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Creative Leisure News
306 Parker Circle
Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone: 785-760-5071
Email: mike@clnonline.com


A view of the industry through the eyes of a chain buyer.

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An Open Letter To Retailers

Store traffic declines as gas prices rise? Some answers.

by Janet Perry (June 4, 2007)

Note: The following are responses by independents who

Gas prices are high get over it! They're not going down.

But blaming gas prices for your problems, as I hear all the time, is not going to keep you in business. The world has changed and in order to stay in business you need to change with it.

When I look at the craft industry, I see lots of people who have an ostrich mentality who want to ignore the way life has changed and not innovate, even a little bit, to stay alive. It's always easier to complain.

But do something instead.

There are two things you should be doing. The first is embracing other technologies to get product in your customers' hands. I'll put on my consumer hat for a bit: My favorite needlework store is 45 minutes away. For me to drive there and back cost me about $20 in gas and bridge tolls. I haven't been there in ages because that's an awful lot of thread to buy to make it worth the drive.

But I'm still a regular customer. Why? Because they have made it easy to buy from them without getting in the car.

I can call their toll-free number and make an order. They send it out as quick as they can (and will even send things out rush) and don't overcharge for handling.

I can order over the Internet easily (their stock is online and the site has a shopping cart).

I can receive, via email, the same high quality of customer service I get in the store, and I have gotten it on the phone, too, many times.

So the question you need to ask yourself is: Have I embraced phone ordering? Have I publicized it to my customers? Do I have a website? Can people order from it? Do I answer emails or am I afraid of the computer? If I have a website, do I remind people that I'm there through emails and newsletter?

If I think twice about going to the library because of the cost of gas, then why am I going to spend money on a luxury at YOUR store if I can buy elsewhere online or over the phone and still get the great service and all the benefits of shopping at an independent?

The second thing you should be doing is making your shop attractive and interesting so people will spend their shrinking discretionary dollars at your shop. Does your shop look good? Is your staff knowledgeable and friendly? Do they have a customer-first attitude? Does it come through on the phone? Do you have places for people to sit and stay awhile, so that they are happy to come in? Think about the whole crafting lounge movement. Are you doing things to attract younger customers, or is your shop stuffy?

Yes, none of these things is new, Yes, they are all basic parts of running a store. But, if the customer doesn't have much money to spend, then the better we do the basics, the more likely we are to attract her.

And how much does a smile cost?

(Note: Janet is president of Napa Needlepoint. You can contact her by emailing Janet Perry at napaneedlepoint@gmail.com, and visit her site, www.napaneedlepoint.com, and her blog, www.nuts-about-needlepoint.com.)



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