Thursday, April 02, 2009

Retail Epiphanies

I have been thinking lots about shopkeeping lately, more than usual. I read a lot of shopkeeper's blogs for inspiration, and because it's always great to see someone is dealing with the same thing you are, the same highs and lows. I am noticing a lot of the small retailers lately are also thinking. Not thinking about closing or anything like that, just...thinking. Trying to understand this business and all the aspects of it. Lots are going through renewal periods, reinventing themselves, and working hard. I am going through this same transformation right now, especially with The Whatever Shop. So tonight I was thinking over my twice-weekly Dairy Queen blitz (urrrgh)...

Shops 'like this' are primarily owned and operated by the same type of woman. Excuse me while I typecast us all, but I really see this. We are creative, independent, think big but also think small, have a good eye, pay attention to detail, and I daresay we view much of the world differently than the majority of the public. That is why none of us are getting rich at this, ha ha. We are getting rich in a way that is not monetary, though. We don't view stuff as 'stuff'. We have more of an artistic outlook.

I had a woman in tonight who said she didn't like to "dust knick-knacks". That sort of comment in my shop always makes me go "Eh, what?" and I enjoy employing my favorite dirty look in response. But seriously. That is such a bizarre way to view things. It's not like I'm selling a dusty stack of Hummels or something else that can be categorized as a "knick knack". I sell home decor and antiques. It's not granny's attic. Mirrors are knick knacks? Candlesticks, prints, vases? Uh, whatever. *eye roll*

So I see this fundamental gap between "us" and "them" coming into play here. My girls are the ones who get it. They GET IT. They walk into a shop and are flooded with design ideas. It doesn't mean they are HGTV stars or something, it's just that the creative juices cannot help but get stirred up, they are inspired, excited, and interested. Dust? That is the farthest thing from their minds. And while they usually can't help but buy a special something (or two or three or four), they don't have to be out shopping in order to GET it.

I don't know if it's as simple as a divide between being creative and not being creative, or where the difference kicks in. I can usually spot a Kindred Spirit and a spirit that is not so kindred right off. Comments about dust or 'a lot of stuff', yeeeahh, not getting it, hon. And that's okay...I'm not going to understand them any more than they are going to understand me. But I believe that as artistic shopkeepers too often we are taken aback, maybe start second guessing, or making mistakes in trying to attract *everyone* to our shops. Newsflash: hanging a sale banner out is not going to get these dusty souls to suddenly change. It's not the economy, stupid. It's that you can't sell brake pads to an Amish man.

During my short-lived real estate career, I saw a lot of houses that made me...well, gag. Hideous. Absolutely bland, not warm or cozy, the most aesthetically-upleasing arrangements you can come up with. (Let's just say one involved two litter boxes and a very large cat.) Decorating is not important to everyone. Just like I don't give a rat's arse about sports in general. So I am learning what is best for my business is to be ME ME ME and do what I love and sell what I love and not get wrapped up in "dust".