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Are you in on Instagram?

Posted By Don Lynch, Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I recently read an article on using Instagram effectively for a small business, and while it wasn’t brand new (it was originally posted in February of 2015) it made some really good points. One of its first premises was the heavy usage by that magical demographic of teenagers. I thought to myself, Hmm…we all want to engage teenagers and young twenties as the future of the needle arts. Hey, I have a couple of teenagers, why don’t I ask them for some Insta-advice?!?

Here are a few Insta-rules, as relayed by a brief, and very unscientific survey of teenage users of Instagram (and I think they can apply to a more mature audience that also enjoys Instagram.)

  1. Be consistent. I’ve been told that brands or people that post at a consistent pace (for example, once a week, or Mondays and Fridays) become part of an Instagram user’s routine. Without specifically noticing it, the user gets used to seeing posts with regularity and subconsciously looks for those posts.
  2. Don’t over-post. Although it was explained to me that the “rules” have recently changed a bit (keep in mind, this discussion is based on teenagers’ opinions, so this might be outdated before I hit “save,”) heavy users don’t want to see a poster over share. The old rule (unwritten, of course) suggested you not post a new picture until the “likes” on your last post hit “digits.” For the uninitiated, likes are indicated under your picture, and show up as the individuals user name until you have 11 or more likes, then it shows as a number. When you’ve got a number, you’ve hit digits. To further confuse you, if it’s the next day, post away, irregardless of the number of likes on your last post.
  3. Use a consistent hashtag, and always have a hashtag. Hashtags give a post a simple, searchable identification. By using a consistent hashtag, it also helps to build awareness. If all your posts have #needlepoint, #knitting, #cross-stitch, #weaving, #TNNA, or several other variations, the deeply secret and overly complicated algorithms that dictate what shows up on the user’s “Explore” page will give you more exposure. (The “Explore” page is a page of postings from people or companies that you don’t follow, but that those mystery algorithms suggest you might be interested in.)
  4. Posts should be visually interesting. Instagram is a visual medium, and relies less on verbiage than other social mediums. Use Twitter for class or sale announcements, and Facebook for conversational exchanges with your customers. Instagram is best for creating awareness through images. Or, as one of the kids I spoke with said, “we just want to see the pretty pictures!”
  5. Tracking Insta-success is hard. There are (expensive) services that you can employ to measure the effectiveness of all your social media usage. There are also “click-farms” off shore that somehow make money by “liking” postings of companies that pay for social media advertising or effectiveness measurement services. Noticing the number of followers increasing, or a custom mentioning an Instagram post is probably the easiest measure of Insta-success.

For a more professional survey of using Instagram for small businesses, American Express has an excellent forum for small business owners found here. Our own Stacey Trock has a webinar coming up (at half price for members!) in November on using social media effectively - learn more here. You can also explore the 2016 State of the Needle Arts survey results for a more detailed explanation of social media and the needle arts.

Want more information on using social media to your advantage? click here to learn more about the social media outlets your customers are using most often, so you can decide where to spend YOUR time online!

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The Needlepoint Revolution

Posted By Melissa Prince, Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Most of us have encountered that person at a social gathering who wants to know just what exactly needlepoint is. They may have had a picture in their mind of one of the old European tapestries, or perhaps their grandmother stitching something that turns out to be cross stitch….

The truth is, needlepoint is not one specific thing. We’ve moved from wool and cotton to 40 thousand choices of threads. We have ventured beyond basket weave and continental into books with hundreds of pages of stitches to learn. We incorporate other needle arts into our designs: crewel work, embroidery, stump work, braiding, crochet - it’s endless.

We add decorative objects: beads, buttons, bangles, ribbons, wires, tassels, added canvas for dimension and texture. Various threads add sparkle, fuzz, bendability, and even glow in the dark.  It doesn’t ever end – companies are coming out with new exciting products to work with at every show!

Where is this headed? I think we’re in the perfect position to help ourselves and grow the industry. How can there not be something for everyone with all the options we have to offer?  I believe that we have a country full of those people you meet at a party who simply don’t know about our craft. Let’s show them! I know there’s the money argument – just forget about that for the moment.  Think about all the people who signed stupid fitness center contracts, decided to take tennis lessons, bought the expensive juicer/roaster/toaster wonder appliance or the pair of to-die-for shoes that are all used once. Admit it: if you really want it, you’ll buy it.

Leigh Richardson’s newsletter just mentioned an article in the Omaha newspaper about needlepoint. (Thank you Leigh!) Village Needleworks owner, Mary de Sousa, told me that all that she did was get in contact with a local reporter and suggest the story. There are Lifestyle editors everywhere looking for ideas. Local TV news has many slow news days. There’s internet screaming for clicks. What makes you think that media would be any more aware of us than those people at the party? We’re not a secret society! We have to show them so that we can stop trying to explain it. Create an event. Start the revolution! Make that call. Share your ideas – and have some fun.

