Saturday, May 20, 2017

“You can't stop the future

You can't rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret to press play.”
~Jay Asher
The retail world is facing uncertainty as the Gen Xers and Millennials shun the shopping mojo that the baby boomers relished.  Rewind to those days when a group of women would meet to shop, eat, and socialize.  Now, socializing is drifting through hash tags, Instagram, and Pinterest.

I confess I have neglected the shop and this blog for many months.  I was immersed in my teaching and waiting for April the giraffe to give birth,
 but I also will admit that I was stymied by the retail scene.  I was trying to wrap my head around where I wanted to take my shop.  I was bored...I will admit it...and I was looking for inspiration.  I was seeing merchandise in thrift shops priced higher than what anyone would pay in my shop, and, if you said something to a helper, the reply was..."well, we saw it on the internet, etc etc etc".
Here is a sweet vintage casserole, but $18?  $10-$12 perhaps on a good day in a shop.  Why not price to move?  Or, is there a fear of someone buying it and flipping it for more in a store or back to ebay?  Who cares?  It was free to the thrift shop!  Not to mention, the area is hemorrhaging year round residents.  Giant "lego" houses, as I call them, have taken over the islands, and the mainland lacks year round employment to support local housing and living.  Retail and restaurants pay the price of ghost town mentality in the off season which lasts almost 9 months now...and we are not birthin' anything in those off months.

But, after 26 years, I have seen the small retail shop go through some serious dynamic changes.  Ebay was probably the first stake in the retail fence.  What was rare in one part of the country was abundant in another, and no one factored in shipping costs...that always boggled my mind!  For vintage and antique merchandise, ebay became the price guide, and price guides have been discontinued except for Kovels.  But, just because somebody listed something on ebay at a certain price, or someone paid an exorbitant price does not mean that is what something is worth.

Then, the Antiques Roadshow added another stake.  Now people thought that Grandma's treasures were worth thousands...even Grandpa did not rate her treasures that high!  With the recession, many people decided they would become shopkeepers and flocked to the newly designed co-ops where the owners were glad to collect rent, and the new retailers were happy to make their rent never understanding that they actually lost money with that mindset.

And do not even get me started on dealer discount!  Many antique/vintage dealers simply add in extra to take it off for the infamous "can you do better?"  No one would think of going into Home Goods or Marshalls or any other major department store, and immediately ask what is your dealer price.  Price it fair to start and move on. 

Enter the cable TV shows...DIY...HGTV...and Rachel Ashwell and her boy toy...Queer Eye...Design Stars...among others on TLC and Bravo.  Even now Flea Market Flip tempts the viewer who does not realize that workshop is staffed with professionals who help the buyers pull off the "flip".  (Don't try that at home with your significant other.)
Image result for picket fence
So, many stakes continue to create that fence that surrounds the small brick and mortar shop in the 21st century.   TJ Maxx is opening a HomeSense which is already the name of a chain owned by TJX that operates in Canada and Europe and is similar to HomeGoods in the U.S.  That does signal that they believe people will shop, but HomeSense stores will be located near TJX’s other inexpensive go-to stores, so customers can conveniently “shop both.”  No need to spend a day roaming about.

And, of course, the point and click world of buying now...Wayfair, Joss and Main, A+R, H & M, and at least 40 to 50 more...but who is counting?

Let's not forget...Buy American...make America great again...why pay $60 for a handcrafted necklace made by an American when one can pick up a Chinese or India knock-off for $6.99?   When an item says "Made in America", consider that you are supporting a neighbor so to speak, not a Chinese laborer making pennies in a foreign factory.  Granted some Chinese products need to exist in the retail world, but do not walk away from American made if you do like the item. 

So, you can see what has been brewing in my head these past months.  I needed to vent so that you are aware of not only my feelings but some of the challenges facing small shop owners everywhere.  Be kind...retail as you know it may be facing a different future, and the small independent shops are trying to find that niche to keep customers happy and to maintain the small shop ambiance...and I am trying to regroup, and, as Maya Angelou writes...
“Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation, which is not nurturing to the whole woman.”  

