Saturday, October 13, 2012

Customers Make My Day

People often ask me what it is like to own a store and to interact with so many different people.  My answer is always that 97% of the people that come into my store are wonderful.  That's a pretty good percentage if you ask me.  I've written before about how much I enjoy getting to know people and what an amazing privilege it is to get to be part of their lives.  I recently had two customers who left me with a lasting impression.

One afternoon in mid-September, a woman walked in and asked if I had any white dresses.  The remaining ones that I had from summer were in the back and I asked her if I could grab some to show her.  She said yes.  I brought out a selection and she chose one of my favorites - a Graham & Spencer jersey dress.  She tried it on and then came out for us to look at it in a 3 way mirror.  It was then I found out she was shopping for her wedding dress!  She had looked at the bridal stores and just felt out of place in the more formal gowns.  Her wedding was to be in her back yard, she was in her mid-30s and she wanted something that fit her style and personality.  She asked if I would allow her to bring something else in to try on with it and if I would be willing to hold it until Tuesday (this was a Friday).  Of course I told her Yes!  (She looked beautiful in the dress)

She had taken my business card and on Tuesday at around lunchtime she called to say that she had a 1 pm meeting but would be over at around 2:30 when it ended (she works close by).  Sure enough, she came in after two to try on the dress again.  She then told me that she had taken pictures of herself in it (on Friday) while in the dressing room and sent to her fiancee and her sister to see what they thought.  She felt it was a winner!  The funniest thing was that she said she normally never walked in the direction of my store from her office - she felt it was meant to be that day that she had walked that way.  While I've had the honor of dressing many a bride for showers, rehearsal dinners, brunches, and going away events, this was Zoe's first wedding dress.  It was a great feeling!

A few Saturdays ago, a mother and daughter walked into the store immediately when I opened on a Saturday morning.  Although we will often get the morning coffee drinkers at that time of day on a Saturday, we rarely get serious shoppers that early.  The daughter picked out three dresses to try on and headed for the dressing room.  I had told her that we had heels in the dressing room so that she could see what the dresses would look like in heels.  She came out in the first dress and looked absolutely stunning.  If you could have seen this dress on her, you would have said "Wow!"

The ponte fabric draped perfectly on her figure.  She remarked that she wasn't used to heels that high (yes, I've been known to favor a higher heel or two!) and preferred a kitten heel.  As she went back into the dressing room to try on the next dress, her mother told me that her daughter was more used to combat boots - that she had recently completed two tours of duty with Iraq in the Army!  What a fun opportunity to dress such a lovely and courageous young lady!  She looked equally stunning in the second dress but decided to stick with the one above as her choice (it was to wear to a wedding).  It was such a warm and happy start to my day.

Next up:  Baby-sitting Zoe

Monday, October 8, 2012

Zoe's First Scavenger Hunt

If you've been a long time reader of this blog, you may remember when I posted two years ago regarding participation in the Old Town Boutique District Annual Scavenger Hunt as a customer.  I had such a fun time and looked forward to the day that Zoe could participate too!

This being our first year as a member of the Old Town Boutique District, this was our first scavenger hunt!  One of the first things I did was have Cori develop postcards that would give a discount through October 31 to everyone who participated in the event.  The event was slightly different from previous years in that the participants did not receive a gift at each store but were instead incentivized to complete the entire Scavenger Hunt in order to receive a SWAG bag full of gifts from all 35 stores!

I had also asked Cori to provide me with a graphics file of just the Zoe "Z" for my stamp.  The folks at Minuteman Printing of Crystal City (a long time tenant from my Charles E. Smith days) took excellent care of me.  Even to the point of creating a special "cut"for the stamp so that it would fit perfectly within the squares on the Scavenger Hunt Passport Card.  (Yes, I measured the size of the square before placing my order.  I wanted it to fit correctly.  This probably ranks up there with my sending myself a piece of mail to see if the Post Office was holding my mail properly before I opened.  I'm particular about certain things.)  And they delivered the stamp to me at no cost.  How I love people who make my life easier!

Now, when talking to Minuteman Press, I asked if they could also provide me with a stamp pad with bright pink ink.  They could not but suggested that I visit a Michael's store to find one.  Anyone who knows my lack of craft skills knows that I do not do well in a Michael's store.  In fact, I think some sort of alarm goes on in the back when I enter, indicating an intruder in the store.  This trip was no different.  I walked in, was immediately overwhelmed by all the stuff and just stood there for a minute or two.  I found a young woman who guided me to the stamp pads.  Thank goodness - I might still be in there if not for her!

I also decided that I wanted to add something to the discount post card that we would be putting in the SWAG bags.  So I ventured off to Costco to purchase bags of the Ghiardelli chocolates that I offer to customers in the store.  Costco ranks up there with Michaels as another place that I do not like to go.  But off I went on my quest.  My hand got quite the workout stapling those chocolates to the postcards!  But well worth it.

I did some practice stamping on Friday morning before customers were set to arrive.  I had been in NY the day before (see previous blog post) to buy for Spring but felt it was very important to be back at the store for this event.  I had been told that people really enjoy meeting the owners and, for me, it felt very important to be there to welcome people who had never been to Zoe before to the store. 

