Marketing Manager with AMC Theaters
and General Cinema. Prior to that he was Director of Marketing for
Relax The Back, an ergonomic furniture company with 100+ stores.
"We decided to open the store when Wendy went
back to one of her loves, jewelry making," Scott said. "Thinking she
would sell her jewelry to the boutiques of the world, I had
mentioned her inventory would have to be very large, so why not use
a store front to sell the remaining inventory at retail, sell the
jewelry out the back door, and use the retail profit to help
subsidize your wholesale supply.
"Well the store opened but since day one the
selling of jewelry was put on hold. Way to much work in operating
the store. From day one the customers wanted workshops, so we grew
that program over the years. We started at 750 sq. ft. for the
store, workshop space, office, and restroom. Very tight! Two years
later, we kept the store, but also took over a 1,500 sq. ft. space a
few doors down in our strip center just for workshops. One year
later, we took over another 1,000 sq. ft. retail space, so now we
had 2,500 sq. ft. for workshops. Two years after that we took over a
4,000 sq. ft. retail space in the same center. We moved the store
into that space and had a bigger office, stock room, and restroom,
and two more workshop spaces.
"So, we have about 4,000 sq. ft. of retail
workshop space under one roof and right next door we have 2,000 sq.
ft. of workshop space, stock room, etc. We are probably larger in
workshop space versus retail space, which doesnít mean it's a
perfect business model, but it works for us. Workshops have been
very very strong over the years and are a little lighter the past
year or so, but concerning the economy, we will take it!
"About five years ago I joined a group of 50
stores on a Yahoo chat forum that had been started by Cathy Lapole
in Canada. They talked about vendors, trends, customers. and
day-to-day situations in their stores. These store owners from all
over would come together at shows like Tucson or Bead&Button to
enjoy each otherís company and talk shop. Our friends would not
understand what we go through each day, but these owners talk our
"I took this idea of creating an association to
various owners of this group. After much discussion it was tabled
due to costs and time involved. Plus, the economy in 2008 started to
"In July of 2010 30+ stores in Southern
California came together through an event called ďBEAD SHOP HOP.Ē
The party that assembles the hop concept was not delivering on
promises. The store owners started talking to each other, so the
event went off without a hitch and the customer would not know that
behind the scenes it could have crumbled very easilyy. So the Shop
Hop goes off fantastic due to the cooperation of store owners. After
the event, a few of us were chatting and the association concept was
being tossed around.
After a few regional meetings, it was decided
to move forward to form a structured
Association. On Feb. 15, 2011 we passed our
by-laws to become an official association, the Southern California
Local Bead Store Association."
Specific Purposes of the SCLBSA
1. To promote the hobby, craft, art and
business of beadwork to the general public.
2. To build back consumer confidence in
their local bead store (LBS) by raising perceived value of what the
LBS has to offer.
3. To improve relationships and
communications with vendors in the bead industry.
4. To undertake research and educational
activities to enhance the knowledge, skills, and professionalism of
individuals and businesses in the bead industry served by the
5. To develop and manage an annual Bead
Southern California Local Bead Store
Associationís mission is to promote ethical business practices,
extend mutual respect for all local bead stores, demonstrate
diversity in the marketplace, and ensure independent,
community-focused brick and mortar retail bead stores. The
association also aims to create programs that promote and advance
the interest of the retail bead store industry through training,
education, research programs and vendor support.
Our commitment is to the customers who shop the
retail brick and mortar bead store. We are dedicated to ensuring the
local bead store offers service, knowledge, variety, quality, and
value during each shopping experience.
CLN: Who is eligible to join?
REMMERS: Brick and Mortar bead stores
that carry at least 80% in beads, tools and services of the bead
industry. They must also agree and believe in the above by-laws.
CLN: Are there dues?
REMMERS. Dues are $350 per year. This
pays for all marketing materials that are being developed. Those
pieces are window decals to promote their association membership and
will stand as a "Good Housekeeping" seal of approval when you visit
any store in Southern California. The dues are also goes towards the
large amount of materials needed for the Bead Shop Hop.
CLN: What are the advantages?
REMMERS: One of the advantages that we
bring to each other is networking. We will be able to refer our
customers to a member's store because we know them and they live up
to a standard of treating people well and keep up with trends and
knowledge of beading.
We are better off referring customers to each
otherís stores so they can get their product that day, versus
sending them to the Internet or cataloger. That keeps the money
local, supports the cornerstone of this industry, and keeps the
customer coming back.
Also, it's getting the owners to understand
what is going on out in the industry. While we all come from
different backgrounds, we all have different type of stores, so we
donít all have time to read articles that people like you offer --
dealing with vendor issues, or learning about overall business
needs. First and foremost, this is a business so we need to talk to
each other and understand how we can improve our business skills.
We can also go into group buys.
CLN: What's the long-term goal for the
REMMERS: To bring back the perception of
what bead stores are all about. The last few years, it is felt that
the brick-and-mortar retail store has gotten a raw deal. The
Internet and catalogers have become the place to shop. Just like any
industry, people can search for the things they need at anytime of
the day. Their costs are lower due operational costs. The general
public doesnít understand that sometimes, nor do they care. They
just want it cheap and blame the retailers for ripping people off
with high prices.
