Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Save the Local Quilt Store!!

Or, how they can save themselves.............

Okay, it is a given, I love to shop and I love a bargain.

I shop in person and I shop online, because both are my right.

I love to see and feel the fabric I am purchasing, I love talking to people who actually know colours and fabrics and getting their feedback-so I love the real quilt shop experience......but they are disappearing, probably because of online shopping and sometimes because people aren't sewing as much anymore. What to do??

Well, here is some advice from a shopper..... (feel free to add, agree or disagree)

1. If I am going to buy something I can possibly get cheaper online it has to be worth it to me, perhaps not financially but mentally. (Retail therapy is a beautiful thing!)
Why do we blog? For feedback and to be a part of a group, work on this in your store.

Therefore, the interaction I will not get online needs to occur, people have to smile and look pleased to see me, even remember my name. They should never be short with me when I ring with a telephone query on fabric availability. In an ideal world they would have coffee and a place to sit down and look at the books. For everyone who doesn't buy one, someone else will and the one who didn't will leave with a welcoming, fun shopping experience. Also if you can sit and have coffee then a wait will not worry you, so staffers can be more relaxed to spend the appropriate amount of time serving/helping you AND therefore make the shopping experience fun!

2. Reward me for shopping with you!

Unknown eBay and fabric shops throw in fat quarters they want to get rid of, why can't you? Especially when I spend $100 for instance! Give me a little card that records purchases and when i get to say, $300, I get free membership in the sample club so my mailout of 10 charm squares a month costs me nothing rather than $40 per year.

Perhaps when I get to $400 I get 10 % off in the next year. Keep me coming back because you realise I am a shopper and I'm better off shopping with you than someone else!!

How about "Fat Friday"? At a free regular coffee and chat (because i will call into something I am not tied down to and perhaps buy something, but am unlikely to pay for something I can do at home) have a fat quarter draw where everyone who purchased something in the past week goes in the draw to win (and has to collect from the store!) if you are present, you win 2 fat quarters! Only costs you a fat quarter or two and a pot of coffee but great for getting people in the door and PR.

3. Send mailouts about your sales./use the internet

Nothing annoys a regular customer more than walking into her LQS the day after the sale finished, especially when she is in the sample club.

4. Have a gimic that is cheap and can't be bought online as cheap, ie, make your scrapbags cheap and good so that people think it is is always worth popping into see what's there.

Once they are in they will look around. You could do this with any number of things, become known as the LQS who has Moda sampler tins the same price as the Internet, people come for them, buy yardage to go with it at your prices. You have beaten the net and not lost anything in the bargain. Advertise this in the national magazines, people want to buy within their community/country-make it the best option!

Be unique, it shouldn't be hard to have a gimic, so what if one thing in your shop sells at wholesale, everything doesn't have to.

5. Get me in the door!

Similar to the "gimic" idea, and the "make me welcome" one but with a twist.

Run info. sessions, eg, mitreing your corners, rotary cutting, setting in triangles, ask and answer time, etc, etc. They may be at normally quiet times, Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Have the coffee on, keep it on time, maybe even make them 10 minute sessions. It doesn't have to be big, but get the info. out. Why doesn't my LQS have my email, they should, and every week I should know what's in and what the info. sessions will be on. Auto generated emails cost absolutely nothing and keep everyone up to speed. Chances are, if I call in for mitreing, I will buy something, or get an idea from a quilt display that grows for the next week so i come back again for another look.

That is the general message, we want to shop locally, make it worth our while as retail therapy and keep your business.

Don't get angry and close, think outside the square and get even!!!

~ remember:have quilting money, will spend it somewhere!
I am having my version of "Fat Friday". Add a comment or suggestion to this post and go in the draw to win one of my little Moda purses. Drawn this Friday, Australia time! Cheers, Tracey


Linda said...

Oh Tracey, you sound like you've had a bad experience, and very recently, that's left a nasty taste in your mouth. I totally agree with everything you've said. When I was living in Canberra, I used to buy just about all my fabric from the US. This isn't because I didn't have a quilt store locally, I did, but because they were rude toffy nosed women who couldn't be bothered to give me the time of day. Their loss, as I usually saved up and had $100's to spend. It's a shame that a few bad stores give the rest a bad name. I hope your next shopping experience is pleasant, rewarding and refreshing.

Wendy said...

