Last week I blogged about running an online shop. Most of the examples I listed from the previous post can also apply to a physical shop. However, because I don’t have any experience running a brick and mortar shop, I recently interviewed Jennifer Albaugh, who along with her family, run Quiltique, my favorite local quilt shop. She generously agreed to share some of her wisdom and advice.
In this day and age, a majority of physical shops also have an online presence so they can stay connected with their customers. However, their focus is on their local clientele so they can offer something online stores can’t: physical interaction and live classes.
When Jennifer Albaugh and her family began Quiltique 11 years ago, online stores weren’t much of a presence, so they chose to focus on what they knew – running a brick and mortar retail business. In the coming year, they plan to expand their online presence and continue to offer top notch events that keep their customers coming back for more.
Jennifer says that the key to running a successful quilt shop is creating a unique customer experience. Fun events, inspiring classes, and a welcoming environment are a must in today’s retail world. Says Jennifer, “You have to give customers a reason to walk through your door and then share the fun they had with their family and friends.”
Jennifer says she’s learned a few things along the way. Although she understood upfront that you really have to dig in and understand all aspects of a retail business, she soon realized that Quiltique’s biggest improvement over the years has been in customer service.
Jennifer states, “in the beginning, no one told us that retail is mostly a business of service and that you MUST focus on the customer and their needs with each and every person who walks in the door.”
I know from personal experience that this is not just lip service. I bought my new Bernina from Quiltique last year because of their excellent customer service. Quiltique was also featured as a top shop in American Patchwork and Quilting’s Quilt Sampler, so you know they are doing many things right!
Jennifer further emphasizes that when running a business, “creative types” should be able to manage many of the business-type things like dealing with money, and they need to realize it’s not all about the pursuit of their craft. In fact, the more successful your business is, the less likely you’ll have time to sew and quilt, so be sure to keep that in mind as you build the store of your dreams.
The biggest surprise that Jennifer has discovered is the personal fulfillment she gets from going to work each day. Jennifer explains, “When your customers come to your shop to share with you their joys, personal accomplishments, and even failures and heartaches, it is like you have one HUGE family. After 11 years in business, I still enjoy coming to work every day and creating that unique experience for our customers. I love the sharing and camaraderie we get back in return.”
Thank you, Jennifer for sharing your experiences. And thank you readers, for following along so far. One last thing I would add if you are contemplating opening up a store is to visit as many of them as you can. Take notes on what you like or what you’d change. Don’t give up on the pursuit of your quilting dreams, no matter how big they may seem. Work on making your goals a reality, one day at a time!