29 June 2008

Eagerly Anticipating

This note arrived in my Inbox this morning:


Just a note to say your store is [incredibly flattering and complimentary words]. Just got my August issue of Romantic Homes and the magazine shoot was amazing and I immediately went to your website....congrats on such a fabulous store and at a young age and following your dreams! I hope to possibly buy something from your online store!

A. in Spokane, WA

AAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!! It's weird to think that there's a glossy magazine out there containing a story about THE BLISSFUL, and that magazine is now in the hands of readers all across America! What's weirder is that I haven't yet seen the article! Two sweet customers came in yesterday and told me they had seen the magazine at a shop across town (the owner must be a subscriber, as I think subscribers are the only ones who have the issue so far; have heard it doesn't hit newsstands for another week or so). Am so eagerly anticipating reading the article and seeing which photos were chosen. I hear that this is common in the magazine world; often times you won't even know which issue your story might be in or that your story ran at all until a customer lets you know she saw it. In this case, we've known for months that we were slated for the August issue, but I hadn't thought about how or when I would get my hands on a copy.

Hit my local Borders this morning to check their shelter mag section just to be sure, but no dice. Still the July issue.

Today I will spend a good chunk of hours in the shop photographing new finds for the Online Boutique. Lots to catch up on before we leave for Market July 9th.

Thanks to each and every person who helped make our national magazine debut a reality. I can truly say that while I have loved magazines my whole life, I never dreamed or fantasized about being featured in the pages of one in any way, shape, or form. Always figured I'd be the one in the byline (as a writer). This turn of events feels a little bit unreal, still. I have a feeling that it will become even more so when I finally am holding the mag in my hands and turn to the first page of our article. I'll keep you posted!

28 June 2008

Announcing Sid Dickens' "Tattoo"

We are thrilled to announce "Tattoo," the Fall 2008 collection of Sid Dickens Memory Blocks.

Please double click the image above to view in closer detail. This collection is due to arrive in the shop as soon as the week of September 8th.

Here is Sid Dickens' statement about the collection:

"Throughout the centuries, cultures around the world have cherished self-expression in their celebration of life, tradition and values. By various means and styles of art, timeless representations of our realities remain; a testament of life. Marking the skin of one's own body as a means of expressing the most deep ideals has been a choice for as long as history itself.

"For Fall 2008 Sid Dickens imprints his legacy of expression with the release of "Tattoo," a symbolic collection of tiles connected to memories of life, adventure and love. Themes emblazoned on the skin of people across the globe; permanent reminders of time's passage.

"Skin...canvas of memory, adorned with tales of life and experience."

And here are the three Holiday 2008 releases. Remember that Holiday releases are always Limited Edition and will only be available to order until December 1st. What we have in the shop on that day or already on special order will be all we can ever get of these Limited Edition tiles!

The Holiday Blocks will be arriving in the store as soon as the week of September 8th, too. Please note that we are now taking reservations for the Blocks that will be arriving in our first Fall 2008 shipment. Once our allotment has been reserved for each style, we will begin taking special orders. As fans and collectors know, there is never such a thing as "too soon" when reserving a Sid tile. They go fast. As our floor stylist says, they're kind of like potato chips. You start with one and then you just can't stop!

Stay tuned for the official announcement of our upcoming summer trunk show, slated for Saturday, July 19th from 10 AM-5 PM (regular store hours). This one-day event will feature the complete Active Collection of Sid Dickens Blocks as well as our coveted line of wax seal jewelry. More details to come!

24 June 2008

Revving Up for Market

The packing dreams* haven't yet begun, but our summer trip to Market in Atlanta is just a few weeks away. I can almost close my eyes and feel myself there. This is the time of year retailers plan for with all of the expectation, stomach fluttering, copious list-making, and heartfelt strategizing that most people plan for their holidays with (See? This time of year even causes a former English teacher like me to end a sentence with a preposition).

*Ah, the packing dreams. You know how just about everybody has a recurring dream of some type? For me, they're packing dreams, and they usually start arriving a couple weeks out from a major trip. The general plotline is that I'm at home with an open, empty suitcase and my plane leaves in one hour. I don't have a ride to the airport, and worst of all, I don't know where I'm going or how long I'll be gone. You fill in the rest.

Before we depart for The Big Trip, though, we've had a few loose ends to tie up closer to home. Sunday, I ventured down to our regional Market in Columbus for a buying trip with my buying partner/shop stylist/mom Debbie. What we thought was going to be a quick jaunt through the seasonal showrooms to quadruple check our Holiday orders turned into a twelve hour round trip, including driving time. It was a long day, and in keeping with the theme of every other seasonal-themed Market I've attended this year, we were underwhelmed. What's happened to product design and manufacturing this year? One rep shared with me his theory: vendors are streamlining their offerings as retailers streamline their buying as end customers cut back on their shopping due to fears about the economy, so therefore fewer risks are being taken in design, leaving us with more middle of the road products. Hmm. As I crouched down in a showroom and debated between twenty styles of antique silvered Christmas bulbs (none of which were really singing to me), I told our rep, "I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around our Christmas look this year. I'm just not seeing the product I want to find." She confirmed that she's heard the same from other buyers and other showrooms.