Of the LQS in my area, I only buy at the ones that are friendly to me. The others have lost out because they don't even look up when I enter the door. I do like to feel the fabric but sometimes on-line is just so much cheaper, how can I resist.

Lynn Dykstra said...

You have great, useful ideas!
I would also suggest, keep the inventory hopping--nothing is more dull than walking into a shop and not seeing anything new. Mix it up each week, reorganizing the place so a different collection/color is up in front as you walk in. Get new fabrics in regularly.

Kim said...

Nicole and I were "talking" a little about this kind of thing today. One of our local shops closed awhile back. It was a great shop but didn't have room for classes. I think the key to sales is getting people INTO the store who will be staying around for a bit--like for a class or club. As you say, make the shopping experience a happy one. Be responsive to the customers--let them know that if there's something they want, you can order it for them. AND THEN REMEMBER TO ORDER IT! LOL! I also think the internet is important to shops these days--many of the successful ones are branching out to online sales or at least communicating via e-mail. The owner of the shop I frequent most is an idiot when it comes to the computer, and I wonder if that ever hurts the shop. All the points you made, Tracey, are good ones to consider!

Norma said...

Adjust your prices! I find quilt shops have prices that are way highter than I feel I can pay. If you can get a ruler or a pattern elsewhere a lot cheaper, chances are that is where you are going to get it. I realize you can't discount like a chain store because of volume but watch your mark up per centage as much as you can.

atet said... I feel REALLY spoiled. Like spoiled in ways I am not sure I can articulate.

Here's the thing. Most, if not all, of my LQSs do these things. (well, maybe not the coffee -- but most of the rest).

They offer demos.

I get e-mails from at least 6 shops that are within a 2 hour drive of my house with weekly/monthly/by season updates on classes and sales.

They have "clubs" that offer discounts to members (speaking of which, I have to miss the batik blowout night this week because I will be going to my guild meeting -- drat -- the owner holds back all of the new batiks for a special intro night. Members of the club get 10% off their purchases of the "old" bolts to make room for the new plus get to be "first" to see the new goodies).

They hold open houses to meet the teachers of the quilt classes and promote the new "semester" of classes.

They have UFO nights -- no class, a nominal fee (usually used to pay for treats and goodies), just a time for you to get together and work on UFOs in an atmosphere where other quilters are available to give advice and help.

Many of them (though fewer these days) have "punch cards" -- as you purchase a certain dollar (anywhere from $200 - $500) amount you are given a discount (usually in a dollar amount such as $20.00) towards the next purchase.

And most of all, they are friendly, welcoming and always willing to help with fabric selections and/or ordering. If they aren't -- I don't go back. I just refuse. Luckily, I live in an area where this is an option. It is also the reason I rarely (though I do occasionally when the LQSs don't carry a particular line/fabric I want or I need to do a search for something that I got long ago) shop online. I get in my car and drive. Even when it means I'm driving for more than an hour (with gas prices being what they are -- this says something).

I know this sounds like I'm rubbing it in (not meaning to) but -- um, owning a store means you are in a SERVICE industry -- shouldn't you be giving your customers service?

anne bebbington said...

Tracey - everything you've said here rings so true - have you thought about opening a shop - I'd be a customer. Whatever happened to the customer is always right and is valued

Lazy Gal Tonya said...

I was lucky enough in Florida to have a shop that did many of these things. 45 minute drive but worth it to be able to share my work in progress and chat about it.

How about a "show and tell" - have an hour every week (month?) where folks can bring in their WIPs and finishes and chat about them.

Just commenting to comment - no need to put my name in the draw.

May Britt said...

You are so right Tracy.
My local quiltshop is a treasure. They have their own sales room with a lot of goodies that are on sale. The only shop I have seen with so much fabric on sale all the time. And they are always smiling and giving you good time at the shop. It is always nice to visit them.
I have been in shops where the staff hardly looks at you and they treat you like "whatever" I never shop at that place again.
I hope a lot of quiltshop owners read your advices. They need us. And we are all women (quilters) that know what we want.

The Calico Cat said...

