Hillyer House

Paige Riley, owner
Ocean Springs, Miss.

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

Our sales decreased last October, and we immediately started decreasing inventory by approximately 10% to 15% and started reordering more frequently. Our sales have increased during some months this year, and I have increased stock accordingly.

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

Since our gallery is in the area affected by Hurricane Katrina, the cost of building and insurance has gone up, which is holding back the complete rebuilding of the area. The national economic crisis only adds to the issues we have here on the Gulf Coast.

With all this, of course, we are cautious financially. We are fortunate to have local and regional customers, including some who have been with us through our 39-year history. Tourists also frequent our store along with the downtown Ocean Springs area.

Are you advertising consistently?

We continue to advertise in local magazines, in regional tourists guides and on TV. We also send out an e-newsletter to update customers on what is going on in the store and to show them the new art we have. We also have store brochures in hotels, condo rentals and casinos along the coast. We are advertising year round. All of these outlets reach different groups, and in doing so, help to get the word out about our gallery as well as the area itself.

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

We are doing things like creating a Facebook page as well as a Twitter account to reach a broader range of people and to try to keep our website updated. We also, I feel, have an advantage over other retailers because our niche is American crafts.

What have you noticed in terms of consumer confidence?

Our customers believe in supporting the arts in America on local, regional and national levels. Customers, for the most part, are buying smaller-ticket items. One out of 10 will probably go for a large-ticket item, but most are still sticking with smaller-ticket items.

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