Retailing Insight Aug/Sept Holiday 2013 : Page 16
what was once relegated to arts and craft retail chain stores has become big business for independent retailers: Do-It-Yourself (DIY) in-store events. “DIY events are a great way to reach out to customers, current and new, especially those in their 30s and 40s who might have more time and interest in learning something new,” says Cinnamon Cooper, co-founder of the popular DIY Trunk Show in Chicago. DIY events held in conjunction with a larger marketing eff ort, such as launching a new line or a holiday promotion, can create sales synergy. For instance, as a nod to the British tradition of drinking tea, Marmalade Boutique in San Francisco hosted a “Tea and Marmalade” event earlier this year to promote its London Calling display. Th e event played off the theme, inviting participants to make handmade tea bags and decorate vintage tea cups while enjoying a glass of wine, small bites, and 20 percent off the evening’s purchases. Rebeca Mojica, creative guru and founder of Chicago’s Blue Buddha Boutique, believes Millennials are a prime target market for DIY classes. She has been teaching students how to make chainmaille jewelry since 2002, and cites the surge in DIY television shows and Millennials’ attitude of “take ownership and do it” and interest in sustainability as the driving forces behind the increase in class participation. Truth be told, DIY events appeal to a wide demographic— from young children to older adults who enjoy the camara-derie while learning a new skill. Cindy Pardo, co-owner of Th e Fair Trader in Chicago, began off ering jewelry classes as a way to promote her shop’s new craft corner, a once-wasted area of her retail fl oor space she and her partners 16 August / September 2013 | retailinginsight.com
9 Steps to a Successful DIY Event
WHAT WAS ONCE RELEGATED to arts and craft retail chain stores has become big business for independent retailers: Do-It-Yourself (DIY) in-store events.
“DIY events are a great way to reach out to customers, current and new, especially those in their 30s and 40s who might have more time and interest in learning something new,” says Cinnamon Cooper, co-founder of the popular DIY Trunk Show in Chicago.
DIY events held in conjunction with a larger marketing effort, such as launching a new line or a holiday promotion, can create sales synergy. For instance, as a nod to the British tradition of drinking tea, Marmalade Boutique in San Francisco hosted a “Tea and Marmalade” event earlier this year to promote its London Calling display. The event played off the theme, inviting participants to make handmade tea bags and decorate vintage tea cups while enjoying a glass of wine, small bites, and 20 percent off the evening’s purchases.
Rebeca Mojica, creative guru and founder of Chicago’s Blue Buddha Boutique, believes Millennials are a prime target market for DIY classes. She has been teaching students how to make chainmaille jewelry since 2002, and cites the surge in DIY television shows and Millennials’ attitude of “take ownership and do it” and interest in sustainability as the driving forces behind the increase in class participation.
Truth be told, DIY events appeal to a wide demographic—from young children to older adults who enjoy the camaraderie while learning a new skill. Cindy Pardo, co-owner of The Fair Trader in Chicago, began offering jewelry classes as a way to promote her shop’s new craft corner, a once-wasted area of her retail floor space she and her partners 16 August filled with beads, fabric squares, and wool yarn. The classes were meant to drive traffic to this back area of her L-shaped store while increasing revenue through sales of materials and class registrations.
The result of that decision has blown Pardo away. A former jewelry maker herself, Pardo is on-site during class times, ready to help students with their projects. Six of her students—five loyal customers and a friend of theirs new to the store—loved the initial class so much they asked her if they could come every week to work on various projects.
“Now we have six customers who come in every week,” says Pardo. “They pay for their class and sometimes buy other components from the Craft Corner or return to buy something they’ve seen in the store as a result of coming in for the class.” That kind of organic traffic can’t be bought with advertising or social media, and the sales and word-of-mouth exposure can really boost a shop’s bottom line.
Melissa Kendrick, owner of Sojourns in Birmingham, Ala., started offering classes to introduce customers to her store for both fun and education. “I create my events to help customers understand handmade products have a whole level of value in terms of time and talent that people don’t often account for when considering the price of an item,” says Kendrick.
So how can independent retailers organize a successful DIY event in their store? The nine steps that follow can help you make your shop the place customers turn to not just for that special gift, but for a fun experience, too!