Saturday, December 31, 2016

"In the New Year,

never forget to thank your past years because they enabled you to reach today! Without the stairs of the past, you cannot arrive at the future!”
              ~ Mehmet Murat ildan
      January 1, 2017...okay, time really does...or there is something about aging that makes the clock spin faster!  Anyway, new year...although as a life long teacher, this is always middle of the year for me since September logs in as "the" new year for me!  But, I shall celebrate with the traditionalists!
     I am starting the new year's essays off with a business one...I think I have done that in previous years spurred on by all the articles in the magazines and online.  I have been championing the American entrepreneur and artist.  We have lost the concept of quality as we pile Made in China things in the shopping carts at the box stores.
     A few articles really caught my attention this week in Independent Retailer that focused on this new retail world, and I do say new because shopping is not the same as it was a decade ago.  Many times before someone goes shopping, he or she may have cruised Pinterest, Instagram, Amazon, Ebay, I need to go know what I am saying!  And...still end up at Walmart.
    Then again, once your have eyes glazed over, and you are totally confused and do not even know what you were looking for because now you are thinking...I could do that...or look at what they did with command hooks and strings of lights, etc etc may just pour a glass of wine and turn on Netflix!
      In the first article, this line stopped me..."We have more retail in North America than we need."  There was a time when the more the merrier was mall with levels of stores or antique alley strips...but now it seems the focus is not on things as much as it is on the experience.  The writer says that the "winners will be retailers who don't define themselves merely by what they sell but more importantly by HOW they sell it."
     A friend opened a dynamic enclave this fall...Everly at railroad...I featured Michelle's shop here in before and after blogs.  Everly does fit the how they sell it, and the shop also fits another thought from these articles..."remember it is the customers' world...we [retailers] just live in it."  Michelle is a creative wedding/event planner so she truly understands the whole experience.

One of her fellow creative spirits, Claudia of Stroke of a Brush, featured this piece of furniture that is currently available at Everly...
Painted furniture, very much in vogue, is really a demanding adventure.  Oh, just paint it--Pinterest dreaming...oh, no...not that when you see a piece that Claudia has worked on, know that she just did not run to Home Depot, get some paint, and a brush and have at it. 
      And that brings me to Made in America...Americans who are creating for you.  Again some lines from Independent Retailer: "Customers want to be thrilled when they shop..."   That is a new mantra for retail...but many small shops work very hard to create a thrill.  Consider these glass hearts found at Captain Scrap's Attic...

   Here is their can be enlarged if you click on the photo...I could not get it full resolution on here.
Now pay attention to the last sentence above..."it takes over 700 hours" to create each piece.  A heart necklace retails for $50, and this glass artist is making 7 cents an hour at that rate.  Just like Claudia painting a piece of furniture, these artists are not raking it in, so, when you ask, can you do better, it may not compute in your head what has gone into these items.
    Another comment that caught my attention because I am dealing with this in my shop..."If you have done nothing in the last five years to reinvent your store, you could be close to being 50 percent obsolete."  Think of the small expect them to be creative...but you do not hold Home Goods or Marshalls to that, but this is where big shops like Anthro succeed, and, yes, the prices may be higher, but consider the planning and time.  Again...think 7 cents an hour.
   So, in this new world of Make America about supporting the small retailers out there who work to inspire, entertain, teach, and transact...step away from the screen...iPhone...ipad...CP...whatever...step outside and see things in reality and not virtual reality!  It is really different!  Here's to a new year!  A chance to repurpose, recycle, renew!

"An exceptional future can only be built on the transformation of the mess I’ve made, not the elimination of it.”  
                                                            Craig D. Lounsbrough

Saturday, December 3, 2016

"Christmas waves a magic wand

over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ” 
~Norman Vincent Peale

I thought of this line as I sorted through an auction purchase of Christmas balls.  While I was researching for this, I found an article about "updating" old or faded ornaments, and I thought...why?  There is something in the charm of the faded paint...why get out the glue gun and "update"!

Christmas has enough new about it from technology to sale after sale after sale.  What is wrong with a little old-fashioned touches among the 21st century madness.