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Create Traffic Patterns Inside your Retail Store for Improved Sales

Posted By Kevin Kissell, Friday, September 9, 2016

Kevin Kissell is back for part 2 of his series on merchandising for retailers. Did you know that you could create traffic patterns inside your store to help improve your sales? Read on for more!

Traffic patterns.
Did you know that ninety percent of people enter a store and turn to the right? It makes sense, right? We drive on the right side of the road, we walk on the right side of the sidewalk, and the majority of our population is right-handed. Merchandise your store accordingly!

The area to the right of your decompression zone is known as one area of Prime Real Estate within your store. (Did you miss the prior post explaining the decompression zone? Find it here.) Savvy store merchandisers will generally place new product here or some sort of tie-in to what customers saw in the windows. These fixtures, tables and/or displays are also known as speed bumps and work to slow people down in precise areas of your store. They grab your attention and tell a story. Anytime you want to slow customers down in order to get them to pay attention to select merchandise or to a particular part of your store, create a speed bump.

Another area of prime real estate is the right front wall. Many larger retailers refer to this as the Power Wall. This wall has the power to set the entire theme of your store, so put your best foot forward! Use the power wall to display new, seasonal, or promotional items. You can tell important stories, or display popular products. Most stores have more than one power wall. Generally it is the first right wall and the back wall of the store, depending on your architecture. Stand in different parts of your store and locate the walls that really stand out from the front of the store – these are your power walls. Never place sale items in the front of your store.

Another note about traffic patterns.
What is your store layout? Most store layouts will be affected by non-controllable architecture – things like the shape and size of the overall sales floor, and columns. The goal is to create the most impactful store layout in order to expose customers to product and to achieve a good traffic flow. At this point it is important to understand your target customer. In general, women are all about exploration and discovery within a store. Men on the other hand like to see clear pathways and defined sight lines throughout a store. There are a couple general types of store layouts: the Loop and Free Flow.

The loop basically creates a clearly defined pathway around your store. A customer would typically enter the store, walk to the right and follow a meandering path to the back of the store and up the left side of the store toward the exit. The loop offers consistent flow through a store with maximum merchandising opportunities throughout the store. It is simple and easily understood.

Most small and specialty retailers use the Free Flow layout because it’s more creative and allows customers the opportunity to explore and discover unique vignettes throughout your store. Here, fixtures can be angled or unique merchandise adjacencies could be placed together to create more visual interest.

Get creative! Grab your blueprints or create a map of the selling floor and start to sketch out different layouts. Change them from season to season to keep overall interest high.

Create a parking lot.
Yes. Create a parking lot inside your store. Women tend to do the majority of the shopping. Men and anxious children tend to follow these women around whilst they are doing the shopping. Make them feel more comfortable! Create a cozy seating area with a rug, lighting, chairs, a coffee table and plenty of reading material. If your disinterested shopping partner is entertained, you can spend more time shopping. And don't forget to merchandise the adjacent space around your parking lot accordingly! This is a great place for gift ideas and impulse purchases.

Where is your Cash Wrap?
Since most customers enter and walk to the right we should place our cash register on the right, right? Wrong! Most small retailers make the mistake of placing their cash wrap in the right-front area of their store. Remember, this is your prime real estate! Your cash wrap should be located at a natural stopping point in the store layout – the left side of the store near the front.

Research shows that the checking out experience is a point of frustration for most customers. This is a critical time and place where product, place and people all come together. Make the checkout experience a positive and memorable one. Give customers enough space to complete their transaction comfortably – room for bags, and purchases. Use your cash wrap to sell impulse items. Create interesting displays of merchandise that may have been overlooked, or that are easily gifted. Insure that policy and procedure signage is not abrasive or overly imposing. This is your chance to build a lasting relationship with your customer.  Invest in good quality shopping bags that will make a memorable impression.

Lighting.
Lighting is key to any built environment. Most retail stores have at least three types of lighting: General overhead lighting, Track or focused lighting, and themed or decorative lighting.

  • General lighting is most often large fluorescent lighting that bathes the sales floor with light, and is most often cool in color. Keep the color of your general lighting consistent – either all cool bulbs or all warm bulbs.
  • Track lighting allows for focused beams of light to be placed on creative displays, merchandise or tables. There are many great and inexpensive LED options which create a pleasing color and produce much less heat than traditional halogen spot lights.
  • Themed lighting is great for creating special vignettes throughout a store. These can be smaller lamps that enhance a table display, or small chandeliers hanging above a table.
  • Retail lighting is an art and takes time to master. Always spot displays and creative elements first, then wall merchandise, then floor merchandise. Crossing spots or ‘feathering’ light is much better than harsh direct spots of light. Once lighting is set in your own location, stand in the front of your store and notice if any lights are blinding you from the front door. If so, re-direct them away from the front door.

