The Right Track Can Be A Dangerous Place

Let me tell you about a scrapbook store near my home. It opened about 4 years ago with a BANG! It had a BEAUTIFUL interior – very “Melissa Francis”. They got hold of a mailing list of scrapbookers and sent postcards out to scrappers all over the state. My friend who lives 80 miles from this store got one. So far – so good. But, that’s where it ended and they closed when their lease ended 3 years later.

I had predicted its death shortly after its opening. It was beautiful as I said, however, 12 months later, I could pretty much tell you everything that was in the store. What was there in the beginning was pretty much what was there when it closed. And, they had a little of everything that made up a whole lotta nothing. I called it the “Scrapbook 7-11”. If I needed cardstock or stickers for a card, I went there. But, if I wanted specific themed products for a coordinated page, I headed to the other bigger store that had purchased products deeper into lines and had a bigger selection of coordinated products.

But, I digress. These were just symptoms of a problem. The biggest problem was that they were living in a world that was best summed up by Will Rogers when he said, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” They WERE on the right track, but they didn’t move and eventually, they got run over.

Problem one – they had a LARGE sign on their store that said, “Classic Keepsakes”. Well, how many things could THAT be? Antiques? Collectibles? Children’s clothing boutique? Nothing on the store front (which was somewhat visible from a major road, although hidden slightly by a gas station) said “SCRAPBOOKS”. The large sign by the road that had smaller signs on it for all the stores in this strip mall said, “Scrapping and stamping supplies” at the BOTTOM. It was pretty much covered by bushes and at 45 miles an hour on the busy road, very few people noticed.

Problem two – they sent out email newsletters to current customers, but did nothing to bring in new customers. They simply didn’t reach out past the group of people who had already discovered them. They relied on (I guess) their current customers to do their marketing for them. No postcards beyond the first group went out to anyone. They didn’t place ads or hold special events, they did nothing. We have a very growing and mobile community and over time, they lost many of those customers who knew about them from their opening. They were doing nothing to replace those people by introducing their business to those moving into the area. And, as I said earlier, they didn’t turn their inventory very fast so those of us who DID know about them, stopped coming in very often since we already knew what they had.

When this store started their “Going Out of Business” sale at the end of their 3 year lease, I happened to be in the store when I overheard the owner talking to an employee. The store had dozens of women crammed into it and the cash register was jumping. She said, “If this many people had known about us last month, I wouldn’t have decided to close”. Apparently, since they announced their sale, messages about their sale were posted all over the internet to local scrapping groups. Word of mouth also spread the news like wildfire. She said the phone kept ringing and ringing with people wanting directions to their store. I wanted to bring back my “Duh” board and smack her with it. I can’t believe she hadn’t figured out earlier that she needed to be reaching out to new customers.

So, what can we learn from this?

1. Get a decent sign! Many store owners think of some cutesy name for their store that’s oh so clever and then have a sign made. “LadyBug Designs” isn’t going to make me slam on my brakes. But, a giant sign that says “SCRAPBOOKS” will. Save your cutesy name and logo for your door and put the biggest “SCRAPBOOKS” sign you can afford on the outside of your building facing the street.

2. Market, market, market! It’s money well-spent and will directly affect how many times your inventory turns. More traffic means more sales which means more products coming in which means more money. Did you realize that less than 5% of women scrap? That’s a whole bunch of potential customers out there for you to tap. How many people have not even HEARD of scrapbooking? Probably more than you’d like to think. You probably have a “Scrapbooking 101” class, but how about going into the community with a “Try Scrapbooking” class? Teach it through your Parks and Rec department or even have a booth a community festival with a hands-on project. Have a simple make and take and literally INVITE curious people to TRY scrapbooking. Offering a beginners class is a lot different than INVITING people to try something. Everyone has photos, teach them what to do with them. Don’t start out with the over-done page, show them a very simple way to scrap and let THEM move down the path to more embellished pages at their own pace.

The main point here is that if you are just selling to the people who stumbled into your store by accident at some point, then you are guaranteed to be one of the many store causalities out there. You MUST, and I mean MUST be introducing your store to new people on a regular basis. Then once you do get them in, keep in contact with them with that monthly or quarterly newsletter you are already sending out.

If you are on the right track with your store, don’t let yourself get run over by the marketing train. Keep your customer base as fresh as your products for the best chance of success!