Sunday, January 15, 2012

"When women are depressed,

they eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It's a whole different way of thinking." ~Elayne Boosler

Throughout the year, I thought I would give you some insight on being a shop owner. If you are one, perhaps you can add some comments to my ideas, and, if you are not one, maybe it will give you some awareness of the behind-the-scenes world of our shops. Even as I write, there are thousands of buyers and vendors in Atlanta. According to their press, this "market" was founded in 1957 by world-renowned architect and developer, John C. Portman, and it is the nation’s leading gift, home furnishings and area rug marketplace and the largest trade mart/tradeshow complex of its kind in the world. More retailers, from more places, do business at AmericasMart than in any other U.S. wholesale market.
Since I am more antique/vintage than gift items, I do not go to the big shows, but, if you are not in retail, and you shop at a small retailer who has new inventory, perhaps that owner does go to one of the bigger markets to buy for you. New York City also has a large wholesale market. And...the shopkeeper truly does buy for you...ah, yes, she or he may like the product, but whenever we buy something, it is with the idea that someone will like it also.
I am trying to stay with American made products, and everyone knows the Chinese import stories. I went to the Philadelphia Gift Show last week, and it was a challenge to find something that was not made in China or even to find a product that was reasonably priced. Small shops have to compete with the likes of Home Goods, Marshalls, Ross--they have the buying power of quantity that makes the price far cheaper than normal wholesale costs. Not to mention, the wholesale companies have minimum order requirements that can average $500-$1000, and, for your small "Main Street" store that may be a chunk of cash.
I do order from one company who imports. The quilted throws, pillows, and paper florals I carry are made in China.
It is a small company though not one of the biggies. But, as a fellow retailer commented on a forum, "Everyone loves the idea of saving the planet and buying USA... but they don't want to spend the extra $$ to do it."

And, here is the problem of the small shop owner these days...even those who sell in a booth or in a survive in the era of Home Goods or even Dollar stores...everyone has costs from liability insurance to utilities to bags, tissue, and price tags, not to mention operating costs like rent and credit card costs (which can be high...banks charge for every swipe plus a percentage and a monthly fee--then they get the consumer also). I am a rarity in that I do not accept credit cards, but I keep my prices low to compensate, and the resale market is kinder than pure retail. TV shows or articles encourage bargaining with the small shop owner, but they don't tell you to go into Macy's or Walmart and ask for their best price. I have been fortunate to find American made products...pillows made from old sweaters...handcrafted cards and gift tags...
beautiful silk and ribbon rose pins...And...I have a new charmer...handcrafted scarves in cotton for the spring...made in America!So there you have it...a little peek into the retail world. Many small shops have closed in recent years. Online sales are in vogue, but, as I wrote a couple weeks ago, isn't something missing in the shopping experience when you just point and click? Even for the shop owner, imagine the rush of going to the big trade show...or a flea market, an auction? There is no app or X-box experience for that!
"If you don't get what you want, it's a sign either that you did not seriously want it, or that you tried to bargain over the price." ~ Rudyard Kipling


The Attic Girls said...

Right on Susan..thanks for posting this! I've never made it to Atlanta..someday!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Buying American made is tough. Just not alot of choices. Even Etsy things claiming to be "handmade - all the bits and baubles are from China- just assembled here.

I have been finding a few local made things- cute honey products, locally made chocolates- but that is about it.

Can't wait to see what you post next!


Anonymous said...

They don't come much smaller than the White Whale, but, as you said the costs are the same for insurance,etc. I do have a friend who dumpster dives for me for shopping bags. What a godsend. I still prefer the small shop to the big "antique malls". It is just more fun!! Keep up the good work with the blog posts.

vdumas said...

I'm not sure about the other big shows but Atlanta does have a floor in the Temps that is "Made in the USA". The sad part is.. many big wholesalers come through, take pictures of the handmade goodies, then send them off to China to reproduce them at a lower price. So as you can see..even the Made in the USA people get screwed.

The Cinnamon Stick said...

Going to put this post on my sidebar and hope all my customers come to read. Excellent insight Susan - giving the customers something to think about. Thank you! XO