2010 CODA Leadership Conference, Savannah Georgia
RETAIL BREAKOUT SESSION – Wednesday, April 7, 2010
“CHALLENGES & CREATIVE SOLUTIONS IN THE CURRENT ECONOMY”
Moderators: Carolyn Patterson & Cheryl Hartley
Introduction of the group participants. Carolyn & Cheryl gave their backgrounds and asked for participants to submit questions for discussion. Approximately 15-18 people participated in the group.
Question #1: What’s in a name?
Sondra Knight of the Salkehatchie Arts Center submitted this question. The Center is having identity and branding issues. Do they change their name or stay with what they currently have? If yes, it’s hard because they area 501.3C.
Participants in turn asked questions about how well the current name describes what is important to the group; suggested hiring a marketing expert; working with a good attorney who can help with a possible name change.
Question #2: Is it best to merchandise an artist’s work together or spread it around and mix with other artists?
Participants’ answers varied here. Most say they merchandise as separate statements, but not all. Some specific comments included:
Carolyn Patterson said that they switched from vignette style to individual artist features and saw a 20% increase in business.
Richard Rothbard -- it’s helpful to focus artists. They merchandise by price-point as well as by artist. Sometimes they pull out 1 or 2 pieces to feature, but then guide customers to other pieces from the same studio.
Tom McFall commented that keeping an artist’s work together allows for use of biographies, technique info, etc. Sometimes they divide by price-point – this reduces shock when looking for lower priced items.
Cheryl Hartley - Tamarack showcases “Lifestyle Pods”. These show many artists’ works together. Vignettes are constantly changing. They have a full-time merchandiser.
Diane Sulg – Maddi’s merchandises around themes by month. It forces them to keep things moving. They do keep artists’ work together, and high end stays in one area.
Debbie Suchy – Eclectic Galleries primarily merchandises by color family or by décor style. But the gallery pulls individual artist’s work out for feature presentations or as collections are first introduced. This successfully shows clients how to incorporate artwork into their homes and existing décor.
Richard also noted that the answer was partly based upon whether the location was tourist or local based clientele. If mainly tourist, then fewer moves needed. Find a successful set up and stick with it.
Tom noted that theme and color displays received negative reactions from curators and artists, but not necessarily from customer. Artists want their work showcased individually.
Carolyn – you have to know who your customer is. When you move work around, you get “enthusiastic eyes”. It’s about the customer, not about us.
Question #3-A: What are the pitfalls of opening a retail outlet? Should buying be done by a Buyer or a Committee? Susan Hannahan of the Nova Scotia Designer Crafts Council submitted these questions. They are just getting started with a retail outlet. The area in question is near a cruise terminal where there are many “day vendors” that come in on the streets.
The group agreed that an individual Buyer is best. A buyer should have a clear understanding of how the buying process works (financials, etc), but also have a clear understanding of the organization’s mission with regard to artists and artworks to be featured.
Richard suggested testing in a booth or kiosk near the area. This would require a smaller financial commitment and give an idea of how the artwork would be received.
Tom agreed and thought that they could use that type of space for showing a sampling of artwork and then direct people to the Association’s current space. He added that this would help to keep the traffic limited to the “right” people – people truly interested in the artwork, not just passers-by.
Carolyn – remember the logistic of carrying / shipping product when making the decision about space. Save room for a stock room.
Tom McFall asked a secondary question: What about adding 2nd locations?
Debbie offered up the example of Eclectic Galleries’ second location in St. Augustine. The traffic was very different and was highly impacted by tourism. There are some synergies and benefits to 2nd locations, but they must really be treated as their own entities.
Diane – treat a 2nd location like a new, independent store. Maddi’s 2nd location is completely different from the first.
Richard – even his multiple NYC location are different from each other. Savannah is very different from the northern locations. Inventory and price-points should be geared to specific customer base.
Question #3-B: As a follow-up to Susan’s question about opening a retail outlet, what pitfalls should be avoided when setting up for e-commerce? Should brick & mortar retail come first?
The group agreed that a physical store must exist first for greatest success. The physical location will drive traffic to the website.
Richard – Yes. He noted Appalachian Springs as an example. They don’t always stock inventory shown on their site. But they use the site to maintain relationships and follow-up with tourists.
Diane – Maddi’s has an active site. 1-of-a-kind pieces sell the best. Also does well with jewelry and folk art. They equate the website to having another location. Policies are different because the attitude of the customers is different. She stated that it’s the equivalent of “adding another November” to her sales.
Richard suggested looking at Porterhouse Crafts as a model example.
Trisha Watts – be sure to test that all of your web functions are actually functioning. They weren’t getting any on-line sales because their cart wasn’t working.
Question #4: Richard asked about discounting policies within the group. Most say they discount because it gets people coming back, but not all agreed.
Cheryl said that they discount if people ask for it.
Carolyn stated that they discount 15% only if someone is a member of their Museum Society or AARP. It’s only for a certain period of time. Otherwise, she feels that discounting diminishes the artwork.
Diane shared Maddi’s frequent buyer program. They offer Gallery Rewards as part of their POS system. For every cumulative $350 spent, the customer gets a $10 coupon on the spot to be spent on the next visit. It’s good for 12 months. They use Artisan Point Of Sale software, but it doesn’t connect to their website.
Cheryl uses Retail Pro, but you need to build a bridge between POS and e-commerce.
Debbie said that Eclectic Galleries doesn’t discount, agreeing that is diminishes that uniqueness of handmade work. They do offer Decorator Rewards -- 10% back quarterly to decorators and designers with proof of business. They use “blind markdowns” to lower prices as needed.
Tom’s organization offers a 10% discount for their members. They also have customer appreciation days.
Cheryl noted that a rewards program wouldn’t work for them because their customers are travelers. They use dollars off of specific levels (i.e. $5 off $25 purchase). This works well for them.
Question #5: What’s the best way to market a website?
Richard questioned whether it was really worth the time and effort unless you are reaching the right clientele?
Diane uses some Google clicks, but ultimately it’s about driving traffic from the store to the site.
Cheryl: Be sure to include your website address on everything your print / mail / send out. This makes sure the site address is in front of your customers. And make sure that your web address is a good, easy to remember / find name.
The group discussed the idea of links between artists and galleries / guilds. Overall, the reaction here was neutral / negative. Several participants found that customers simply “shopped” for best price when too much info was made available to them. Both Richard & Debbie noted that they limit their buying from artists who sell direct on-line.
Question #6: How to establish shipping & handling fees for e-commerce.
The group agreed that you wouldn’t cover your costs on every single shipment, but that a % of purchase price seemed to be the best option.
Diane stated that they offer free shipping on all jewelry e-purchases.
Cheryl recommended “Call for Shipping Price” on larger (or heavier) items.
There was much discussion about the e-commerce topic and how technology is impacting retail in general. As this was to be part of the following day’s agenda, the topic was tabled until then.