In my last post from this Market, I shared how every season, you see a similar look reinterpreted fifty different ways across fifty different showrooms, just with varying degrees of style, detail, and execution. For instance, this year, if I've seen one metallic pine cone ornament, I've seen a hundred. The key as a retailer is to find the fresh new look that's not so dramatic of a departure from the traditional that most customers won't be able to work it into their existing decor (because, really, how many of us throw away all of our Christmas decorations every year and start from scratch with what's trendy?). In a year of design that's decidedly safe, uninspired, and status quo, it can be very difficult to discern that fresh vision amidst so much sameness.

But lest you think we came away with nothing new for you, think again. One secret to uniqueness in retail (and in designing your own home) is often not so much what you're selling (or what you have at home) but how you combine the elements into a fresh story that hasn't been seen or experienced by your customers or your guests before. It's not in the goods, it's in your eye. So yes, Virginie, we DID end up finding what we were looking for--those singularly compelling and beautiful adornments that we'll use to create our holiday tableaux. It took many hours and months of searching, but we're finally excited about what's spinning on the loom and we hope you will be, too.

Most interestingly, our whole vision for Holiday '08 changed on Sunday at that show. We're no longer going in the direction we thought we were. The intended color story has been scrapped, the previous theme has been dismissed, and we're embracing a whole new vibe. It's very modern, very cool, almost edgy, yet tied to the European design heritage that we love. And it's not so far off the mark of the traditional, cozy Christmas that many of us remember from childhood (at least in the movies) and want to keep alive in our own homes. In fact, we're planning for three different Holiday looks this year, each with a different color palette, feel, and point of view. Our hope is that you'll get a kick out of one or all three! Yesterday, our first day back to normal at the shop after the triumphant end of our Make Way for Market Sale, we spent all day faxing off cancellations of our previous Holiday orders. It felt good to get those ideas out of the way and start keying in the new purchase orders.

Meanwhile, back at the shop, we're zhuzhing everything and changing things around in the aftermath of our big sale. Many, many items continue to be marked down all throughout the shop, so it's a great time to stop in.

Some customers have been telling me they're starting to stockpile our discounted goodies for Holiday gift giving.

One highlight of our ongoing summer sale: most of our art on canvas is marked down between 25%-50% OFF. Come in and see what else!

See you soon.

21 June 2008

What's Going On Around Here

Oh. My. Gosh. Ai. Yi. Yi.

With it being the last day of our Make Way for Market Sale, I'm officially at the head spinning, hands flapping, word stuttering point in the summer. My hair is frizzy, my tongue is tied, my brain is addled, my glorified flip-flops and printed canvas wedges are already looking worn out and I need a VACATION!!! I know so many of you out there can relate to just being too busy. Now, busy-ness in business is a good thing--I would much rather have too much going on around here than nothing much going. But eventually you get to the point where the phrase "I'm only one person" takes on a very, very real meaning.

And yesterday, I developed a twitch in my right eye. It came on every time someone asked me how I was doing. Ringing up a sale, for instance. Customer asks, "How's it going?" Meaning, I think, the sale, the store, our preparations for Market, life in general. "Great!" I replied, my right eye pattering a little off-tempo beat inside its socket. And more twitching with each successive customer who asked me the same question.

Later, I tell my boyfriend, "My eye keeps twitching. But only when people ask me how I'm doing." Twitch. Twitch twitch. "See? Here!" I point to my eye. "Can you see it? I just said the words 'how I'm doing' and it's twitching! Can you see it?"

"No." He says. "So how are you doing?"

Twitch twitch twitch. Twitch twitch.

But to keep this from devolving into a "woe is me" post (the likes of which I've sworn I'll never write), let me recap a few highlights of our week at THE BLISSFUL:

1. Our Make Way for Market Sale winds up today, this Saturday the 21st, at 5 PM. It's felt great to move so much merchandise out the door over the past two weeks--lots of it at truly insane prices--but I am ready to get the store back in order, do some general cleaning, and allow a fresh vision to take shape. It ends today. It ends today. Thank God, it ends today. (Twitch.)

2. I'm in a madcap race to complete my office reorganization and transformation before leaving for Market on July 9th. So not feeling like making things tidy right now. Long, long ago, I promised on this blog to show Before & After pictures of the office once the project was completed. That day is coming. Unlike some of you, I am one who has a dubious penchant for being able to live with things out of order for a long time before doing something about it. I'd rather live in frustration for a while than begin without inspiration. Not touting this as a virtue.

