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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.
  • 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
  • A Fine Presentation

    As retailers we are bombarded with as many “buy me” messages every day as our customers. The one we received recently from Byers’ Choice Ltd. was so well done that I think we can all learn some important lessons from them. First of all, it was carefully targeted.  In nm addition to having our shop name at the top of the list of “Nice” stores in Santa’s hands, the enclosed note mentioned that Buyers’ Choice offers chef figurines.  That shows that they had done their research and knew that our store sells cookware and kitchen items in addition to ... Read More
  • Etsy Goes Wholesale

    It can be a challenge to find American craftspeople able to sell their goods wholesale. Locally-produced merchandise is a great addition to almost every merchandise mix, but visiting art fairs can result in dead-end conversations when wholesale pricing of the merchandise isn’t high enough to make it worth the artists while—or is too high to translate into reasonable prices once retail markup is added. There are a few trade shows that specifically address this issue (see Wholesalecrafts  and the American Made Show). And now there is a new player in this arena, the popular online crafts market Etsy ... Read More
  • Need Some Green?

    “Get money to grow your business in minutes! Now funding ALL small businesses!” Chances are good that you’ve seen these sponsored spots of Facebook, encouraging you to apply for a loan. I must admit that I’m impressed by what appears to be 4,000 likes and 1,400 shares for this ad. But it got me wondering about who (or what) Kabbage is, and whether their offer is good. Businesses traditionally turned to banks for loans for capital, but it has been notoriously difficult to get a bank loan in recent years. This has led many shops to ... Read More
  • Aligning with Others

    Cooperation and collaboration are essential to the success of most small retailers -- whether it is through your local buy local movement, Chamber of Commerce or merchant association.  Now there is a new tool available to help business owners connect, thanks to Eric Groves,  a former senior executive of the online marketing company Constant Contact. Groves is the co-founder of a start-up business called Alignable, which describes itself as a free, online social network where business owners can connect, collaborate and learn from each other.  He described it as a “LinkedIn for local businesses” in a recent interview with the Boston ... Read More