Resources

Good Business

No matter what the state of the economy, the basics of making a profit in retail remain the same: You can increase sales, decrease expenses, increase your mark-up on products, or a combination of the three. And if you can make a profit in tough times, when this recession recedes, you will have better cash flow, happier employees, and a viable and sellable business.

Grass Roots

When I first opened my shop in 1994, I was determined to run my business according to four guiding principles: I would only sell products that were earth-sensitive, had a positive message of some kind, were artsy and beautiful, and, finally, were American-made. Even if a potential inventory item had the three other aspects I was looking for, I wouldn’t even consider it if it wasn’t made in the U.S.

Thinking Globally

Thinking Globally

Sam Carpenter is out to change the world. Each day he hopes to introduce or reinforce how much Fair Trade means to artisans in developing countries as well as our own lives.

Grass Roots

The other night, I was doing one of my shop-closing rituals—gathering the trash from the day, taking it outside to put in the bin, and dumping the recyclables into the recycling bin next to it. I was about to toss the trash and, as I do (admittedly) a bit obsessively, I rummaged through it to make sure nothing was inadvertently thrown out that was supposed to be recycled. To my surprise, someone had neatly deposited their empty plastic to-go salad container, still in its plastic bag.

The Golden Age

The Golden Age

When Robert Spector was working in his family’s butcher shop while growing up in Perth Amboy, N.J., he wasn’t interested in the sociological implications of the rise and fall of independently owned “mom and pop” stores like the one he toiled in after school and on weekends with his father, mother, uncle, and other family members. He just wanted to get out from behind the counter. However, once he became a professional author and speaker on customer service, retail, and the economy, his views changed.

Good Business

If you’re like many small businesses, your marketing budget doesn’t include the services of an advertising agency. And unless you happen to have a brother who’s an ace graphic designer and a best friend with top-notch copywriting skills, that leaves your advertising design and writing duties in your hands.

Tangled Web

Deciding that your store would benefit by having its own website was the easy part. The tough part is avoiding the nasty pitfalls that make too many websites money losers instead of money makers.

The first commercial websites were designed by early computer experts. These hardy pioneers were quite comfortable in the arcane world of computers, but woefully lacking in communications and marketing skills. The result was a flood of clever websites that accomplished little except make their sponsors look silly.

Wedding Sells

Wedding Sells

Ah, weddings. They represent a milestone moment, a celebration of loving commitment … and a very big business. The Wedding Report (www.theweddingreport.com) estimates more than 2.1 million weddings will occur in the U.S. in 2010. And for each wedding, around $20,000 on average will be spent. That doesn’t include all the gifts that friends and family will buy for the happy couple. Add it all up, and you have a significant industry totalling upwards of $40 billion annually.

Changing With the Times

Changing With the Times

When is a bookstore more than a bookstore? When it sets out to become the heart of a community—and succeeds. Take Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Ariz., for instance. When Gayle Shanks, Bob Sommer, and Tom Broderson decided to start their own business more than 35 years ago, their intent was to create a bookstore that would be socially responsible and a place for members of the community to congregate.

Tangled Web

Deciding that your store would benefit by having its own website was the easy part. The tough part is avoiding the nasty pitfalls that make too many websites money losers instead of money makers.

The first commercial websites were designed by early computer experts. These hardy pioneers were quite comfortable in the arcane world of computers, but woefully lacking in communications and marketing skills. The result was a flood of clever websites that accomplished little except make their sponsors look silly.

Beyond Avalon

Beyond Avalon

Miranda Sophia Solace, owner of Avalon in Orlando, Fla., refers to her shop and everything associated with it as living beings. If she talks about her inventory, she’s more likely to say “The incense lives in this room,” or “This is where the candles live,” than make an offhand reference to stocking the shelves. The glass display cabinets that house the jewelry and where the cash register rests is the “face” of the store, the old fireplace in the 1920s bungalow is its “heart.”

Conscious Capitalism

Conscious Capitalism

Patricia Aburdene is a business journalist and trend forecaster whose book Megatrends, with co-author John Naisbitt, became a bestseller in the United States, Germany, and Japan. Published in 1982, Megatrends famously predicted the rise of the “Information Economy” and pointed the way to the high tech era that has revolutionized life as we know it. Her most recent book, Megatrends 2010: The Rise of Conscious Capitalism (Hampton Roads 2005), predicts an economy based on ethics, values, and spiritual awareness.

Grass Roots

Is there a “green bubble” in retail, and is it about to burst? If you’re a retailer who has invested time, money, marketing efforts, and emotional commitment into going green, that possibility might just keep you awake at night. The idea that the strides we’ve made in eco-consciousness over the past decade are simply a consumer fad that will fade as quickly as the Rubik’s cube is enough to give us all a collective chill.

Local Motion

Local Motion

Even in the best of times, owning a small, independent business can be a challenge. At times exhilarating, occasionally frustrating, and often a labor of love, it’s a daily balancing act requiring creativity, energy, diplomacy, and good judgment. Serious competition from big box stores and online retailers requires innovative marketing strategies and careful inventory selections to differentiate our stores from what some customers see as more convenient options. And that’s when the economy is good.

5 Tips When Bills Become Overwhelming

Does this sound familiar? You get into a protracted cash flow crunch, and the phone starts flying off the hook with incoming collection calls. You’re too busy trying to generate revenue to deal with angry collectors—and when you do talk to them, their threats and accusations leave you shaken.

When times are good, you don’t think about these possibilities, which is why you’re so unprepared when you get into a downturn. If I have to list the biggest mistakes I’ve seen good business people make when they get into financial trouble, they would be the following:

New Age Is Now

Is New Age really relevant in 2010? As the publisher of New Age Retailer, I’ve spent many hours thinking about this question. Periodically through our 23 years in print we have wrestled with the idea of changing the magazine’s title to something more easily understood and less “loaded.” Each time it’s the same. We spend a few days brainstorming possibilities and then someone invariably says, “You know, nothing we’re coming up with captures the spirit the way ‘New Age’ does.”

Starting a Revolution

It’s more than 230 years later, crates of tea are not involved, and the “tea party” is on the opposite coast from the original location, but the focus is revolution once again. The difference this time is that the Tea Party Bookshop in Salem, Ore., is advocating a different kind of autonomy—the intellectual sort.

“We want to promote independent thinking,” owner JoAnne Kohler says. “We want our customers to be curious, explore what they need to explore, and connect with people of like mind.”

Match Game

You see it all the time at the grocery store: Instead of simply having a display of pumpkin pies, containers of whipped cream are placed among and around the pies, creating a need for both. If the whipped cream is shelved only in the dairy section, it might get overlooked or forgotten. Or you might see shampoo displayed with conditioner near the hairbrushes or a nylon “scrubbie” hanging beside body wash. The idea is to draw attention to related items and have the customer “cross over” and purchase additional merchandise. This is classic cross merchandising.

Shop Talk: Practical answers for tough business questions

Question: When I read articles about marketing my store, they mention the importance of branding. What does that really mean, and is it as important as they imply?

Grass Roots

Is it just me or have you noticed the rainbow of bright green choices suddenly available to help retail shops be more sustainable? In the last few years, we’ve moved from “Where can I find earth-friendly options?” to “How do I know which fantastic green choice to make?” Whether it’s supplies, merchandise, or even displays, the green spectrum is expanding exponentially.

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