At the risk of creating a Yogi Berra-esque quote, I will say that "There are some things I know and some things I don't know." It's the things I don't know that keep me pushing to try to solve them and to find people who can give me answers or guidance.
A couple of weeks ago, two organizations that I am part of in Alexandria announced a visit from a state-wide retail specialist. He would be speaking/answering questions at two morning meetings that week and would be available in the afternoon to visit your business and provide you with feedback on things that you may wish to improve and on the things you are doing well. I had planned to attend one of the morning meetings anyway but jumped at the chance to have him visit the store and to also learn more about the services that the Alexandria Small Business Development Center could offer to me.
I arranged for them to come one afternoon when I had help in the store so that I could give them my full attention. The advisor, Marc Willson, has a wealth of experience. You can read more about his background here.
Marc asked me a lot of questions about the history of the store, my focus, and who made certain decisions. He liked the openness of the store and said that my cash wrap was perfectly positioned. Two areas that he suggested might be improvements were in temporary signage that I put in my windows and in lighting.
With regard to the temporary signage, he thought that putting my sale announcements and new arrivals in some pretty "shabby chic" type frames would be more eye catching and "fashion focused". Of course, I contacted the lovely ladies from Semper Stylish right away to see what they might come up with for the store!
Then on to lighting. You might remember a long ago blog post about my decision to use Compact Fluorescent Bulbs in the store (everywhere except the window lighting). I like the energy saving features they provide, the softness (and calmness) they give the store and, frankly, I didn't want to spend a fortune on lighting as part of the buildout. Marc suggested that I put in track lighting in certain places to highlight pieces and areas that might get hidden in the store. There are a couple of areas that may be well-served with this type of highlight and I plan to look into how it blends with the aesthetics as well as the price to do so.
One area that I asked him about was advertising. It is still a struggle to understand where advertising is working and where it is not working. He suggested that social media is the big thing in advertising now as well as local newspapers. He said that just about anything else wasn't worth the money. That is helpful to me and is pretty consistent with what I've found with regard to feedback on my advertising. He and the ASBDC rep were both excited to learn about this blog and some follow-up discussions have resulted in me being asked to contribute to their blog on a regular basis. (I haven't decided on that one yet - it is quite daunting just keeping this one going!)
But a very good experience and a great resource! I look forward to implementing these suggestions and reviewing the results. And finding out what else I don't know.
Next up: The lead-up to Fashion's Night Out