1. Determine your goal in offering classes
Blue Buddha Boutique’s Rebeca Mojica says, before doing anything else, independent retailers should first consider what they want to get out of offering classes. Are you adding classes to your offerings because you want to increase add-on sales or as a marketing tool? Organizing and promoting classes can be draining for retailers if it isn’t something you do on a regular basis. Having a clear idea of your goal will help you gauge whether or not it was a success after the class ends.
2. Consider the type of class you’d like to offer
Once you’ve determined the goal, Mojica suggests scouring the Internet to find class ideas and become familiar with various craft forums. “There are online forums for everything imaginable, and most people don’t even think of checking out forums for class ideas,” she says. “Retailers can find forums on anything from scrapbooking and knitting to making jewelry. Start by lurking a bit to see what people are talking about. You might even find people to contact about teaching your class.”
DIY Trunk Show’s Cinnamon Cooper suggests starting with a jewelry class first for several reasons. “Jewelry is probably the easiest for independent retailers to offer as a DIY class,” she says. “It usually doesn’t require expensive pieces, the classes aren’t terribly messy, you don’t need a ton of space, jewelry is popular, and even if the final product isn’t gorgeous, the maker will love it because they made it and they can wear it and tell others where they made it.”
Sojourns’ Melissa Kendrick has offered different classes at her store over the past year but favors classes for kids as a way to convey an understanding of multiculturalism. Her most recent successful event was painting Easter eggs to mimic Ukrainian pysanky eggs, which are traditionally made using a wax technique similar to batik. She also tries to tie her events to an upcoming holiday to make them timely. Future classes she’s considering include bookmaking, Halloween lanterns, and holiday cards.
Making items from recycled or upcycled pieces are popular, too, as more people are looking for sustainable solutions.
3. Find the right instructor to teach it
Mojica admits that offering classes can be a lot of work for a retailer. “In addition to figuring out what type of class to offer,” says Mojica, “you have to have a photo of the finished product, write a product description, and then market your class.” Finding an expert to teach the class can help off set the workload and allow your students to learn from a designer who knows how to make the item inside and out.
Mojica and Pardo recommend taking your time to vet your instructor. When considering an instructor, Mojica recommends asking yourself, “Is this instructor on board with my shop’s culture?” Pardo couldn’t agree more, adding that the right instructor can boost the image of your store, while a poor instructor could reflect negatively on your shop’s reputation.
“Don’t overlook your customer base as possible instructors,” adds Mojica. Pardo agrees that often her customers come up with class ideas, and she would happily reach out to a customer to teach a class if she thought they would make a good instructor. Having them as customers helps because they know the mission of the shop and she can get a good sense of their personality. “We really look for people who are personable,” says Pardo. “Some artists and instructors have a certain way of teaching and refuse to see another way of doing things. My philosophy is that I want you to be successful, too, and will help you as the instructor to get there. I look for that personality trait in my instructors, too.”
4. Have kits available for purchase
One of the strongest recommendations Mojica makes for any retailers interested in offering classes is to have DIY kits available for purchase to generate on-site sales opportunities. Pardo offers a whole selection of beads, yarn, and fabric squares for her customer to peruse, get inspired by, and buy for their individual projects, but she also offers complete craft kits from Sustainable Threads (www.sustainablethreads.com) for those interested in buying them as gifts or to complete crafts at home.
Over the Moon Toys in Highland Park, New Jersey, used Sustainable Threads’s Block Printing Kit last year for an event hosted outside their shop. The kit was prominently displayed on the table so parents could see it was available for purchase as a gift or to extend the activity at home.
The increased interest in DIY hasn’t been lost on wholesaler Harish Hathiramani, co-founder of Sustainable Threads. He, too, has noticed a marked increase in sales of his craft kits. In fact, he has seen such an increase that he introduced two new kits to his collection in the past year. “Stores often use our craft kits to engage children, since they involve block prints and beads and they can interact with them while their parents shop,” says Hathiramani. Artisans in India create the components and the kits themselves, producing a much-needed employment opportunity for their regions. All the kits are Fair Trade and compliant with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) of 2008, which allows stores to off er the kits and classes to children as well as adults. For more information about the CPISA, visit www.cpsc.gov and click on Regulations, Laws & Standards.
5. Price your class correctly
Depending on the complexity of the class, materials used, and instructor knowledge base, you’ll want to price the class accordingly to maximize attendance and satisfaction among students.
