Bear Meadows—co-owner of Burlap & Board—always had something going on the side. So when he decided to leave his successful job as a nurse practitioner to open a retail shop closer to home, his entrepreneurial spirit came out. Returning to his other degree in furniture design, he decided to open an antique gift shop in Chatanooga, TN. Despite his enthusiasm and solid business instincts, even he was amazed at how quickly he outgrew his space.
“The biggest surprise when starting this, is how quickly we developed a clientele and how quickly we caught on,” says Meadows. “When you invest time and money you want to see a return and not just a financial return. We were able to do that quickly.” Burlap & Board grew so quickly they had to upgrade their space in a little over a year. What’s his secret? Here are 7 ideas to bring more customers into your store.
Partner with other businesses.
Burlap & Board is not just an antiques mall. They’ve also partnered with local artisans. Each antique vendor and artisan has their own individual store.
Partnering with artisans and craftspeople can be a challenge. By nature, artists are not interested in conforming. “You have to help them and guide them and educate them about the legalities and what they need to do,” says Meadows. Each artist adds to the creative ambiance special to Burlap & Board.
With Clover’s barcode system, Burlap & Board is able to quickly and easily tag each item in the store with the correct vendor. There are no handwritten tags for any of the 22 dealers, and each dealer can be confident they will get paid correctly even if a customer picks up an item in one place and leaves it in another. This system also affords them the flexibility to share space and can mix and match products to create atmosphere.
Make them feel at home.
Winters encourages his vendors to create vignettes of particular time periods. “I love that people love to come in and browse,” says Meadows. Customers naturally gravitate toward the period they are passionate about. The entire store then tells a cohesive story that offers a better experience, and customers are more inclined to buy more than one purchase as they see pieces that work together. This is a huge competitive advantage over other antique malls. If customers come in and the store has “pleasing aesthetics, they are going to come back again,” says Meadows. “Whether they are local or a tourist, the next time they are in the area, they will return.”
Encourage local business—year round.
One of the best things about having a retail business in a historic area is you get to meet people from around the world. But as Meadows points out, “When the local people come in, they are there year round. They give back to the community.” So make sure you offer something unique that will keep locals coming back.
“Customer service is huge,” says Meadows. “They will return if they are treated right. We greet them, tell them a little about the store, and answer questions, but we don’t follow them around.” At Burlap & Board artisans create a unique experience, and people need space to experience the magic. “The locals love the uniqueness of the store.”
Offer unique, consumable products.
Every antique, by nature, is unique. That’s not enough, though, to get steady traffic. Consider stocking products that are both unique and consumed regularly. Early on, an artisan made the soap for Burlap & Board, but then wasn’t able to do it anymore. Meadows decided to make it himself. “It sold very well. I didn’t want to lose that portion of the business, and I would rather make it myself and make sure the quality is there.” Soap is not only consumable; it can be tailored to what the customer wants, and over time becomes something they look forward to. “We bring out a new soap scent every month. Sometimes over the holidays we do more, like for Mother’s Day we brought out two scents. We have 22 different scents, but they all sell well.”
Encourage impulse sales.
With Clover’s mobile devices it’s easy to encourage impulse sales. Simply move inventory outside for an impromptu sidewalk sale. “We have two main devices at the checkout. We have the mini that we are upgrading in our coffee bar. We use the mobile hand held in the office and on the road. We use all of them so we don’t have to take away from our front register.” Having multiple places within the store where customers can make purchases is smart because the customer doesn’t have to wait online to grab a quick coffee or buy something on the fly.
Get out of the store.
Customers not coming to you? Go out and find them. Burlap & Board books outside shows and fairs where antique lovers are likely to go. “Clover allows us to go to remote locations and set up and do transactions quickly. We are more confident when we book an outside show, and we’re able to enjoy it more.” Everything is integrated and tied together, so if customers at a show ask you if you have more of something, you can easily look at inventory and sell more. Having a stall at shows also gets the word out that your store exists and will bring people in from farther away.
Cultivate passionate customers.
Love what you do? Set up classes and turn your local customers into regulars. For Burlap & Board, offering classes gives them regular foot traffic, a steady influx of cash, and encourages repeat business from the locals. They make a profit on selling supplies as well as classes and it allows them to sell things in batches as they grow.
What makes all of these things possible? Clover is an app-based system and offers businesses the flexibility to customize their system to create offerings that work for them. For Burlap & Board, ConsignAble and Bundle Discount apps help grow business. Explore the app market for ideas that will work for your business.