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.

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