Barbara McCormick, owner
Columbia, Mo.

Have you reduced your inventory levels? What needs to happen before you will feel comfortable increasing your inventory levels?

Our inventory levels are steady. We can’t achieve normal sales without normal inventory levels, so I buy with the same enthusiasm I usually do. It helps that we pay for inventory without borrowing money—if we were paying interest to carry the inventory, we’d have to consider re-thinking our inventory policy.

What indicators do you need to see before you’ve decided that the economy is indeed improving?

We watch both total sales and the average ticket size. During the last 12 to 15 months, we’ve had little drop off in the number of customers, but they often are spending less per visit. I think that as people regain confidence in the nation’s economy and also in their own financial footing, we’ll see increased interest in items that are at a higher price point. Then we’ll feel we’re really back.

Are you advertising consistently?

For several years, we’ve been very selective about advertising. And we still are.  No sense in spending the advertising budget during periods when we can predict seasonal sales will lag. So, we advertise in February, May, and the last couple months of the year.

We’ve come to feel we get more bang for our buck with television, since the visual aesthetic aspect of our inventory is paramount. Even a 30-second spot can bring art to life when it’s innately lively.

In addition, we feel it is super important to have the best in-store merchandising possible and have a talented merchandiser who creates the inviting atmosphere and personality that we try to project both in the store and in our windows. Our windows continue to be a great means for advertising.

What are a few other ways you’re preparing for the rebound?

We have added new lines—really distinctly different—as part of our strategy to get through this challenging period and take the sales up a notch when retail is ready to really blossom again. It’s coming, and we want to have new things, not just more of “the same.” For Poppy, it’s not about inventory on-hand volume as much as it is about inventory diversity.

What have you noticed in terms of consumer confidence?

Interestingly, our artists are right in step with our customers on this one: many artists are maintaining quality, but going to smaller sizes or different materials that can let them offer work at lower price points without any sacrifice in artistic value.

At the same time, we always offer higher-end items that fit with our inventory goals. There’s a segment of the population that doesn’t feel a pinch and it’s important to us that they continue to feel confident that they can come to Poppy and find what they want.

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