rennes

1.20.2018

shop small : how you can help



Dear friend,

This started out as a small instagram post that morphed into something much longer. I know, ugg I mean who reads a blog anymore right??! In short, I'm really concerned about the future of small shops. I know others are too. Below I have written a set of suggested ideas to shops, brands, customers, and social media folks.

Shops and brands are struggling right now. Why? Lots of reasons and you could spend a book talking about it. But I'm more interested in how we can change it. Look forward not back, work to change it, and stop complaining!


so here's some ideas on how to change it!


Customers:


1. Only buy what you love and buy it at full price. This will A. ensure you love your purchase / make it special B. give the store accurate data as to what the customer wants - and therefore we can know what to buy/bring you more of in the future.

2. If you live within a 2hr radius of a shop, go there in person. If it's a cute city/town make a day trip of it. If I live near a place and have the opportunity to try something on, I'm sure as heck going to take it. Plus it prevents unnecessary returns.

3. Quality over quantity. Yes this is kind of becoming the indie shopping motto right now, but it's SO true. In my early 20's I shopped and bought so much stuff in the $50-150 range and it all fell apart or I didn't like it 4 months later - it was a bad cover version of what I actually wanted. I could never justify actually buying the $400 sweater I wanted because it seemed "frivolous" but you know what? It's the opposite of frivolous, it's responsible and better for the environment, economy, and pretty much everything. I was being frivoulous when I was spending $200 a month at places like anthro/urban/cos/aritiza/j crew/madewell and then selling on ebay 2 months later.

4. My dear friend told me recently that Melania Trump encourages women to prepare for public office by "practicing their negotiating skills at clothing stores by asking for discounts". Eww, eww on so many levels. You guys, I've held off a long time from publicly saying this but seriously, asking small businesses for discounts or free shipping or whatever when it's not already being offered - please don't do this. If you want to do this, please go to J Crew and ask for discounts (btw have you heard their on the fritz of going under? wonder why?) When small shops have sales, we are happy to oblige and give you discounts. The rest of the year, we need to pay our rent and hopefully pay ourselves.

5. If you follow #1, wear these clothes and love them, and do not re-sell on ebay or another platform. This has been a revelation for me recently, but there have been a few things over the years I really regret parting with and as a result have bought something else to fill that hole. That's waisting money / hurting environment / etc.

6. Learn how to sew & knit. My best answer to anyone who says they can't afford to shop slow fashion is to learn how to make it themselves. You will never be able to get everything you want or need, but, you can make it. It takes a LOT of time & practice to be able to hone your skills, but it's worth it. There are so many online tutorials and blogs and patterns these days and most of it is FREE.  By doing this you will also gain a vast appreciation for handmade/well made/slow fashion items because now you know how long it takes to make.





stores:

1. Consider not giving discounts for signing up for mailing lists. This is hurting everyone, your shop included. A customer can create an infinite number of emails and thus indefinitely receive 10% off. When shop margins are low to begin with, you are cutting it even more. I honestly believe this is a large reason why so many small shops are suffering right now.

2. Consider returning to or following the "old school" model of a twice a year sale. Before the internet, small shops usually had 4-5 months to sell stock before it was considering stale. Now, merchandise is considered stale after a month and a half, then it's quickly being sold at 60% off. Do the math, how is that store going to be able to stay open?

3. Feel comfortable saying no. If a customer makes a request, like asking free shipping, please feel comfortable to say no. There will always be another customer.

4. Be unique, tell your story. Search for unique brands to work with, make your own trends.

5. Feel comfortable skipping seasons with brands if you are not in love with that season or you don't think it will have good sell through.

6. Buy within your means and do not over-buy. Over-buying leads to over-saturation which leads to more waste and more things on deep discounts which means less in your bank account.

7. Buy what you think you can sell, not what showrooms think is selling well for them.






Brands:

1. Have stores agree to not discount merchandise before the season has ended. This is a three way street - brand to store to customer.  I've noticed some European brands do this but it's not as common in the states.

2. Consider making more seasonless collections that can be sold through multiple seasons.

3. Be selective about who you work with and don't saturate the market. This is REALLY hard to do, trust me I know I've been there. I understand you have to make your minimums to enter production and in the beginning you just want to get to that point. So if you are just starting, start small and have a strong vision. It's okay to just have 5 things on your linesheet.