Christmas balls are from the late 1800s since decorations were handmade and the only ornaments available in the market were German hand-cast lead and hand-blown glass decorations. But the 1880s saw many German entrepreneurs seriously thinking of manufacturing ornaments on a mass scale and selling these strictly as Christmas ornaments. The idea was soon translated into reality.
 The glass firms around Lauscha, the hub of the glass ornament trade in Germany, had produced glass articles such as bottles and marbles and soon began to create little glass toys like molds of children, saints, famous people, animals and other forms and released them in the market. This new type of Christmas ornament was an instant success and was met with a huge demand. Soon, nearly every family in and around Lauscha became involved in some way or other in the creation of Christmas glass ornaments working either in a factory or in a home-based foundry.
In the 1920s, Japan challenged Germany's dominance over the world market by producing ornaments on a huge scale. (Japan used to do what we get upset with China for doing now!) They brought in newer, more colorful designs and began to bite off the German market. Later, Czech Republic also entered the competition with an impressive amount of fancy Christmas ornaments. By 1935, more than 250 million Christmas tree ornaments were being imported to America.
World War I impacted production in Germany, but Max Eckhardt, a US businessman associated with the glass ornament trade felt that his business could be greatly affected by possible hostilities brewing in Germany.  This made him think of a way of producing glass ornaments right in the heart of America. He knew that the Corning Company of Corning, New York, had a type of machine that ordinarily made thousands of light bulbs out of a ribbon of glass. Now what he needed was only to persuade the Corning Company to determine a way to make American glass ornaments.

In the late 1930's, Eckhardt teamed up with a representative of F.W. Woolworth and succeeded in doing just that! Sensing a golden opportunity, the Corning Company agreed to see if its machine (one of which now resides at The Henry Ford, America's Greatest History Attraction, in Dearborn, Michigan) could successfully produce glass ornaments and meet with popular demand. And this was soon worked out successfully.

The Corning produced glass ornaments met with a resounding success. By 1940, the company was making ornaments on a much larger scale than the manually produced German items, and sending them to other companies for decoration. The biggest customer was none other than Max Eckhardt who by now had established an All-American company known as Shiny Brite.

Then the World War II broke out in 1939 which caused severe material shortages and forced Corning to do away with the earlier practice of making the inside of the ornaments silvered on the inside (to make them shine brightly for longer periods) and instead decorate the clear glass balls with simple thin stripes in pastel colors which required much less metallic oxide pigment. Fortunately, Corning was able to alter its machines to produce an increased variety of shapes and sizes of glass ball without using scarce war material. But the war crisis resulted in a forced replacement of the sturdy metal cap (that held the little hook for hanging the ornaments) to a cardboard one.
Post World War II, F.W. Woolworth's highly popular "Five-and-dime stores" were the main source of Christmas ornaments and decorations. The end of the Second World War also found most of Germany's Lauscha's glassworks turn into state-owned entities. The production of baubles in Lauscha ceased. The fall of the Berlin Wall resulted in most of the firms being reestablished as private companies. Only about 20 small glass-blowing firms are active in Lauscha today.

So, as you decorate your tree, think of the history behind each ball as it graces a branch...and remember...
“Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself.”
                                   ~ Norman Wesley Brooks, “Let Every Day Be Christmas

Saturday, November 26, 2016

"Love what you do and do what you love.

Don't listen to anyone else who tells you not to do it. You do what you want, what you love. Imagination should be the center of your life.”
 ~Ray Bradbury

If you look at the archives, you will see the Everly before photos...just a peek from before
 Then the transition began...

I was happy to go do some after photos for Michelle and her amazing cohorts who have transformed that building into a destination!  They are located at 171 Railroad Avenue in Tuckahoe, New Jersey...and the phone number is 609-701-0331,
Now I am just going to give you photos to peruse...settle in and be amazed by the array...some before and after sprinkled throughout!

Here is that bar picture in the before stage...

And now...
with my fellow traveler Nancy...
Michelle is a wedding planner as well...this is the before of a hall where not only weddings but parties can be staged...

And now...
Even the rest room is worth contemplating! 

Then by the bar area...relax...

More photos of the barn area to contemplate...first the before...


Here is Michelle discussing with potential clients...they would not be disappointed!


 The work spaces are dynamic also! 

 And some more of the store...


 And so, as you look at the outdoor "I do" scene and another before and after set...

 “Find what makes you happy and go for it with all your heart. It will be hard, but I promise it will be worth it.”  
                           ~Charlotte Eriksson