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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.
  • 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
  • New Rules of Retail

    “Fifty percent of retailers and brands will disappear,” according to the future predictions made by Robin Lewis and Michael Dart in their recent book The New Rules of Retail: Competing in the World’s Toughest Marketplace (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). And as dire as this may sound to independent retailers,  it turns out that the authors don’t even factor us into their study.  They are actually saying that 50% of the consumer businesses that compete with us are endangered! Whether this is good news or not is a matter of interpretation. However their study of changes in shopper behavior obviously ... Read More
  • Minimum Wage, Maximum Concern

    Changes to the minimum wage laws will have a major impact on retailers across the country.  And yet I think we would all agree with President Obama’s statement that “no one who works full-time should have to raise their family in poverty. Right now, a full-time minimum wage worker makes $14,500 a year—which leaves too many families struggling to make ends meet, with a family of four with a minimum wage worker still living below the poverty line.” In 2013 the President called on Congress to raise the Federal minimum wage in stages from $7.25 to ... Read More
  • Cash Mob!

      There is no better way to welcome a new business to your community than by encouraging potential customers to patronize it. And one way to do that is by staging a “cash mob.”  You can’t do it for yourself, I’m afraid -- but it’s a great gift to help organize one for another business, or all the shop and restaurants in your area.What is a cash mob? It’s not crowd sourcing, which is a way to help finance a business through many investors.  A cash mob is a one-time event that helps bring a little money ... Read More
  • Fashion for Fun and Profit

    Are you thinking of adding jewelry, accessories or clothing to your merchandise mix?  As Gifts and Decorative Accessories editor Caroline Kennedy said in a recent seminar, giftable apparel and accessories are a major trend in our industry.  Women enjoy buying non-size specific clothing and accessories for each other as well as to spruce up their own wardrobe. Good news for bricks and mortar stores considering expanding in this area comes from Nadia Shouraboura at the National Retail Federation. convention.  She said “While many categories thrived online, apparel was not one of them.” In order to bring clothing into your merchandise ... Read More
  • Sales Tax Equity

    There is a movement afoot to level one aspect of the playing field between retailers who are David-size (like us) and the Goliath known as Amazon. We’ve all lost sales to customers who prefer to buy from Amazon because they won’t have to pay local sales tax, which in our case comes to 5.5% -- not a small amount on a large item. In theory consumers supposedly pay the tax voluntarily to their own state, but I’m guessing that very few do. The US Senate passed the Internet Sales Tax law last year, however it hasn’t ... Read More
  • Tooting Your Own Horn

    Need something to add to your Facebook feed, or an e-mail newsletter to your customers? New arrivals and special events make good copy, but you should also consider mentioning your good deeds. Customers like to support businesses that give back to the community, and if you are like most independent retailers, you give generously to as many groups as you can.This recent e-mail blast from Fontana Sports, one of our fellow retailers here in Madison, WI, ended with a list of five organizations they supported during the month of February. I assume that Fontana may have also donated to ... Read More
  • Taking Stock

    You may recognize this scenario: you want to carry some garden items in your shop for the summer season, but you can't rationalize placing a minimum order of $250 to $500 with each supplier you want to buy from. Here is a solution you may want to consider: a stocking distributor.Stocking distributors are consolidators who carry merchandise from several different companies (as well as some items of their own, probably direct imports), with a certain focus such as hardware, garden items, New Age products or housewares. They offer retailers the opportunity to place one order with a single ... Read More
  • The Dynamics of Pricing

    On a recent flight to attend a gift show, I discovered that my seat-mate had paid less than half the amount for her airfare than I had paid for mine. Welcome to the world of dynamic pricing! Technically dynamic pricing means that the price of an item is determined by a specific customer's ability to pay. In actuality, it means that prices are set based on what a specific customer is willing to pay. I probably bought my plane ticket later than my seat-mate, when fewer seats were available on the flight that fit my schedule. The airlines knew ... Read More
  • Curling Cues

    Of all the winter Olympic sports, curling has to be one of the least popular. And yet pictures of the Norwegian curling team are being eagerly shared all over the world on Facebook and other online media. Why? Because their uniforms are so... Colorful. Controversial. Clashing. And totally unrelated to curling, when it comes down to it.The unexpected and rather outrageous boldness of their outfits is what makes the Norwegian curling team's uniforms share-worthy. And therein lies a great truth for those of us trying to get customers excited about what we are doing in our businesses. Because ... Read More
  • Lessons from Lauerman’s

    When the founder of Lauerman's Department Store in Marinette, WI, died, author Michael Leannah reports that "thousands of people - rich and poor, of all faiths and of every rank and class - visited his home to pay their respects. Flags throughout the city were flown at half-mast, and many stores and institutions remains closed in his honor." While we can only aspire to reaching this level of admiration, there are lessons that even independent retailers can learn from Leannah's book Something for Everyone: Memories of Lauerman Brothers Department Store (State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 2013).  In profiling this very ... Read More
  • Vision Casting

    Do you have a vision for where your store will be in six years? Many of us are too tied up with the day-to-day busyness of business to think as far as the end of the week, to say nothing of the end of the decade. But the year 2020 will be here sooner than we realize. And I'm sure there is a pun about hindsight being 2020 that would reinforce my point about the importance of planning ahead in order to reach your goal.We all want to have our business survive and thrive. Perhaps you would also ... Read More