As a retail consultant, I get calls from a wide variety of retailers who ask for help to make more sales, attract more customers and become more profitable. From time to time I share these case studies (from some of the largest brands to some of the smallest mom and pops) with lessons about physical location, personality styles, merchandising, branding, marketing and of course, retail sales training – all of which you can use in your store.
This is one of those case studies.
After reading one of my Los Angeles Times business makeovers, Christina called me and invited me to her home to see her products. She loved to paint flowers and started her business of hand painted glassware in 1994.
She took a big risk one day. She prepared a selection of her one-of-a-kind vases, put them in a brown cardboard box with a short note and dropped them off with a receptionist on the top floor of a Nordstrom store. That's when it cinched it for me she was an Expressive personality style.
She was surprised when a buyer called her that afternoon and wanted to place an order; not just for that one store but for several. In order to handle all the Nordstrom orders, Christina hired a staff of college-age artists who helped paint her flower bouquets on clear glass vases, wine goblets, paperweights and perfume bottles.
After a bit of conversation, I found that Nordstrom was still her only customer and she needed to grow her business into a recognizable brand. And even with the additional shifts, she wasn’t making enough profit.
She wanted my help to change that.
While Christina had been a successful risk-taker, we realized the best way to maximize her inventory would be to diversify her customer base. Rather than going from store to store in hopes she would get sales, we needed her products to be where the buyers were already looking for her merchandise. And we needed to raise prices.
We needed to come up with a way to pique other store-buyers’ interest, create advertising that showcased her theme of flowers growing in the yard, and create a website, brochures, selling strategies, and a branding program that would deliver repeat business.
Knowing your brand identity - what it is based on, why it exists and who it is targeting makes your marketing job much easier.
In talking to Christina, I had to find out “Why flowers? Why on glass?” She told me, “You don't always have flowers in your garden so why not paint them on a vase so you can have them year-round?"
Those words became the opening sentence in brochures that told her story. The paragraph continued, “Christina's love of nature has been a lifelong passion, beginning in childhood when she tended the flower and vegetable gardens of her parents. Her designs are derived from these memories.”
When asked about her style, she told me she painted the flowers as if, "they were growing out of the ground and onto the glass."
I placed the glassware in soil for a photo shoot to emphasize the point. I came up with the tagline, “Bringing a bit of paradise into a hectic world.”
We changed the name of her products to, “Christina’s Hand Painted.” We came up with three collections of vases to make ordering easier: seeds, buds and blooms.
With a brochure and website that could tell her story, we registered for the Los Angeles Gift Show and while we she didn't get the best location, we came up with a unique design for her booth.
To reinforce the "garden" concept, we covered the display tables with live sod. To reinforce the hand-made quality of her work, we had two of her employees hand-painting in the aisle. To sell a program of new arrivals, we gave tips how to "keep your garden fresh" and offered an auto-ship program. Putting her in a natural setting matched her expressive personality.
As buyers came by the booth, they were greeted with, “Welcome to our garden.” It made them stop in their tracks. The smell of the sod, the visuals of the vases, the friendly tour of the products all combined to make the show a big success.
Christina was able to add many new clients, sell out her inventory and was able to relocate to Northern California within the year.
This was many years ago and while technology would have been different, the process, the vision and implementation are still valid for you today.
Lessons for you:
Be bold like an Expressive personality style. Take the risk to approach a person or client you normally wouldn’t.
Create a visually engaging brochure, About us section of your website or ad that really sells your story.
Set the stage for your products to really stand out.