Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Onward and Upward

Dan might say I have a tendency to obsess....and obsess....and obsess.  In the weeks leading up to the NY Now show, I "obsessed" over what lines we should look at when we were at the show.  When we got to the show I "obsessed" if we were seeing everything we needed to see.  In the weeks after returning home, I "obsessed" over writing orders.  Perhaps "obsess" isn't the correct word.  I prefer to think of myself as being judicious.

So, after all the research, number crunching, and reviewing (aka obsessing) I'm happy to say everything has been put to bed.  All said and done, LUCKY HILL will have 20 new lines and re-orders on 26 lines.  While I'm not going to spill the beans about new categories and lines, I am willing to say we have "great expectations" for all the impending arrivals.  How would I sum up the new additions in a few words?  Uplifting, laid back, and brimming with la dolce vita.

Work continues on the back room.  I've gotten to spend time doing one of the things I love most, that being to figure out the puzzle of where in the shop display fixtures and product lines will reside.  Dan has finished the painting of the ceiling, walls, woodwork, and floor and has now moved on to refinishing, retrofitting, and reworking furniture for displays.  I hate taking him out of his studio, but we're a team of two and always pull together in the best interest of the business.  Needless to say, it's exciting to see the back room come to life.

Oh, and on a side note....of those 26 returning lines, you can be sure the GurglePots will be back in residence in their cheerful rainbow line-up.  It's been pointed out to me that most residents of Castine are already in possession of one or more GurglePots, but it's a big world out there beyond the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and it looks like a lot of people still need one....or two....or three burping fish pitchers.  Viva la gurgle!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

All Things Great and Small

When you're more Amazonian than Lilliputian, have grown up hearing advertising taglines like "Super Size It" and viewing monstrosities known as McMansions, you've probably lapsed into believing bigger is always better.  Retail is all about location, foot traffic, critical mass.....and square footage.  But does that mean it has to be an abundance of square footage?

More than a decade ago, we opened a shop in West Chester, Pennsylvania called Grandiflora.  It was located on a main street, across from an award-winning French restaurant, had free on- street parking in front, one lovely storefront window, and was a glorious 1,200 square feet of brick walls and reclaimed barn wood floors.  It ticked off all the boxes.  There were smaller shops on the same street that were quite adorable, but immediately dismissed simply because they were too small.  We never found ourselves pining away for a smaller venue, but did often contemplate moving to a larger one.

Fast forward eight years.  When we discovered 15 Main Street for rent on craigslist, we knew the square footage was significantly less than that of Grandiflora.  Interestingly, it never gave us pause.  Over the course of the decade I spent away from retail,  I had developed a great appreciation for petite spaces, be it residential or retail.  In the days between the first conversation with our soon-to-be landlords and the actual signing of the lease,  I pulled out my old Grandiflora notebook containing all my sales numbers, lines, and square footage per line.  After studying those numbers, I knew it was possible to make a small space work....we just had to be smart in the execution.

Lines had to be selected carefully with attention paid to ensure each line filled a specific niche.  There could be no extraneous lines and testing new categories had to be explored with baby steps as opposed to giant leaps.  Many lines were dismissed if opening order minimums came with a high price tag and price points always had to be considered.  The sweet spot, in my mind, was to create a cohesive line presentation in 3 square feet or less.  At Grandiflora, one of my best selling lines was a candle line (that shall remain nameless).  A small dresser set the stage and held 2 candles and a tester in each of six fragrances.  It was a clear, concise presentation with sales that always amazed me.  At LUCKY HILL, I simply had to recreate that model..... about twenty times over.... and then some.

This is an exciting and nerve-wracking time of year.  Tomorrow we'll head to NY Now at Javits and, over the course of four days, select product lines that will largely determine the outcome of our summer.  Not everything this summer will be new.  Some lines we've carried are slam dunks, some are on the fence, and some will not be returning.  The bottom line, however, is whatever stays or makes a debut must hold the promise of that candle line on the small dresser at Grandiflora.  Retail for us is no longer measured in "bigger is better", but rather good things come in small packages.  While LUCKY HILL is going to get a little bigger as we expand into the back room, it will continue to be a little jewel box filled with glorious light, creative visual displays, and beautiful treasures selected with great care and love.