Ann Harmon, owner
Des Moines, Iowa
How do this year’s sales compare to recent years’? Are you seeing a consistent decline or a slow improvement?
Sales have been down 3% each year, which is not too bad.
Are you projecting more positive numbers for 2010? What are you doing now to keep customers shopping?
I am cautiously optimistic. A large percentage of my business is out-of-town guests, and people seem to have started traveling again. I’ve become a destination for gift shopping. I keep a lot of those types of items available. Lower-priced jewelry helps too.
Have you tried any new promotions or in-store events in the last two quarters?
Unfortunately, promotions tend to become free entertainment for people who don’t want to spend money. I’ve only had one show this year for this reason.
How has the economy affected your marketing budget? Are you adding, subtracting or keeping an even keel?
I’ve cut my advertising in half. I had the opportunity to be part of a 26-week study for the local newspaper. I received weekly Sunday ads in full color—this was an amazing piece of luck and something I could never afford. I made just one sale because of an ad, and I had three product inquiries. I heard lots of comments on how nice my ads were, so I know they were seen. This tells me that I made the right decision in cutting back my advertising.
What changes did you make to your inventory mix during the economic downturn? What types of items are selling best right now?
I don’t take as many chances with what I buy. I tend to go with sure sellers, even though I think it is boring. I order minimum amounts so as not to tie up too much cash, and I don’t purchase from artists with high minimums. I make some jewelry, and I’ve developed that this year—just inexpensive, sure sellers—to help my margins. I only do consignment on large items and with local artists.