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The Gifted Retailer: Paper & Chocoloate

Gifts & Decorative Accessories: What do you like best about being a retailer?Vicki Petersen of Paper & Chocolate
Vicki Petersen: I love working with our great customers of course, but I also love the constant change that goes with owning a retail store. New trends, new products, first time customers – things are never the same each day. I love the unanticipated and the variety that happens in retail.

G&DA: What was the most valuable piece of business advice that you ever received?
VP: There has been so much great advice that I hardly can select one piece of advice. The legacy of Stanley Marcus, the founder of Neiman Marcus, is so well known in Dallas that striving to be known as a store which gives great service has been a significant objective of our store since the beginning. As a CPA, I learned from the many companies that I audited over my career to be vigilant about my accounting, inventory and controls.

A fun piece of advice that I received from a friend brought me my best vendor! She owns a vacation home in the Hill Country of Texas and kept telling me about a great Paper & Chocolate store displaychocolate company in Hico, TX. Hico is a small town, and because I am so particular about chocolate that I was skeptical I would like their confections. She insisted on taking me there. So after a two hour drive, I tasted Wiseman House's award winning, Wild Woman Truffle and I was hooked. Kevin Wentzel, the owner, is a fabulous chocolatier and we have carried his chocolates since we opened four years ago.

G&DA: What is/was your most successful promotion?
VP: Twice a year we work with our representative from Graphic Image and present a trunk show. Items ordered during the trunk show are personalized free, and we promote this event extensively to our customers.

G&DA: What three products/lines are you best sellers?
VP: Besides our chocolates, William Arthur, Graphic Image and Caspari are our best sellers.

G&DA: What are you doing to attract new customers?
VP: We are fortunate to be in a great shopping center which has wonderful traffic and is well known in Dallas. The anchor of our center is an old art deco movie theatre, the Inwood Theatre. Other tenants include hair salons, spas and restaurants, so our location is significant in attracting new customers. They see our name and stop to taste our chocolates! We also have our website and we advertise in our local wedding magazines, D Weddings and Modern Luxury's Dallas Brides.

G&DA: What was your most effective display?
VP: One of our annual window displays consists of a beautiful wedding gown from a local wedding boutique, and people drive by and stop to look in the window and admire the gown. It is a great way for us to inform the public that Paper & Chcolate displaywe provide wedding invitations and gifts.

G&DA: How do you find your best employees?
VP: Luck and word-of-mouth! We have had an even split between great people stopping by to introduce themselves and tell us about their passion for stationery and paper, and great recommendations from other business owners.

G&DA: What was your biggest retail problem and how did you solve it?
VP: As a relatively new retailer, the recession has been our biggest problem. We were gaining a following, a reputation and momentum when the economic recession hit. We adjusted our buying and staffing levels to get through. We stayed with the vision of our store which was to provide our customers with affordable luxuries that they can gift or enjoy themselves, and we are growing once again!

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