Beading Arts Blog recently linked to some articles on Fire Mountain Gems's website about selling jewelry supplies and handmade jewelry. One of them was about how to boost sales for bead store owners. A lot of the tips and suggestions were very good, leading me to wonder why more bead shop owners don't do these personable things.
Since I started getting into jewelry-making as a hobby, I've sought out bead stores wherever I go. So I've been to many, many shops and am still on the lookout for new ones. There are bead stores that stick out in my memory as very pleasant places to visit; then there are those that I know I'll never go back to. The following features are definitely turn-offs for me when entering a bead shop:
* It is several minutes before the shop attendant even acknowledges your presence; sometimes they don't even bother to look at you until you're at the check-out counter.
* When the shop attendant frowns and acts like you're bothering them when you are standing at the counter waiting to check out. Seriously. I have walked out of a store without buying anything because of this sort of treatment. Don't treat your customers like they're an inconvenience. It's the worst thing you could possibly do.
* When there's some event, class, or workshop going on and everyone grows quiet and intently ignores you when you wander close. Again, I've walked out of a bead shop without buying anything because of this sort of treatment. It makes you feel more like an intruder than a welcomed guest and is just poor business practice.
* When the shop owner tries to press you to buy other things and then acts ungracious when it's not what you're looking for. I say this because I usually go into a bead shop with a specific idea in mind of what I'm going to get and I've worked out a tight budget in advance, so I don't always have the money to spare. When I do have the funds to splurge, then I don't mind so much buying something extra. I know that we're all hurting right now with the economy like it is.
* When the customer before you is a regular and receives very nice treatment right in front of you, and then you are treated like a waste of time right afterward. Seriously, what are you supposed to think? Even the regular customer had to have a first visit once. And here you are, being nice and wanting to support the beading community and a small business by going in, and then you're treated so badly you never want to come back. Very, very poor business practice.
* When the shop attendant treats you poorly because you're only buying one or two things. When I go into a beading shop for the first time, it's usually to look around and see what they have. I am not likely to buy much, if anything, the first time. I like to see what's there, then go home and think about potential projects, then come back and buy more. If I'm treated poorly the first time, I am not likely to return, no matter how good the selection and how reasonable the prices.
That being said, not all beading shops are like the above. I've had experiences at fantastic stores---both in small mom and pop places and in big chain stores like Michael's---and have returned to these places again and again. One of the high points of going to my parents' house is that I can visit one of their great local bead stores. Same thing goes for my old college town, where the shop owners still remember me and treat me like an old friend, even if I don't purchase a thing. This is what I'm in it for. This is what earns my loyalty as a shopper.
To keep track of bead stores, bead shows, and individual online merchants, I went out and purchased a very cheap but efficient photo album. In it I put all of my business cards, postcards, fliers, etc. and contact information for shops and things that I found pleasant and would visit again. It's useful for keeping everything organized, and it even has spaces for little notes to myself so I remember exactly what I liked there and what products they carry.
I often add the business cards of people I've purchased jewelry and other goods from, so that I can share them with others or go to them when I have to find a special gift for someone (because, face it, there's only so many necklaces I can make for my mother!). It is really important to be able to offer such convenient contact information, and so business cards are a fantastic investment. You can get free business cards of a limited amount from places like Vistaprint, or you can order customized ones from awesome graphic designers out there, like Tara and so forth (which, while it may be a little more expensive than Vistaprint, is definitely more unique and rewarding, and you don't have to deal with all the spam in your email inbox that you do with Vistaprint; you'll also be investing back into the community this way). People I've bought from often include a business card in the packages they send out, and I've been careful to put my business card in things that I send out as well. This way, if there's ever any problem with the product, the customer knows exactly how to contact the seller.
A recent fortune cookie had this to say about it: "If you want to succeed in business, avoid 'business as usual.'" In truth, I think as long as it's "good business as usual," then one will always please their customers. There's just no substitute for good business practice.
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