Your goal is to create excitement and to share an experience with your customer. Do your best to stimulate the five senses, from an inviting aroma to the look and feel of a nice paper bag. Plan your traffic flow based on your own target customer. Get inspired! Go shop the competition, hire an art student to create interesting display objects or ask a trusted friend to walk your store. You want to show your store assortment and everything you have to offer, so create a space that welcomes exploration and discovery.

Kevin Kissell, MFA, is an Instructor in the Department of Design and Merchandising at Colorado State University. His research interests include store design, visual merchandising, and textile design. Prior to entering higher education he accrued over fifteen years of visual merchandising experience.

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TNNA Survey Says: How Is Your Counted Thread Store Doing?

Posted By India Hart Wood, Hart Business Research, Friday, September 9, 2016

TNNA Survey Says is a biweekly series of articles featuring useful business advice based upon the TNNA State of Specialty NeedleArts 2016 surveys of more than 15,000 fiber artists, retailers, and wholesalers.

TNNA Survey

Financial Benchmarks for Counted Thread Retailers

Wise people go to the doctor for a checkup every so often. Wise business owners check the health of their business compared with benchmarks for the industry. Use the following table to understand how your retail counted thread businesses is doing compared with others. Counted thread stores in 2015 typically had sales of $92,000, inventory valued at $60,500, a sales floor of 950 square feet, and sales per square foot of $84. Half grew and half were profitable. How did your business do?

If you’re doing better than most, pat yourself on the back and keep up the success. If you are not doing as well as most and would like to have an income from your business, kick yourself into making some changes. Look at the other TNNA Survey Says blog posts for ideas about store features, marketing, product trends and selection, and adding more value to your business.

Summary of financial data for counted thread retailers:

Benchmark

Counted thread retailers*, 2015

Gross annual sales

Median (typical store) $92,000
15% more than $200,000
30% $50,000 or less

Sales growth

54% increased
12% no change
35% decreased

Profitable

52% yes
48% no

Profit margin
= profit divided by gross sales

12% average

 

Owner income from store
(salary, distribution, or dividend)

52% yes
48% no

Spending with suppliers per year

$39,000 median

Inventory value
(12-month average, at cost)

$60,500 median

Inventory turn
= sales/(inventory value x markup)

0.74

Retail sales floor size

950 square feet, median

Sales per square foot

$84 median
(in-store sales only)


Data from multiple questions on TNNA 2016 Needle Arts Retailer Survey. Much more detail is available in the Counted Thread Retailer Survey Results Report.


*27 counted thread retailers responded to the survey, which is not enough for a statistically reliable sample, but this data is still useful to understand about how your store is doing. Counted thread retailer benchmark data did not change markedly since 2009 and 2012 and it was similar to that of yarn retailers, indicating the data is reliable.

  • Source: TNNA 2016 Counted Thread Retailer Survey Results
  • Freshness: Retailers surveyed February 23 to March 28, 2016.
  • Respondents: 325 yarn retailers, 41 needlepoint retailers, and 27 counted thread retailers

More information: http://www.tnna.org/?Survey2016

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Is it time for YOU to go “back to school” this Fall?

Posted By Penny Franz, Ewe Count, Tuesday, September 6, 2016

It’s about that time: school is starting, it’s getting dark earlier, it’s a little cool in the morning. Fall and winter are right around the corner. Vacations have come to an end, snowbirds are on the move, and the holidays are fast approaching.


It doesn’t matter which kind of needlework you do – cross stitch, needlepoint, or yarn – you know it is going to start getting busier. Those darn holidays (you know the ones – they come around at the same time every year) just seem to sneak up on us. There are deadlines for finishing and gosh, we just should have started earlier! The customer that only knits an hour or two a week wants to know how long that sweater is going to take.  


It’s exciting to be a shop owner; our new fall classes are starting and the possibilities are endless.  Busy moms are back in the shops looking for something to do now that the kids are back in school. New fall stock is arriving and new models must be made up. Are you ready for the fall and winter season? Have you made plans to learn something new yourself?  


Have you checked out the upcoming webinars available to TNNA members? It looks like the next two classes in September and November are geared directly to shop owners and should help with pricing and social media!  We can never have too much help with either of those items. I know we are all busy, but these classes were designed with the busy shop owner in mind and even if you can’t “attend” the class the day it is presented, if you pay for the class you can go back and watch it whenever you have some free time.  


These are a great deal and exactly what the shop owners have been asking for.  We hope you will take advantage of these opportunities and let us know what other topics you would like to see in the future!


Learn more about the upcoming webinars here:

Pricing Strategies & Goals in Retail, September 15

Manage your Social Media, November 2

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