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Dancer in the Aisles

Caroline Kennedy

With her veteran's-eye view, editor-in-chief Caroline Kennedy comments on the highlights and sidelights of our gift industry and the everyday world around us.

 

 

  • Recharging Batteries

    Modern technology has been a boon to our daily lives and businesses. We have become very dependent on constantly being connected via our mobile phones, tablets, laptops, e-readers and laptops. One thing that all these devices have in common is batteries that need to be recharged to maintain efficient functionality. Thus, we have become attuned to monitoring them so that we can recharge them before they run out of juice and leave us powered down. All of us most likely lead very busy lives these days managing our careers, whether it is running our own business or working for someone ... Read More
  • Brand-building Success

    Here's one modern way to build a brand: Create a collector. A recent article in the Washington Post looked at the company's success. Many of today's gift companies are looking for ways to build a recognizable brand that resonates with consumers. Vera Bradley has been very successful in doing just that. Starting with simple, yet fashionably feminine quilted soft luggage, the company has become a lifestyle and fashion brand that appeals to all ages and extends into homewares, baby toys and accessories, home office accessories and more. This approach may not work for every gift company, but ... Read More
  • Boost Sales on the Indie Bunny Trail?

    Are you looking for a "Small Store Saturday" type of promotional idea to help boost spring sales and traffic? Here's an idea to consider putting on you "To Do" list for trying next year: More than 1100 independent retailers in 56 towns across Great Britain launched "Enjoy an Independent Easter" campaign to encourage shoppers to visit their small local shops and participate in "Indie Easter Egg Hunts." Shopper were given an egg hunt map and had to collect "virtual eggs" (egg stickers) from participating shops. Read more about it here: http://bit.ly/ZwHlYI Read More
  • Build Loyalty with Co-op-itition

    Do you remember the group of Healdsburg, CA, independent retailers who won a Gifts and Decorative Accessories Retailer Excellence Award several years back for their innovative cooperative marketing program to build business in the downtown shopping district? They coined a term for what their banding together was: Co-op-itition. Here's a new take on that idea. Several small independent merchants in Cincinnati, OH, area have banded together on a mutually branded loyalty program. Customers can use the same loyalty card at all of the participating businesses. Not a bad idea! Think about how you might be able to do the ... Read More
  • A Retailer's Tough Time Calls for Unusual Measure

    In this highly competitive marketplace being a small independent retailer is a tough business to be in. That is something that you do not need me to tell you. Many, if not most, of you know it from personal experience. Here I share with you an inspiring story of an independent bookstore owner who, finding herself in a financially difficult situation, decided to reach out to her loyal customers for help. She asked them for a little support and to spend a little more each month to help her stay in business rather than closing up her shop. Her direct ... Read More
  • Trade Dispute A-brewin'

    Who knew that such an unassuming, ordinary thing might cause chaos at the cash register? What is it? Paper cash register tape. The special thermal type of paper used to print out receipts is at the center of a possible trade case. Two companies are the major suppliers of this paper tape: one, Appleton Papers, an American company based in Wisconsin; the other, Koehler Paper Group, a German company. Appleton is accusing Koehler of " ‘dumping' its paper on the U.S. market at below the normal price and trying to get the Commerce Department to impose a 75 percent tariff ... Read More
  • Out of Touch with Reality

    I took advantage of the recent "inconvenience" created by Hurricane Sandy (no heat, power or phone for days at my house) to catch up on some reading. One article made me smile with amusement and just a little disbelief. The article was a survey report for SpendingPlus for Small Business, conducted by MasterCard Advisors in tandem with Wells Fargo. The report was noted that smaller retailers were seeing their sales momentum increasing slowly but steadily; for year-to-date of the report, small store sales had increased 8 percent compared to the 5.9 percent for total retail sales. This is good ... Read More
  • Puttin' on the Dog -- In a BIG Way

    In the volume of email and press releases that we receive, sometimes there is one that just makes you smile, chuckle or plain laugh out loud. Today brought one of those to my Inbox. Entitled "All Dogs Should Have the Luxury of Being Carried in Purses: Even if They Weigh 120 Pounds" the accompanying pictures caught my eye, made me laugh and actually click through.to a short video. Watch out Brittany and all you other fashionistas out there, toting your little dogs around. This lady and her dog are making a statement in a big way! The email containing ... Read More
  • Breaking the Discount Mentality

    A recent piece on a CNBC blog talked about how some of the big retail chains are trying to wean shopping customers off of their deep discounts and expecting to get everything that they want on sale or at a bargain price. In order for stores to do that, retail consultant Robin Lewis commented, "Retailers need things that add value or perceived value that the consumers are willing to pay full price for." Gee... isn't that what smaller independent retailers do and have always done? Read More
  • A Shop Local Lesson: Local Loyalty Can Come at a Price

    As a consumer, being loyal and supporting a local small business can be very difficult choice, especially when it comes to buying name brands. I recently wrote about practicing what we preach in regard to my kitchen renovation. This past weekend, I went back to the appliance chain to cancel my initial order. Of course, the sales associate asked why? Did I get a better price someplace else? Yes, I said, slightly, but more importantly, I was doing business with a small, local independent in town. Sales associate: "We're local, too. We are only in the tri-state area. And ... Read More
  • Remember the Magic Words

    When it comes to customer service, rude store employees rank at the top of the list of customer pet peeves, according to data compiled for the NRF's STORES. And, of course, this can negatively impact your business. You work hard to get customers to cross your threshold; you may lure them in once, but if they are rudely served, they will not return. I know that gift retailers pride themselves on service with a smile and a "How may I help you"greeting when a customer enters the store. But it never hurts to remind your employees of this ... Read More
  • Practicing What We Preach

    Over the past several years there has been a growing momentum and buzz about "buying local" and supporting our main street and independent businesses. The 3/50 Project, Shop Small Stores and other grassroots movements are offshoots of this philosophy. We at Gifts and Decorative Accessories support the idea; after all, supporting independent retailers and helping to keep them in business are what we are all about. And our columnist, retailer Carol Schroeder recently wrote about supporting local trade shows as well, in order to keep them vibrant and healthy. Proponents of the "Buy Local" philosophy should not just preach ... Read More