Those frequent buyer cards are a good thing! & they can have a drastic range in value...
Case in point, I have 2 cards (2 different shops) on 1 I have to buy @ $200 - but I get $26 no sale items can be punched, but if you forget you card, they write a note on your receipt, so that you can get punched the next time & the have $1 punches, so if you only buy $4, you are not out of luck becasue the lowest valuse os $5...
At the other shop, I have to spend @ $350 to only get $10 - you would think, why does she shop there, when the other is such a better value - becasue something is better than nothing... Oh and at this shop, if you forget your card, you have to start a new on & they can only be combined a couple times a year... (Aug 1-14 - lucky for me...) & their lowest value is $5 - so I am always picking up fqs and other low priced items to get to the $5 mark...

Carol said...

Oh Tracey, I totally agree with you. I like the sense of community that a GOOD LQS will bring you. The fact they know your name or ask about the family, or actually remember the latest quilting project you're working on. They will ask you to join them in a coffee from out the back, or help you with a task that's troubling you, or have a chat and oh how I love their quilting nights. I do have a LQS in Terang that is just like that, they are awesome. I especially love their "show and tell" night at the end of the year or Christmas in July night, what fun!

But of course there's always the products that you might not be able to get here locally so that's where I find the net to come in handy, and the postage, well lets face it, is cheaper than the petrol to go shopping to buy it.

I think you need to open a LQS of your own.

Carolyn said...

Tracey, what great ideas you have. The shop I was in on Monday sends out newsletters, etc., but what gets me there is the birthday 20% off card. This gets me to drive the hour to get there even if I don't need anything! The last time I was in our newest store, the owner walked right by me and didn't acknowledge me...and I was the only customer in the store. I haven't been back since. I agree with the should open a store!

joyce said...

I like your ideas but mainly I shop at Fabricland rather than my LQS mainly because of their sales. They are usually out of my league, although the fabrics are wonderful I just can't afford their prices. Maybe the LQS needs the internet mailing advising of sales and more sales.

Sarah said...

The LQS that my best friend works at has a short little tutorial every Tuesday. (That's why she works on Tuesdays.) The shop owner demonstrates some new product or technique. People know that this happens on Tuesdays and make it a point to come in on that day. Best Friend was also telling me that several people come in specifically to see HER - because they know she only works on Tuesdays.

I wish I had a LQS that I could use. The closest quilt shop is an hour a way - one in each of three different directions!

THanks for making us think!

Libby said...

Here Here! My beloved local shop changed owners a couple of years back. I used to walk in the door and hear my name cheerfully called out from various and sundry parts of the store - now I can get in, shop and leave without so much as a grunt. Discouraging. I do shop more and more online because of this. Why bother with combing my hair and dabbing on some lip gloss when I can shop in annonymity while wearing my p.j.'s

bettsy said...

You have obviously put a lot of thought into this.
I think a problem over here ( Australia) that puts a lot of people off is the cost of fabric. That makes it hard for store owners to keep up the stock. Where I am there are good points and less good points for the stores I visit. But ultimately I would like to find a place where there is a sense of community - something like an everyday quilt guild. But in saying that I have to admit that at this stage in my life I don't contribute very much in return - but I don't know if that is due to the attitude of the shops or my own nature. Certainly your suggestions could be used by shops here, because I can't think of any that come close. It is a very good discussion topic.

Jane Weston said...

Hear Hear! I liked everything you said. Our LQS has a card to record you purchases and when you've spent £200 on regular priced items then you get a £20 voucher to spend. I've been working on my card for over 5 years, (I don't live that close to the shop) but they don't care how long it takes you..they'll still honor it and they are always friendly so I keep going back.

Patti said...

Hear, hear! Here's another thing that bugs me - have "quilt till you wilt" sessions on Friday night, all day Saturday, or whatever, but don't charge me a lot of money to come! I love this type of session, especially when dinner is provided, but I don't feel I should have to pay $30 or $40 for a 4-6 hour evening! Have a big pot of soup - that's not expensive - and have the participants bring pot luck for the rest. Charge enough to pay for electricity, etc. - maybe $10 each. That is reasonable. But don't charge the same as a class. After all, since we are there we are very likely to shop when we take a sewing break. Or we'll see something we'll come back for later.

Doodlebug Gail said...

What a great post! You need to open a LQS - you'd make a great success out of it.

I choose to shop online because I refuse to pay over double the price at my LQS - only use them for emergencies.