So our mission is to bring back the perception
that the local bead store is the source of product they can touch,
feel, and buy that day. We are there to talk to you about color
choices, educate you on trends, show you new product, and as I say,
"Be the bartender." We are there to listen to you, be friends, and
be the local hang out.
We want to pull together storeowners to
understand what is going on in the industry. Discuss with vendors
that we are their number one customer and how can we improve their
business while improving ours.
In the last 3-5 years, vendors have been
changing their sales channel and going after our customers by
selling direct. The industry is very different than others, so that
it is why having stores come together it will increase our power
with them because of the number of stores working together.
This group may become a buying group in the
future, but we want to open up discussions with vendors to pay more
attention to the local bead stores and work with us in building both
businesses. We are the front line, can work the retail world
probably better; can talk to the customerís day in, day out.
The big picture idea for this group is to hold
a membership meeting in which vendors come to us to display their
product, talk about new product lines, and work with us on
best-pricing structures. Meetings will be held to talk about
marketing, customer relations, merchandising, etc. This year our
first general membership meeting will consist of a complete overview
of our growth; roundtable discussions about topics that we deal with
every day like marketing, customer service, etc.; and end with a
review of this year's Bead Shop Hop.
CLN: With the 100+ consumer shows and
companies like Fire Mountain Gems selling so many products directly
to consumers so cheaply, it seems there are particular challenges
for jewelry shops that, for example, yarn shops don't face. True?
REMMERS: VERY TRUE!!! We are fighting
this each day. We have to educate people in the bead world, but
really everywhere, that cheap is not always the best. What are you
getting out of the cheap product? Do these catalogers consult with
you about techniques, style, color, be there for you day in day out?
Can they be the friend, the shoulder to lean on? Can they be the
customers' hang-out spot or their community center of friends?
We have to do added value to their shopping
experience: make-it/take-its, trunk shows, free demos, special
promotions, fun events, and not always go after their pocket books.
While these other catalogers, shows, etc., have their place because
the LBS cannot carry everything, the consumer should recognize that
fact. Most LBS are small so consumers need to shop elsewhere.
The other part of the puzzle that many small
businesses are doing is educating the consumer on shopping local.
Projects like 3/50 can educate small business owners and consumers
on the importance of keeping money local.
I have started to write a paper about
competition and the future the LBS is facing. This is my thoughts,
no one has read it, and so it is not the thoughts of the
association. I will pass it along to you but it is still being
worked on but you can perhaps understand my thoughts.
CLN: How do you see the state of jewelry
REMMERS: The state of jewelry making is
still very popular. About 3-5 years ago we say an increase in the
customers creating jewelry businesses that would sell at arts and
craft shows, boutiques, etc. It was getting to be a little
overwhelming when attending shows and seeing all the handmade
jewelry designers. I think the economy weeded that out a lot.
Anyone can get a wholesale license because they
now created a business. They expect the bead stores, the Internet,
and catalog companies to sell to them at the same rates. Some of
those companies do and that is where the LBS owners get upset. We
buy 100 of an item while the small designer buys 10 but gets the
same price. WHY? The LBS will be buying more over time and will be
there in the long run, while the designers will come and go. This is
the discussion we would like to have with vendors.
Jewelry making seems to have about a 7 year
cycle -- hot, slow, and hot again. CHA says that one out of every
seven homes has a beader, but that beader was classified as doing
one project a year. That shows me that the industry is small, so we
need to figure out a way to show people that jewelry making is fun,
inspiring, could be a business, there is art to it, and it opens you
up to the world.
CLN: Who is your biggest competitor, craft
chain stores such as Michaels, or discount stores like Wal-Mart that
sell cheap ready-mades?
REMMERS. Of course Michaels, Wal-Mart,
and Hobby Lobby stores are direct competition due to their larger
selection and lower prices. But they cannot offer the customer
service and shopping experience that the LBS can. The LBS also
offers unique items because they can buy in smaller quantities and
from various artists.
Many LBS stores do get referrals from Michaels
stores. Their employees are helping their customers find certain
items, telling them where they can take more classes, etc. Our store
will refer people to Michaels, Wal-Mart, Tall Mouse (regional craft
store) if the person is looking for something we know they carry.
First we send them to an LBS, whether it is an association member
store or not.
These big box stores do not have the staffing
to support the bead isles so the customer is on their own.
CLN: How are sales now? Is the price
of gas making a difference? The economy in California?
REMMERS: Sales are still off from 2-3
years ago, but there are signs of a turnaround. The price of gas has
not hurt yet. If it goes to $5 perhaps yes. The economy in
California is tough. Unemployment is the worst in the nation in some
parts of the state. Foreclosure was huge over the later part of
2008, really bad in 2009, and in 2010 it's less and less. Our
stores' surveys told us people were going to spend less. We saw that
in the occasional beader, but our GOOD customers are still very
supportive, but a little less.
CLN: What trends are you seeing? Is
the skyrocketing price of gold and silver putting more emphasis on
less expensive stones?
REMMERS: Silver prices were hurting
those stores that sold a lot of wire. The consumer did not
understand the price increases, just not aware of the ounce price
each day and how fast it increased over the months. Just recently,
with the price going to $48 or $49 was unreal, so sales were going
to copper and brass along with the silver-filled wire. That is hard
to get these days, but will be something we are going to do.
Now in the last few daysí silver dropped down
to $36 or so. Itís just crazy!! .