3. One of our concepts for an upcoming display has involved extensive sessions of lighting the edges of paper on fire. I should add that this was all accomplished outside of the shop. For those who know me well, I should add that none of the actual fire handling was performed by me.

4. Did I mention that preparations for our summer trip to Market in Atlanta are underway? To tell you that I'm dying to commence our "vacation" week of madcap searching through the world's largest international tradeshow for home accessories, gifts, and apparel is to let you know just how frazzled, fraught, and fried I feel around here. To have this week in July solely to focus on buying product will be a heaven of concentrated delight. (Maybe the twitch will go away.)

5. Blogging and the Online Boutique. Lord, have mercy. After almost four months in business online, it's now become an implausibility to run my brick-and-mortar store and my Online Boutique with only one computer. Long gone are the days when I could blog a little, take care of customers, ring sales, and still sneak in time for photography and writing product descriptions. We're having to adjust how we work around here and we're glad for it. So a laptop for the office is in short order. This might even allow me the occasional luxurious afternoon at a coffee shop to blog (writing is my No. 1 passion and, sadly, one of the first things to fall off my list when things get hectic because it feels like an indulgence, kind of like eating dessert). I'm toying with the idea of writing 30 posts in thirty days, between this blog and my other one. Not making any promises just yet, though. I'll let you know when I commence that personal challenge. And the Online Boutique? Just want to say thank you to those persistent blog readers and web surfers out there who e-mail our Sales Desk daily inquiring about products they've seen on the blog but are not yet included for sale in our Online Boutique. We fulfill these orders via PayPal and are happy to do so. We promise that our current online mix will be recharged very shortly. Time has been the issue. So next week, we're putting the Online Boutique on project status. We're beginning a mad dash to upload new product to the Online Boutique before our Shopkeeping feature in the August issue of Romantic Homes hits newsstands in early July. Expect lots of new finds in almost every online department by the end of the month. Yay!

6. Today, I'm off to a baby shower for a dear friend. Tomorrow, I'm off to our regional Market in Columbus for one final tweak of our Holiday orders (they'll begin arriving at the shop in July and August!).

Another update coming soon, hopefully one less twitchy and harried than this one!

10 June 2008

Velvet Strawberries in the House

Andrea (on the right) and I (on the left) smile beatifically in between running to check the shots on my digital camera to find one we liked.

Well, her name is Andrea Singarella but she's the author of the fantastically popular blog Velvet Strawberries. Her parents just happen to live in our area of the world, so we get the delight of visiting with her occasionally when she's in town.

The comfort and cameraderie of a blog friendship is just another reason to smile on any given day. When I first began blogging two years ago, I had no idea how cozy this world of virtual journaling could really be. I got into it for the mentorship aspect. I first sought out other women in the blogosphere who had retail stores that impressed me, venues which I could only aspire to have my own shop be like. I learned so much about shopkeeping and about my own personal brand and style of it through studying the brands and styles of others, and reading their thoughts and musings on such. Within a matter of months, I had discovered a few likeminded ladies whose blogs I regularly began reading and commenting on. I also found dozens and dozens of other lovely blogs who I check in with regularly to this day--from artists who craft unique wares, to other shop owners, to women working from home in various entrepreneurial ways, to more personal blogs that have absolutely nothing to do with shopkeeping (thank goodness--my mind needs an oasis every once in a while). I'm attracted to a great voice, a strong point of view, and sparkling prose. I don't regularly comment on many of the blogs I read because God knows if I did I'd be behind my computer several hours each day, but I love to check in, chuckle, ooh and aah over your luscious photos, marvel over your cleverness, and check in again the next day. Thanks to everyone out there who reads my blogs and comments on them (and those who read and don't comment). And please know that while I may not always leave a comment on yours, it's very likely I've been reading!

By the way, look for the feature on Andrea's Miniature Cup Containers in the Spring 2008 issue of Somerset Life.

07 June 2008

Make Way for Market Sale

Twice a year it happens: we empty our warehouse, clear off every shelf in our storage room, and turn the store upside down looking for forgotten treasures we can mark down and move out the door in record time to "make way" for new finds we'll order at Market. This past week we kicked off our Make Way for Market summer clearance sale. Stop in and shop our dedicated sale area, where you'll find a wide array of merchandise discounted between 50 and 75% OFF our original price. In addition, we've taken markdowns on everyday merchandise throughout the shop, beginning at 20% OFF. Time to make way for fresh visions and inspirations!

Our Make Way for Market Sale is two weeks only and ends Wednesday, June 18th, so hurry in while the getting is good.

Speaking of Market...hard to believe that just one month from now I'll be packing my suitcase and leaving on a jet plane. More about that soon!