4. You do you best, so be sure to tell your story and not just what's on trend.

5. Put a HUGE emphasis on your photography, styling, and how you present yourself.

6. Be selective about who you choose to work with in social media - it can feel forced and very advertise-y if your goods are being marketed all at once.






social media:


note: At first I was just going to give ideas for shops, brands and customers, but as I typed I began to realize social media is now a key part of the equation - it's subtle - and that's part of it's ingenious marketing - so much that I didn't even notice it. Social media is a new thing. When the internet started with slow fashion, it was really restricted to small blogging circles, flickr, and a few other platforms. We used to all give our opinions, recommendations, etc. for free because we loved doing it. I truly miss this aspect of the internet and the blog circle I was apart of. As the internet grew, a new job began to form - the paid blogger. At first, it was just sending people things for free to review them on their blog. But then, larger companies started to say "hey this internet this is really kicking off we better join the band wagon". And thus the introduction of being paid, essentially, for ads began. And then comes along instagram - now we have the hardest time telling a real opinion vs an ad.


1. Think of the saying "art for arts sake". Did you ever just find anything you loved so much and wanted to tell the whole world about it because you think it's that awesome? Do it! Don't feel like you can't share what you actually love because you weren't paid to do it. Alternate between paid and non paid posts. There are not many accounts these days that do this and it's a shame because I truly believe you will have more followers if you give yourself freely.

2. Create UNIQUE content. If you are being paid by a company to make a post or are being given free product, do your best and make the best content you can for them.

3. Work with brands you WANT to work with.

4. WRITE. Seriously write, don't just say "Love my new blouse from X, it's truly dreamy". Sorry I don't believe you. Tell me how the fabric feels, what you want to do when you wear it, make quirky comments only you can make.

5. Do more than one post, over a period of time (like 6-12 months) that shows you using that item. Customers want to see they can get a lot of use out of an investment purchase, and seeing you use it more than once shows the customer they will get the same use. If you post new things from new brands everyday, these items can come off as disposable, and that is not good for the economy or environment.

6. If you are a social media persona & happen to be in the position of also being a creative, consider a good old trade, especially for small brands. If you want to work with someone who makes dresses and you make pottery on the side, consider a small swap in addition to the social media post. This means a lot to the maker, who often puts 4-6 hours in of their time plus materials to make you that dress. It only takes about 20 minutes to take and edit a photo. So remember, if it wasn't for beautiful product it would be hard to make beautiful photos.


end notes:

I have no idea if anyone will have actually make it to the bottom of this, but if you have thank you for reading. Only together can we save the future of small shops, and I hope, wherever you are, that you will make a small effort in joining the fight!  do you have any ideas on how to save the future of small shops?  feel free to weigh in in the comments!
  







4 comments:

WSAKE said...

thank you so much for this list! i´m currently very worried about the sales of my own little brand - it works around christmas time, but the rest of the year is pretty low... and i feel customer wont buy my things if they do not see them worn on a hundred popular persons on instagram and this will NEVER happen. but i guess i´ll just keep on doing what i think is right and stay with that. and yes, i´m all for trading with other creators and have a quite beautiful selection by now :)

julia said...

wsake - I've always tried to follow my heart and do what's right for me vs. what a marketing person might say! As a result perhaps my sales have never been as high as they could be, but I'd rather stick with my principles and hope that in the long run it pays off. It's certainly an uphill battle, even more so with the internet growing and growing it becomes hard to stand out. I'm hoping in time that there will be a resurgence of interest in slow fashion like there was in 2011-2013, until then i wait patiently ;)

carolinaj said...

I’ve been reading your blog for years now and have always appreciated your honesty! Thank you for these excellent reminders. In the years since discovering your blog I have taught myself to knit and decided to study textiles and now am learning to sew. I don’t think anyone ever knows how they impact strangers, but seeing someone who cared so much about the things they wear definitely has shifted my trajectory. Now I see my work as showing others how important the materials we use are and helping to illustrate the labor that goes into making each object we purchase.

Melissa de la Fuente said...

I hear this, loud and clear. As a maker/ designer myself & watching my good friend open her first brick & mortar.....it is such a conflict of the heart when you love & believe in something and it is lost on some. When someone comes into her shop and asks for a discount or “is this the best you can do on the price?” It boils my blood. Or when someone asks me why a ring of mine is “so expensive”......I WANT to actually tell them why, without losing my cool. Haven’t totally figured out a way to do that. At any rate, my Rennes bag is my favorite bag, that so carry everyday and am saving up for the black version. Instead of buying 5 different random black bags, that are cheaper but, not as special. I can’t wait. 😘😘❤️❤️
Xo
Melissa