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Savvy Store Solutions

Carol L Schroeder
Veteran retailer Carol Schroeder shares her experience and perspective on the ups and downs of being a gift retailer.
  • Meet Your Maker

    The Grommet had a large exhibit in the lobby of the recent NY NOW gift show -- and as the company literature promised, this meant that you could “purchase and manage orders from multiple Makers in one place.” So what is a Maker? This relatively new term refers to a craftsperson or artisan who creates engineered products such as those using electronics of 3-D printing. The implication is that the maker has a small operation, either hand-making each item or using machinery to produce merchandise on a very small scale. Maker culture stems from the first Maker Faire held in San ... Read More
  • The 411 on CRM

    Have you checked your CRM lately? For the uninitiated: CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It’s basically what we used to call “personal service” back in the old days, in other words doing your best to get to know your customers and keeping in touch with them so that they’d come back often. Today’s CRM is often a software program, or a series of them, used for email marketing, customer information storage (purchasing history, birth date, etc.), loyalty program management, and per-customer customizable interest rates.  What is a per-customer customizable interest rate? I’m not sure. I ... Read More
  • Saving Main Street

    The issue of independents vs. chain stores is not unique to the US, and this news clip from BBC entitles “Can independent shops save the High Street?’ indicates. The High Street (Main Street to us Yanks) is facing serious challenges: according to the statistics quoted in this article from last year, more than one out of 10 retail spaces in the UK were vacant. The number was lower, however, in areas that have managed to preserve a large number of independent businesses. Why? In part because shoppers enjoy the experience of shopping in smaller stores. However in order to make ... Read More
  • Best Blogs

    A retailers time is always at a premium, which makes me very grateful that you are finding a few minutes to read this blog. But even in the 250 or so blog postings that I’ve written since starting six years ago, I can’t possible touch on the entire range of issues facing independent retailers today. So I’d like to share a few other blog sites with you. 1) The Retail Doctor by Bob Phibbs. Although his focus is not just on small retail, Phibbs writes lively short posts with ideas that often apply to stores of all ... Read More
  • A Sweet Vision

    Do you sell merchandise in your store? I’m willing to guess that you do, because the very definition of a shop is “a place of business for retailing goods.” When three friends from the Georgetown University decided to open a restaurant called Sweetgreen, they of course planned to sell food. But according to a recent article in American Lifestyle, partners Nicolas Jammet, Nathaniel Ru and Jonathan Neman noticed that “the brands they loved did more than just one thing — they stood for something. So we made it a point to focus on why we were doing this. For us ... Read More
  • Go Gift Box

    Dana Bullock was frustrated by the limitations of trade shows as a means of spreading the word about her handcrafted gift line. She thought there must be a better way to get products in front of buyers — and thus Go Gift Box was born. The company is now just a year old, and its list of participating vendors and retailers is growing. So is the concept — shop owners can now select five potential new suppliers each month, and will receive a box containing samples and ordering information from all five. The cost to the retailers is just $14.95, which ... Read More
  • Celebrating Independents

    In a splendid example of letting bygones be bygones, July has been declared to be Independent Retailer Month in England. After all, July 4th may be celebrated here as our Independence Day from the British -- but 1776 was a long time ago, and today retailers on both sides of the pond face similar challenges. As the British Independent Retailer Month web site points out, “Independent retailers and consumer-facing businesses are important. They are the lifeblood of our local retail centres - towns, high streets [that would be main streets to us Yanks], villages. They add social and commercial value to the ... Read More
  • Change IS in the Wind

    The saying “as Chicago goes, so goes the nation” has its roots in politics. But only time will tell whether the changes that are happening in the trade show arena in the Windy City are signs of things to come in other regional markets. I hope not. If it seems that I am taking the upheaval in the Chicago market personally, it’s true -- I’ve never missed a Chicago Gift Show in almost 40 years, and have given countless seminars there, in addition to participating in panel discussions and helping lead retail trolley tours. Back in the day I ... Read More
  • Let’s Hear It for Face Time!

    Are you drowning in e-mail? I think many of us feel that we’re barely able to keep up with our inbox (which makes me particularly grateful that you’re taking time to read this blog). It’s tempting to spend much of the day dealing with these messages as well as looking at products online and composing social media messages and e-mail blasts. I’m a big fan of FaceTime, a free Apple app that allows me to visit with friends and family spread out over the continent, but I know that there is no substitute for the kind ... Read More
  • What's New?

    Think about your reaction to a sign or menu insert at your favorite restaurant announcing the day’s specials. You assume these are items currently in season, or recent creations by the chef, or perhaps just good offers. The fact that the specials are only available that day gives them an urgency they wouldn’t have if they were listed on the regular menu. A list of daily specials also indicates to me that the restaurant is interested in constantly changing and evolving -- and that they want to make coming there enticing, especially for their regulars. These are all attributes ... Read More
  • Art by Artists

    Recognizing the designer of a product by name is a well-established tradition in Denmark, which is where we got the original inspiration for our shop many years ago. But most of the gift lines, we now don’t credit the talent behind the product, with the exception of greeting cards and other paper goods. That is changing, thankfully. Trend-driven companies such as Umbra list the name of the industrial designers behind some of their products, and hopefully consumers will begin to recognize and follow those whose aesthetic they like. It’s a good sign that avid fans have started Pinterest ... Read More
  • Attracting Tourist Dollars

    Summer is coming, and vacation time means that almost every area of the country will be receiving visitors.  Whether they are nearby residents who have time to explore because of time off from work, or international travelers who have come from afar, they bring with them tourist dollars that will be especially welcome after this long winter. How can you best attract tourists?  In most cases the key is to band together with others in your area to create an attractive destination with a mix of shops, cafes and restaurants (and perhaps even overnight accommodations).  As vacancies crop up in ... Read More