Have you ever walked into a store and immediately fallen in love? You want the owner to be your new best friend, and you want to spend all your extra time (and cash) in that store?
The sad thing is, it doesn’t happen very often! In my newest series, I’m going to talk about three craft stores that are local in my area, and the lessons you can learn from them, whether your craft-based business is a brick and mortar storefront or an online shop. Today, we’ll visit my local yarn store together!
The Aloof and Confusing Yarn Shop
There’s a yarn store within 5 minutes of my house. I was really excited when we first moved here, but now I almost never go there and I haven’t ever bought anything from this particular store. When you walk in, one of the better features of the shop is that it’s got a nice, open layout – you can walk through it easily and not feel cramped. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the only good thing I can say about it.
Here are the mistakes this yarn shop owner is making:
- The shop is dimly lit. It’s not very bright in there, partially due to the lighting and partially due to the darker wood fixtures and the dark wall colors. A white background is really ideal for selling yarn, because it lets the yarn stand out on a clean canvas. This shop doesn’t have that.
- There’s a dog in the store. I love dogs! Normally I’d say this is a major bonus, except that not everyone likes dogs: some people are allergic to them or really scared of them. Having an animal in your shop is a good way to automatically turn away your customers. Plus, even though I am a dog lover, this one isn’t at all friendly. Let’s just say he (or she, I don’t even know!) isn’t doing a very good job of serving as an ambassador for the shop.
- The organizational system is completely mysterious. There’s fingering weight yarn on one wall, but it’s also in several other places. There’s Cascade and Berroco living in more than one display. In case you were wondering, the inventory also doesn’t appear to be sorted by color or fiber content. So basically you have to go through the whole shop to find what you’re looking for if you come in for something specific.
- There’s nothing unique about her inventory. I love it when I visit a shop and I find something there that I can’t get somewhere else (or not as often) – indie dyed yarn, or fiber from a local mill, for instance; maybe a project bag or stitch markers made by a local artisan. There’s none of that in this shop – she carries all the “big name” yarn brands you can find everywhere else, and nothing more. On top of that, there’s nothing on trend in her shop, either. At the time of writing this post, everyone’s looking for speckled sock yarns and “fade” kits. She doesn’t have anything remotely resembling either of those things.
- The owner is friendly, but not overly helpful. When I explain to her what I’m looking for she brings me stuff that’s not at all what I asked for. The first time I went in, she at least attempted to help me, despite her yippy dog barking at me the whole time. The second time I visited her shop, however, she only said hello when I first came in and then spent the rest of the time chatting with two other women who were all knitting together at a table in the middle of the store. It made me feel like I was intruding on a private party, so I left pretty quickly.
What can you do to avoid these mistakes in YOUR needle arts business? Here are some tips:
- Give your products center stage. If you run an in-person shop, get white fixtures, paint your walls light colors, and invest in quality, natural lighting. If you run an online shop, make sure your photography is top-notch, with white backgrounds and clear images for everything you sell.
- Offer something that nobody else is selling. Even if you’re selling inventory that you purchased but didn’t make yourself, you can still find a unique way to offer it! Put together a kit, schedule a class, include a gift with purchase, or something! If you run a local store, seek out local talent to provide you with inventory so that you can put together a whole “locally made” corner of your shop.
- Be organized. Whether your shop is in-person or online, browsing through it should be a relaxing and easy experience, not an exercise in frustration. Make it really clear where everything is, and keep like products together.
- Be friendly! Your customer service is the key to turning first-time visitors into raving fans and repeat buyers. Have a welcoming message right at the top of your website, and go above and beyond to provide a seamless customer service experience. Delight them with how much more you give. If you run a brick and mortar business, this is especially important! Don’t follow someone all over your store, but make sure they know that you’re there to help. Hire friendly staff and train them to do the same.
- Keep the pets out of the storefront. If you absolutely have to bring an animal to work with you, keep it in a back room so that people with allergies or phobias won’t have to leave your store as soon as they come in.
Come back next time when I’ll be talking about the second-closest yarn store to my house! I went there because I was so disappointed with this first shop. While the second store has more “doing things right” features, it still has plenty of learning opportunities for us as well.