Showcase a trend
Adult coloring books are this year’s Rainbow Loom. They’re hot, and everyone is buying them – not just artists. If you carry products that all kinds of consumers are clamoring for, go ahead and exploit them because “Trends are customer magnets,” says veteran retailer Christine Osborne.
The owner of a small chain of toy stores called Wonder Works, Christine discovered the power of trends during the Beanie Baby craze of 1999. Art supply stores are much less trend-driven than toy stores, certainly, but you can still ride a wave if one rolls in. “Need extra cash to buy new fixtures or provide bonuses to your staff? Riding – or creating – a trend may be the best way to do that,” Christine wrote in edplay magazine.
On its website, Wet Paint in Minneapolis offers more than 60 different coloring books. They range from The Skate Boarding Coloring Book by Swedish illustrator and graphic designer Magnus Frederiksen to The Renaissance Painters by local artist Andy Nelson. And while adult coloring books are available from other stores, no one can upsell them with markers, colored pencils and more like an art supply store can. Coloring is even demo-worthy – I’ve heard that adult colorists need help. “To my utter surprise, how to color in coloring books has been the most-asked question I have gotten as a coloring book artist,” writes Wendy Piersall, creator of Coloring Animal Mandalas. “When you’re coloring as an adult, crayons just don’t cut it anymore. We want a great experience, and want to use great, grown-up materials.”
Own it, and then get out of it gracefully
When stores in every category sold Rainbow Looms for rubber-band bracelets a few years ago, Christine’s four stores didn’t so much ride the trend as own it. “It meant taking the risk of holding promotions and contests, advertising the product and offering classes. I even ran TV commercials to start the trend here, because I knew in my gut they would be big. Do not underestimate your instincts!” she wrote.
Knowing when a trend has run its course is tricky, and requires skill and diligence. To know when to stop buying and start getting rid of your remaining inventory, run reports often to keep a close watch on sales of your trendy items. “As soon as you spot a consistent dip (over two to three weeks) in the number of items sold, cease ordering and strategically plan promotions to move through your current inventory,” recommends Christine.
Speaking of toys
Beef up your kids’ aisle. By promoting high-quality kits and art supplies to folks shopping for creative Christmas gifts, you may see parents and grandparents become regular shoppers year-round.
If you need some ideas for fun, safe and high-quality children’s art products, look to the companies you already do business with including Faber-Castell, Jacquard, Aitoh for origami, General Pencil’s “How To” series, Strathmore, Jack Richeson, Polyform and more.
In addition, check “endcap” (page 50) in the Spring 2015 issue of Art Materials Retailer for ideas we spotted at the February Toy Fair in New York. (You can look up the article on ArtMaterialsRetailer.com.)
When it comes to stocking art supplies and kits for kids, there are three must-haves:
- Evidence that the purchase price is worth the investment.
- Offer a variety of choices in a range of price points.
- Clear, accurate instructions.
Sell small art
If you’ve got art – created by you, your employees, your customers, and other local artists – you can sell it, especially at the holidays. Merchandise your pop-up “gallery” to cross-sell your art supplies and framing services, which can also be purchased as gifts.
Small art is best. For you, it’s easier to present in your store; for the shopper, it’s less expensive. Small art is also more conducive to impulse purchasing and, after the sale, it’s easy to transport or ship. Small art is easier for gift recipients to live with – they can always find a place to put it, whether they hang it on a wall or lean it on a bookshelf. As gallery owners Lisa Diamond Katz and Shira Wood pointed out in The Huffington Post, larger scale artwork can be too imposing. Its intrusive size can impose the buyers’ taste on the recipient’s space in a big way.
Buying art is an adventure; a fun shopping experience in and of itself. On her blog Art Beyond (the) Canvas, artist and photographer Agnese Anjeli lists just a few reasons why.
- Every piece of art has a story, and the story is part of the gift. It can be about the artist, a painting’s location, how the piece was created and why the shopper purchased it. “Art buyers are happy to attach something verbal to something visual,” says Anjeli.
- As a gift, art is personal and emotional. It speaks to the beliefs and attitudes of the person selecting it.
- It is fresh and unique. As a Christmas gift, “it is like an oasis in a desert of useful, functional things,” wrote Anjeli. “People are tired of everything similar. The same things are everywhere.”
- Yet art is a practical gift. It fills empty spaces and helps
- It is fashionable, currently, thanks to the increasing accessibility of original art. “With more and more information available in media and on the Internet, galleries going online, with more money available, it has become trendy to buy art,” notes Anjeli.
Tell The Story
Your website and social media are perfect ways to create the kind of story that makes shoppers buy. It can be as simple as adding links and the words “Gifts,” “Kits for Kids” or “Adult Coloring Books” at the top of your website, or as complex as including a how-to blog post complete with a materials list. On flaxart.com, San Francisco’s Flax Art & Design posts a variety of how-to stories. In August, the store’s printmaking expert Anna Lark inspired creative folks to carve linoleum blocks with her post “Insider Block Printing Tips, Tricks and Techniques.” Visitors could immediately purchase each product she used by clicking on its name within the story.
In store, endcaps are great for presenting the story. These unique fixtures sell products by helping shoppers focus on particular themes for purchase. The top shelf, prime real estate for signage, is where the story begins. Use the middle to showcase product, and the bottom to hold additional stock.
In July, Binders Art Supplies & Frames in Atlanta used an endcap to honor its employee of the month, Jerell Drakes. Drakes told the story of the artwork he created – displayed at the top of the endcap – and then showcased all the products he used to create it. The store gets extra promotional points by featuring a photo of the endcap
If you don’t have specific endcap fixtures, set some up for the holidays on tabletops at the ends of your aisles. They’ll remind customers to stop a minute and interact with the products there – they make great touch-and-feel displays. An endcap doesn’t have to be fancy – keep it simple, clean and well organized. Change them up often.
During a busy shopping season, the front end of your store gets the most foot traffic, if for no other reason than it’s the place customers enter and exit. Make it a great place to browse during the holidays by telling multiple stories. Use short, sturdy fixtures to invite shoppers to touch the products. Short displays also make it easy for you and your staff to watch all the comings and goings, and see which products get the most hands-on interaction.
Displays that invite touching get messier faster; straightening them often will help you monitor sales and restock quickly.
by Tina Manzer