My LQS does have a stamp card for purchases and it never expires which is good for me. They are also really good about e-mailing with classes, sales etc - their customer service is great, the 2 ladies who own it are wonderful and friendly (we belong to the same Guild) it is just their prices which tend to be on the HIGH side.

Owens Family Adventures said...

Those are some great ideas!!! One of the things I miss most about there being no quilt stores here is the commraderie with other quilters.
I also had a quilt store by me when we lived in Houston but the ladies were such snots that I went out of my way to go to the store with friendlier folk.
Great ideas!!!

Susan said...

Great ideas, from you and from the comments. One of the best things my favorite store did was have clubs - we got patterns that weren't available anywhere else, we met with other people with the same interests, and the cost wasn't prohibitive. Every one included a show and tell. It wasn't a class - they were only about 90 minutes long - but it was great! The shop had them for applique, Baltimore Album, red and green era, hand embroidery, primitive, and I always thought a tote club would go well.

The owner used a lot of her own quilts to draw up patterns for us for the applique and embroidery, and did some of her own designing, as well. In fact, after we went through a series of patterns, she would then put them out as a pattern, but we got to test them all first. Loved it.

May Britt said...

Guess what I have done. I have printed all the comments and will bring them to my local quiltshop today to read. Perhaps this will give them some more ideas.
Have a nice day.

Sweet P said...

You have a great list of suggestions for running a quilt shop. This list should be sent to every quilt shop owner in the world. My LQS's need this sent to them.

My favorite quilt shop is a two hour drive, but worht the trip. She has a Quilter's Anonymous dinner on Friday nights. $14 gets you a home cooked meal served in the store and 4 - 5 hours of sewing time. She keeps her frequent buyer points in her computer system so you don't need to carry a card with you.

Someday I'd like to open a quilt shop/gathering place and I plan on keeping this list handy.

Leigh said...

Great post Tracey. That's why I like Gail's in Ballarat. Always warm and welcoming and the kettles always on.

Ruth's Place said...

Love this post! You should open a store. I'd go for having the store in an actual store and not in someone's home as is usual practice in my area. So far I've been too intimidated to make an appointment and go to someone's house to shop (what if there's nothing I like?) and have limited my fabric shopping to the vendors that come to our guild meeting.

Diana said...

You had some great suggestions, Tracey. Like atet, I feel spoiled because my LQS does many of those things. I am always greeted when I walk in the door and it's a place where I feel I can "hang out" and chat, even if I'm just browsing. She has a UFO night every other Friday and doesn't charge for it.

I do understand about the higher prices, though. Large chain stores can buy fabric in such large quantities that they can get discounts from their suppliers. Smaller shops operate on such a slim margin and buy in much smaller quantities so they have to charge more just to get by.

The "info" sessions are a great idea--I think I'll pass that one on to my LQS owner.

Tracey @ozcountryquiltingmum said...

Hi Tracey My name is Beth I read your blog often and love it
I wanted to comment about your post on shop`s but I cant leave a comment so here I am
I think you are so right about quilting shop`s It is nice to feel good about going even if you are just looking because if the staff are nice you will go back to ge the things you need
I would love to go in your draw as well please .
Have a fab day
kindest regards Beth (via email)

Carol E. said...

I am lucky to live in an area with a ton of great quilt shops. They know with so much competition they have to have great customer service in order to keep the customers coming. They do many of the things you suggested. These days the retailers need to make it worth going to the store, because it's so easy to shop online. If it's personable and fun, we'll keep shopping locally.

Chookyblue said...

count me in the draw.....

Dordogne Clare said...

Tracey - I couldn't agree with you more. I hate going into some of my QS's. I'm one of those people who never look smart and look as if they have wads of dosh so tend to jumped on when I walk through the door. I want to browse and I may buy, but I cannot browse and feel intimidated with you, nice shop lady, breathing down my neck! I don't buy online so am limiting my fabric purchases to the nice QS's. It is just unfortunate that the one I really like is one of the snooty ones. Le Loi de Sod!

McIrish Annie said...

My LQS has Midnight Madness the first friday night of the month. For $5.00 you reserve a space and bring your machine or hand work to sew. We also get pizza included!! Of course, the shop is closed to the public after 6 and we are free to shop!

She also gives a 10% discount if you show your guild membership card!and she is a member of our guild. She lets the doll club meet at her shop on a free morning in the shop.

She has only been open for a year but has done a super job of getting us into the shop!