Kpoene’ Kofi-Bruce, buyer and store manager
San Francisco, Calif.
How do this year’s sales compare to recent years’? Are you seeing a consistent decline or a slow improvement?
Our sales are down from last year, but are flat compared to 2007—some months have been up and some have been down. We rely very heavily on tourist and convention traffic.
This year’s sales goals have been about achieving a realistic sales plan with more affordable merchandise, and we will continue that approach for 2010. I think something that works well for our shop is that we have a large number of items for sale for under $50; in fact, 70% of our sales are items under $50.
I am trying to build up repeat customers who think of the museum shop first when they are looking for a gift or a unique item for themselves, and who will continue to shop as they reach different stages in their own lives.
Are you projecting more positive numbers for 2010? What are you doing now to keep customers shopping?
We offer a very high level of customer service and provide individual attention whether a customer is looking to spend $20 or $500. Many customers remark on that, especially men looking for gifts.
This is a tough economy, and people are watching their funds but don’t want to skimp on buying special items; offering affordable items that are high-quality and combining that with a high level of customer service means that customers feel comfortable coming back.
We also opened up an online component to the store, which changes items seasonally. It is still in the trial period, but customers are responding well.
Have you tried any new promotions in the last two quarters?
In the last six months, we have begun offering more in-store events. In October we began “Craft Bar with Etsy Labs,” a series of free monthly workshops/parties where visitors can take advantage of classes in knitting, embroidery and sewing, enjoy refreshments, talk with artists, even check out a local band!
Our big holiday promotion is “50/$50,” an exciting offering of 50 artists offering 50 unique product lines for the holidays, all retailing for under $50.
How has the economy affected your marketing budget? Are you adding, subtracting or keeping an even keel?
We do not have a marketing budget, but luckily we are blessed with an incredibly talented and dedicated group of staff, interns and volunteers. We have been able to take advantage of the Internet with Twitter, Facebook and blog posts. Our artists have also been great about blogging about the museum.
What changes did you make to your inventory mix during the economic downturn? What types of items are selling best right now?
There isn’t any one product that is selling better than most; what has seemed to work well for us is my love of mining and cultivating new talent. It is rare for a week to go by without a new delivery of merchandise.
I also work closely with our artists to create products for the store—advising them on colors, sizes, designs, etc. We have to work very hard for every dollar that we make, and I want the customers to know that they are getting a really special item.