Monday, December 31, 2012

A Look Back (and Forward)

I actually love the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one.  Each year, I take time to remember what I thought the year would be like on January 1st and then reflect on what actually happened.  The year never turns out like I thought it would - there are happy times, sad times, and many surprises along the way.  But each event has its purpose, even if I don't always understand it at the time.  But there is always something magical about a new year - it is like having a blank notebook full of pages to be filled with the next chapter. 

As part of my reflection for 2012, I read my end of year blog post from last year.  It was encouraging and fun to read my feelings at this time last year and to review what has actually happened for Zoe and for me this year.  At the time, I think I could only look about 3 months ahead.  And I had a full plate and then some! 

After the store closed this afternoon, I stayed to catch up on some administrative tasks and do a little clean-up.  When I finished, I sat there in the quiet for a while, listening to the excited voices outside from First Night Alexandria attendees and couples and groups heading to dinner.  I thought about the year in review and what makes Zoe special to me (and, hopefully, my customers). 

One of the things that stands out to me most is the relationships that I and the other ladies at Zoe have the opportunity to build with our customers, our designers, our neighborhood friends, and our business partners.  There is nothing that lifts my heart more than seeing someone I know walk through Zoe's door.  I want all of our relationships to be genuine - to be more than a potential transaction (and that goes for Zoe's vendors as well as Zoe's customers).  I want to always feel that, at the end of the day, I have conducted business in such a way that is honest, fair, and authentic.  I can be very hard on myself (constantly evaluating what I could be doing better) but I want to know that I've always given it my best.

I am grateful to every person who was part of my and Zoe's life in 2012.  And I can't wait to see what 2013 brings!  Happy New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Small Business Saturday - Year 2

I learn something new every day as the owner of Zoe.  And I always try to learn even more when something doesn't turn out as I expect it to.  If you remember last year's post regarding Small Business Saturday, I was generally satisfied with the day but felt I should have approached it differently.  So this year, I tried some new strategies.

First, I included details on Small Business Saturday in my "Holiday Happenings" email that went out to the people on my mailing list.  I included a link to register the American Express card for the $25 statement credit and announced a 20% discount for the day (for all customers).  As a result of that email, we had our first "pre-shopping" for Small Business Saturday!  One of my customers had been eying a dress and uses her AmEx regularly.  She contacted me and asked me to hold it for her so she could get it on Small Business Saturday and get the discount and the credit!  A win-win for everyone!

When Saturday came, it was much colder than Black Friday had been and very gloomy.  I wasn't sure how many customers we would have and even said as much to Tara.  Much to our surprise, we were steadily busy throughout the day and customers were delighted with the 20% discount. 

My favorite story of the day was a couple who came back on Saturday who had briefly stopped in the store on Friday late in the day.  The husband said to me "After we looked around and said good-bye, you gave us a look like "I know you'll be back!"  And here we are! " (Please note I have no idea what sort of look I had on my face after being up since 3:15 am on Friday morning!)  But I was delighted they came back to shop with us.

American Express does a great job of advertising Small Business Saturday.  I appreciate that they offer their customers this incentive without passing the cost along to the merchant (don't worry - we pay plenty to accept AmEx on any given day).  When we totalled the day, I had almost tripled the total from last year!  What a great surprise, especially considering the weather! 

Next up:  The Best Of

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Black Friday

Before I logged in to Blogger this evening, I tried to tell myself that it REALLY hadn't been a month since I wrote in the blog.  Being delusional works for about 3 seconds until you are forced to face reality.  Sad.  Just Sad.

I'm not one to make New Years resolutions (I could write a whole blog post JUST on that!) but I do vow to do better in the coming month with Zoe's blog.  It is important to me but I just haven't been placing the right amount of emphasis on it this month.  There was this thing called Christmas...

Speaking of Christmas, it is a perfect segue to talk about Black Friday.  Technically, this was Zoe's THIRD Black Friday at her location on Union Street.  Let me explain....

The first was just after I had signed the lease for Zoe's space.  The signing took place 2 days before Thanksgiving and I spent the day before Thanksgiving running around like a mad woman to get things done now that I had a REAL address!  So on Black Friday 2010, I was eager to show the new space to Jim (you might remember he had been afraid to look at locations since I seemed to lose every location he previewed!)  We went to Old Town so I could take him in to show him the space! 

The second was in Zoe's first year of business, 2011.  As you can read from last year's blog post, I was nervous and didn't know what to expect but was pleased with the result (and exhausted!)  And I always learn lessons that I can apply the following year.

Well, one thing that hasn't changed is that I'm always nervous.  I got to the store an hour early to turn up the heat, make sure the computers and credit card processing capabilities were in good shape, and make some last minute adjustments to the store.  Janice and Tara joined me and we had our first visitors not long after 6 am!

The publicity for the event was very well done and more stores participated this year than any previous year.  The Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association were very much behind the effort and the DASH bus system operated the King Street Trolley beginning at 6 am that day. 

Zoe had several customers "pre-shop" this year, which was very wonderful.  It is great when people do this - they try on items prior to Black Friday, have us hold them and then are able to come in to pay during their chosen time period (we did the same sale as the previous year - 30% off from 6 am - 8 am, 20% off from 8 am - 10 am, and 10% off from 10 am - 6 pm). 

We also had our first Facebook Store sale during the 30% off time period!  So exciting!

I was so pleased that the store was pretty consistently busy the whole day.  It was so much fun to get to see so many of Zoe's customers, especially since I am not in the store as often any more. 

One woman and a friend came into the store and had a number of bags from other Old Town Boutique District stores!  We told her that it looked like she had had a very successful shopping day thus far!  We found out that she was the Grand Prize winner from the Old Town Boutique District Scavenger Hunt held back in September (remember this blog post?) and she was making the rounds using her gift cards!  We thought that was SO cool!  I had to have my picture taken with her.

Patricia with her Zoe purchase!

My second fantastic surprise was a visit from designer Kathlin Argiro and her husband!  They were in town for the holiday to visit Kathlin's parents and stopped in to see me.  Kathlin had seen Tara in Firehook Bakery (just down the street) and had thought to herself "She must work at Zoe - she looks very stylish!"  And in she walked and saw Tara behind the counter!  So perceptive!  It was such a treat to see Kathlin - she is one of my all-time favorites!

Me with Kathlin and her gorgeous wrap dresses - already thinking about what to order for Spring!

Although I have never been a Black Friday shopper myself, I am glad that there are Black Friday shoppers out there!  Like last year, many people were buying for themselves although we did sell a few items as gifts.  It was a long but enjoyable day!

Next Up:  Small Business Saturday (Year Two)