We had our first Scavenger Hunt customers arrive at around 10:30 on Friday morning.  Of all of the people who came through the store, only one person was a previous customer from my mailing list.  So it was fantastic to get to introduce so many people to Zoe!  We printed out Passports for several customers and I also gave away the Passports that had been mailed to my home (we had received two since Jim is also on my mailing list, good husband that he is). 

It was fun to see people's approaches to the Hunt.  Some were all about the stamp - in one case, a group had set a goal of completing ALL the stores in 2 hours!  Others looked around to see what we had to offer and some purchased items in the store.  Everyone we met seemed in a good mood and had lots of fun with the event.

On Sunday, our lovely neighbor Mystique Jewelers was closed.  The owner, Liz, had called me the previous night to ask if we would stamp their symbol on people's Passports.  On Sunday before I opened, I put a note on their door directing people to Zoe for their stamps.  We noted that we stamped our final passport at 3:46 that afternoon!  (The participant was done and ready to drive her passport to Periwinkle for the final stamp and SWAG bag!)

We eagerly awaiting the drawing of the winners so that we could notify Zoe's winner right away!  I was so pleased that she remembered the store and was happy to win our gift card.  We are looking forward to having her shop with us soon!

It was a very fun event for me and the store.  Already looking forward to next year!

Next Up:  Customers Make My Day

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Spring Shopping in NYC

Yes, you read that right.  The fashion industry is structured such that I was shopping for Spring 2013 in September 2012.  It's no wonder I open boxes I receive 5 - 6 months later and exclaim "Oh, that's what I ordered!"

Although Zoe has been open for a year and a half (officially today as a matter of fact), this is now my third "Spring" to buy for as part of the lifecycle of the store.  Each time, I think I learn more and more.  Plus, as I listen to my customers, they tell me what they are looking for too!  And I've learned that the big buying seasons (like Spring and Fall) require me to go twice.

I've told you a lot about my market experiences in the past so I try to just focus on the things that are unique about that particular experience.

  • Market was held on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday this time around (rather than the normal Sunday, Monday, Tuesday).  This was to avoid conflicting with Yom Kippur.  Consequently, this meant that I went on Thursday, came home (more on that later), and then went back for my showroom visits on Monday of the next week.
  • Walking to the Javits Center before 9 am, I walk past restaurants and food carts.  There was the most amazing smell of Chinese food this time as I walked to the convention center.  I have never been one to eat Chinese food for breakfast but I could have that day.
  • All of my reps said that Wednesday had been insanely busy for them.  A good sign!
  • When I arrived at Javits, I went straight to my first appointment (at 9 am).  I kid you not, I did not have time to do anything other than go from appointment to appointment until almost 3 pm that day.  It was intense and the collections were very large.
  • The worst item I saw all day?  A combination skirt/pants.  A big NO!
  • I saw a lot of green.  I purchased it sparingly (and normally combined with a more neutral color) as I don't think it is a color that looks good on everyone.
  • I did do some try-ons myself (love that the sample sizes are usually my size!)  At one booth I tried on some pants under my skirt and at another I tried on a jacket (that actually went amazingly well with the necklace I was wearing that day)!  In fact, when the buyer from a store outside Baltimore saw me with the necklace and jacket combo on, she asked for the name of the jewelry designer so that she could contact her!
  • My favorite new line that I'm bringing into the store for Spring?  Amy Matto.  And she is just lovely - it is always such fun to meet the designers.
  • The train ride back was uneventful UNTIL we left Baltimore's Penn Station.  From my usual perch in the Cafe car, I hear the conductor communicating with the engineer.  We have come to a complete stop.  Someone is standing on the tracks about a train length ahead of the train.  And not moving, even though the engineer is blowing the horn.  Amtrak called the police but fortunate the individual moved about 10 minutes later.  The speculation was that, because the person appeared to be a teenage male and things like this had happened before, it might be gang initiation related.  I was just so happy that no one was hurt AND we didn't have to sit there for an hour!
  • I came home because the next day (Friday) was the start of the Scavenger Hunt for the Old Town Boutique District stores.  Since it was Zoe's first, I felt strongly that I be there.  I'll be writing a blog post on it too!
  • On the return trip on Monday, I had appointments at showrooms, two of which I had been to before.  Tara joined me on the trip also!
  • Our train from DC to NY was horribly delayed once we left the station.  When I saw that we weren't going to make our first appointment, I quickly contacted her and asked if we could reschedule to later in the day.  We were late enough that we had to go quickly to my second appointment!
  • It was a good thing we had our walking shoes on because we zipped around the Fashion District from appointment to appointment with little to no time to spare.  We did manage to grab a late lunch prior to getting back on the train.
  • For my friend Renee - On the first day, I wore a Yoana Baraschi Blazer and Skirt and on the second I wore my favorite Velvet Winnah dress from last Fall.  Oh, how I love that dress!
Next up:  The Old Town Boutique District Scavenger Hunt