<span style="font-family: Verdana, sans-serif;">Fighting Fires
I am sorry if i have been out of sorts lately, but this week's lessons are the perfect opportunity to respond to your questions about why we are not a traditional retail store and why I set my own challenges for myself.
I have been fighting fires in my heart; with vendors, factories, business associates. Late shipments, dishonest quotes, misrepresentation of finished product. Certainly we lost a lot of time and money, but I think my heart broke over the long standing relationships we had and having to let them go. I don't give up on people easily so this is heartbreaking and discouraging for me.... but I do recognize repeat offenders and it is time to walk away.
We know retail is competitive but what happened to banding together in times of difficulty? My friend Virginia puts it this way "It seems like people have an easier time to do what's wrong, than by living on knowing that what we receive is exactly what we put out."
Retail is a tough, mean world. Trends come and go so fast that if you're not careful, you'll forget what your store and brand stands for, and find yourself spiraling into competition with everybody else who are dishing out sales, promotions and discounts all day.
On days when I am disoriented or discouraged, I remind myself to focus. I liken it to a bicycle race; if you look left and right at your competitors, you lose concentration on your own path. That's when trouble will start because you're using your energy and resources worrying about what others are doing and forgetting that you are a unique individual, own a unique store and you are a unique brand. Nobody can replicate that.
When the opportunity came to open a store, I knew I wanted Conversations Pieces to be like an old fashion grocer's store; the kind where you went as a little girl with your Mom, and the Grocer takes his time to get to know you and genuinely assist Mom to find the items she really needs. No pressure, or hard sell... just taking the time to assist her from the bottom of his heart. Then, of course, the baby always gets a lollipop!
Traditional Retail vs CP Retail
I started my career in advertising (pretty colors and visuals never hurt.... and I learnt wow I could write!)... then public relations (got a little serious here)... then event management (tight deadlines, schedules, and how to survive no sleep for 3 days straight) then ecommerce (building online stores and marketing them). ... and fashion? I was thrown into it by accident and never left.
Among all that, I never had any lessons in retail management but I knew first and foremost, I will run this store with common sense. I didn't want to play retail games. The internet is filled with online stores; stores that offer endless sales and discounts daily, traditional retail tactics we have considered along the way, then were horrified to realize that retailers were able to do this because the costs were hidden in the product's price.
So, tiny store that we choose to be, we offer fair and consistent pricing year round. And because we do not spend time on traditional retail tactics, dwell on older inventory or spend time hosting sale events for them, we are able to focus on customer service and open communication; positive. progressive ideas and suggestions that help me move forward with fresh, new merchandise offerings.
I also do not stock furiously. I take time to find clothes that are easy to wear, great to travel with, and are your go-to pieces over and over again. They must last a few seasons, wear well, feel good and are affordable, low maintenance and practical. I try my best to ensure that every piece from Conversation Pieces is something that you will reach for in your closet time and time again. at next?
Try as I might to be fair and honest on my end of business operations, sometimes it is hard to anticipate what others would do for money.
My friends often tell me to stop living on another planet but I believe that when someone asks for help, I should not just offer, but give my resources to help. I do not worry about returns or gains. I think it takes way too much energy calculating returns. My heart is content just knowing I put some effort towards making things better for someone. Most of all, I admire normally strong persons who are able to humble themselves and raise a hand to ask for help. It takes courage to admit you need help. So I must respond.
And if it is unappreciated, taken for granted or the person starts to undercut me for profits and gains, then I should always maintain the grace and calm, and walk away from the negativity before it eats up the unique person I am and the unique store and brand that we are.
I took a day off yesterday and allowed myself to whine (I shall call it), over the ouch in my bank account and relationships lost over this incident. I don't do that often, don't worry. I am far from a whiner but I think it is healthy to do so when needed. At first I was blue and ouch, then I realized by staying positive and productive, I would make a faster recovery. I should know better.
<span style="font-size: small;"> Especially for Ashley, Agnes, Meli, Jodie and Michelle, I hope this answers part of the questions you sent me about running a retail store. Lots to ponder, lots of challenges.... the general rules of running a business will always be there, but remember, you are a unique person.
Yeah! I let it all out... and I am glad I am as you found me; the same stubborn business owner with my own whimsical set of rules. Still want to stick around some more? :p
<strong><span style="color: #ff3366;">Set you own rules and let your heart be your guide. :)