A recent Draperies & Window Coverings article said it all: “The day of the traditional large business structure is dead; the small independent business…is back.” (See “Working It!,” D&WC, September 2008, page 36.) Independent dealers foster creativity. Consider shopping a patriotic activity. Shopping stimulates the economy and lifts your spirits. How do you make sure that new and existing customers visit your showroom or workshop?
To begin the process, take account of what you’ve got: your physical facility, your inventory and your expertise. If your space is looking tired, consider re-coloring your space. Check out the latest trends available in zero-VOC paint. You’ll feel good about the difference you are making to the environment, and if you paint at night, you can move back in the next morning with no odor. Like makeup, a new paint job is a reasonably priced way to put on a new face. It gives your staff and customers a positive message. Relight with energy-efficient color-corrected lights, to tighten your bottom line use lamps like Phillip self-ballasted metal halide lamps.
If your inventory appears tired, move merchandise around to show it in a different light. Change the props. Reorganize. Rethink your groupings. Show your customers your newest and best ideas. Hang fabric and materials so they can be seen and touched. Inform customers, not about savings, but about services and the special features of your merchandise. Are the dyes in the draperies non-carcinogenic? Is the fiber in the blinds from a sustainable source? Do your draperies keep the warmth in during the chill winter months? Can you custom-fit a window solution for an awkward space or make arthritis-friendly blind pulls?
REFRESH YOUR OWN OUTLOOK
Take the time to rethink not just your space, but also your own outlook. Don’t focus on the problem; put forward solutions. Showcase your ideas. Reassess your expertise. In times of uncertainty, customers want to deal with someone they can trust, someone who is going to be around when the dust settles. Be authentic. Be interested in what your customers need and how they live. Knowledge provides new ideas. Get involved and see things, even the tough times, as part of a larger picture.
If you’ve time on your hands because sales are slower, learn more about your business. Attend workshops. Develop new solutions. Read about the technical qualities of your products. Learn new business skills. Develop your expertise on the Internet to keep customers informed about the latest products you carry and how they can be beneficial to them. If a whole new way of doing business is developing, read, observe, learn from the experts and examine your own values. Be there as a leader in the changes. Market through education. Starbucks developed its market by teaching people about the taste of good coffee, then by producing a variety of tastes to appeal to customers’ individually. Take a page from its marketing book.
Small businesses are superb at reaching out to core customers and meeting their needs. Manage the shopping experience inside your own stores and showroom. As an independent, offer shoppers an original experience. Remain true to your style and your way of working. Working as an independent allows you to create your kind of environment.
As the old song goes, “Nobody loves you when you’re down and out.” But everybody loves a lover; someone whose irrepressible happiness and enthusiasm is based on confidence and caring. Get out there and share it. Innovation and independence will be part of the next big growth spurt. Harness you inherent energy and dance straight through the grumps to the good tines. It’s more energy efficient than driving!
Ruth Mellergaard is principal of Grid/3 International, Inc., a New York design firm specializing in creating profitable selling environments. An NCIDQ and New York state certified designer, Mellergaard has 25 years of interior design experience planning, designing and detailing stores.