Pardo charges $25 for a two-hour jewelry class, which includes materials and use of her tools. Students are welcome to purchase additional beads or materials from her shop’s selection, but she offers a complete jewelry kit with the price of the class.
Mojica’s jewely-making classes range from $25 for a one-hour class to $60 for a three-hour class. Marmalade Boutique charged $12 for their tea event, which included all materials, wine, small bites to eat, and the 20-percent discount on items purchased the night of the event.
Kendrick usually charges for adult classes and when the class involves a fair amount of expense. For example, she charged $6 for her spring Easter egg-painting class, which was open to both adults and children. In cases where she has most of the supplies and the class is for kids only, she instead encourages a donation be made to the Birmingham Multicultural Association, an organization she often partners with for kids’ education efforts. “With the kids,” she adds, “it’s more about the education, and we don’t want to hinder participation based on ability to pay.”
6. Pay your instructor
Because many classes take time to prepare, require materials, and result in a completed item students take with them, charging students makes dollars and sense. Collecting registration fees also allows you to pay an instructor fairly, if you choose to hire someone to teach your class.
Retailers often negotiate a payment structure with the instructor, which varies by retailer, instructor, and type of class taught. According to Cooper, some instructors will take a percentage of the class fee while others will accept a percentage of the shop’s sales while the event is taking place. Pardo agrees that if either she or one of her partners isn’t teaching the class, she feels it’s important to pay the instructor just as she would expect to pay someone else who would be sharing his or her knowledge base and skill set with her customers.
7. Get the word out
Once all the details have been finalized, it’s important to let loyal and prospective customers know about your upcoming class. What’s the point of offering a class if no one knows about it? Cooper feels social media delivers the best bang for the buck. She encourages retailers to use sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. She adds that if you hire an instructor, often the instructor will let her fans and customers know about the class in the hopes that more students will sign up. Kendrick and Pardo favor sending emails and posting on Facebook, as well as telling customers in person and posting flyers in the front windows of their shops.
Local media outlets don’t always cover independent retailers unless something new is happening, so hosting a class is a great way to reach out to members of the media. Offer to do a short in-studio demonstration and introduce your shop and services to a whole new audience who may never have heard of your shop. Now they have a reason to visit!
Kendrick also adds her event to several local calendar listings, many of which are free to list on and only require time to post on websites.
The benefits of your classes don’t need to end once the classes are over. Ask your students for feedback on both the class and the instructor. Did they enjoy the experience? Would they return for another class? Would they invite their friends to join them or take a class? “You can also use testimonials from class evaluations to promote future classes or to post on Facebook,” adds Mojica. It’s one thing to say you’re great. It’s another for a customer to sing your praises. If you get positive feedback on your class, make sure to amplify that message through social media.
Cooper loves Instagram and feels many independent retailers should use it more in general. The app is especially useful because shop owners can take and post pictures during class or immediately after the class ends. The benefit: Your customers can see things happening in your store and consider attending your next class so they, too, can get in on the fun!
9. Evaluate your success
Mojica doesn’t treat her business like a hobby and doesn’t leave things to chance. “How will you know if your class was a success and whether you should repeat it if you don’t know how to measure it against a pre-set goal?” Mojica points out that the first step is to determine the goal of your class and how you will measure that goal. “The goal could be sales, number of positive reviews, number of students you want to walk through your doors, exposure, or even word of mouth. You just need to know why you’re offering the class and how you will measure the results.”
Immediately after the class, review your goal and determine whether your DIY event met the goal. Jot down what worked and what you can improve if you decide to continue offering DIY classes.
The reason more and more retailers are offering DIY classes is because they do see sales as a result. Some sales are more immediate, while others come later. In Kendrick’s case, customers participating in classes often purchase something in the $20 range. Even when they don’t purchase something the day of the event, she believes DIY events are still a great way to introduce them to the store; many become customers as a result of attending an event.
Pardo agrees. Sometimes students from her weekly jewelry-making class will purchase something the day of the class but often they return later to purchase something that catches their eye during class. Also, word of mouth about her new Craft Corner has been key: As students share their work with friends and family, new customers looking for craft supplies are showing up at the shop.
We all want to feel part of a larger community and learn new things in a fun environment. Having a clear goal and following the steps outlined here will have you organizing successful DIY events before you know it!
■ Megy Karydes regularly writes for both trade and consumer magazines on sustainability, Fair Trade, and travel. Find her at www.karydesconsulting.com.
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