Ok, grab a glass of wine and get ready for a long-ish doozy, but a happy doozy, remember that, IT’S HAPPY! Blair tells me you won’t want to read it all, but pretty please do. It’s full of television/movie references and important updates on your favorite little paper store, but to be perfectly clear…WE ARE HERE TO STAY, as long as you’ll have us…
- If you chase two rabbits you will only catch one
- “Save the shop around the corner and you’ll save your soul”
- Ohhhhhh, what a year?!#&$
Let’s start them in reverse order:
4. Ohhhhhh, what a year?!#&$
I truly don’t even know where to begin, but this roller coaster of life is finally on an uphill climb (knock on wood) and we hope that you’ll join us (or hop back on for the ride).
October celebrates 5 years of Lovely Somethings, and as I’ve said all along it simultaneously feels like just yesterday we were flipping the open sign for the first time, or fifty years ago; and if you’ve seen my hair lately you’d probably guess the latter.
I’ll be totally honest…
…every year we haven’t been sure if we’ll be able to survive. The first few months of the year in retail are sooo hard. We’ve borrowed a lot over the years to get us through because we’ve always seen the potential and the factual growth; but is it enough? The question that I’ve never really wanted to deal with is should Lovely Somethings continue as opposed to could it continue. This year, through a myriad of decisions and opportunities, we faced both head on.
This year personally has been the hardest of my life, but gratefully I’m on the other side of it and finally happy again. I know that was quite vague but the business is what’s at hand (Don’t worry, Blair and I are wonderful). During all of those trials I was faced with the reality that living out my “You’ve Got Mail” dream and creating a store like the “Shop Around the Corner” was becoming too true. I had to decide whether I had enough fight in me to in fact fight, and whether you all would keep showing up.
3. “Save the shop around the corner and you’ll save your soul”
I knew all along there would come a time where things would plateau a bit. Five years in, we’re no longer the new kids, and while we’ve developed a wonderful community of customers/friends, we always need to keep reaching out to find new people so we can keep the lights on and more importantly, pretty paper on display; because I know some of you would shop with flashlights if needed.
We’ve gratefully still seen growth, but at what costs? How many hours should one person work? This year we made the bold step of hiring the staff we’ve always needed. For so many years there were not enough of us and quite frankly, we’ve always asked too much of people. Some were able to flourish and it wasn’t the right fit for others, but we are grateful for each and every one of them; thank you.
…this isn’t going where you think it’s going, we’re gearing up to kick the future’s butt!
Anyhow back to my “You’ve Got Mail” analogy…in that movie the behemoth FOX Books essentially put that mom-and-daughter shop out of business. Who is FOX Books in 2019? It would be easy to say Amazon, and that’s not wrong. Mom says it’s, “people are buying things online,” as if she just found out the internet was invented, and she’s not wrong about online shopping (just in her timeliness). We’ve experimented with print advertising over the years, but it is soo expensive and is all about hitting the right people; are those people even reading it anymore? Gratefully word-of-mouth has been our second biggest ally, though on the flip-side we also have people that come in and say, “I don’t tell my friends about the shop so I can save it for myself!” While I’m flattered, pleeeeeease do NOT do that!! Instead, bring them with you. You’ll still always be able to find something special without keeping it a secret, we promise!
In my opinion, the biggest single challenge…
…that little brick-and-mortar shops face, like us at Lovely Somethings, is simply technology. Every time we are ready to re-launch our online shop, the platform changes and we have to rebuild, leaving us with that “one step forward, twenty steps back” feeling over and over again.
When it comes to publicity, Instagram has been our #1 baby. I still don’t know the magic to get us to 10,000 followers or 100,000 or 1 million, but we plug along day after day, doing our best to adapt to their always changing algorithms. So, while Instagram has always felt like it was here to help the little guy (AKA, us!) it now seems to have it out for us in recent months. I won’t pretend to know how it works, but we now get fewer likes, fewer new followers and the unfortunate ultimate reality is that we have fewer new customers walking through the door. And it’s not just us, all of our small business buddies are facing the same frustration. I will say it again and again we are sooo grateful for each and every one of you, but we need new CUSTOMERS, not just fans. Without them, when I have to reassess after the holidays as January, February and March are staring me in the face, the answer may not be the same as now, as WE ARE STAYING OPEN and so looking forward to the rest of 2019. We’re putting everything into making the Shop the absolute best it can be! Here are just a few things we have up our sleeves, AND PLEASE READ UNTIL THE VERY END, BECAUSE YOU CAN HELP, EVEN IN JUST THE SMALLEST WAYS…
Exciting things in store for the remainder of 2019:
- Brand new e-commerce shop (with an in-store pickup feature!!): check it out: lovelysomethingsshop.com
- New Lovely Somethings-designed Personal Notes collection (including wax seals)
- Troop Lovely Somethings (mysterious, but super exciting!!!!!)
- A plethora of new workshops
- Botanical Arts with Hazelmade
- Jewelry Stamping with Oceanne
- Calligraphy, both marker and dip pens with A Little After Nine
- Kids Lettering with Shemazing Designs
- Floral Arranging with The Portable Garden
- Japanese Calligraphy with Yuriko Matsuzawa
- SAVE THE DATE: 5th Birthday/Anniversary/My-God-We’ve-Made-It-This-Long celebration on Saturday, October 19th
- New plans to promote Bath and all of our wonderful shops
- We are now the exclusive distributor for Akron Candle Company candles (yes we all know it’s my husband’s company, but we are officially taking over all of the wholesaling to other shops, and hopefully the marketing 😉 )
In my late night design sessions I managed to rewatch “Friends” in its entirety. And one of my favorite episodes is when Ross is trying to get a new couch up an NYC stairwell. I’m sure someone has created a drinking game for how many times he yells, “PIVOT!” but for today, we’ll use it business-y. I could probably create a drinking game for the number of times we’ve pivoted here at Lovely Somethings, too. We never turn fully away from what we are, a modern paper boutique, but slight twists. Sometimes changes were smaller like adding the pen bar, other times much larger like placing pricey international orders to bring in unique products we *hope* you’ll love as much as we do, and adding the Loft. But gratefully our most recent pivot has been a success. Ever since we added the Loft, the back end of the shop has been a tricky beast to merchandise and people weren’t used to shopping in it as it was once the wedding domain. But we all like to eat, right? Well, the expansion of our treats has met a wonderful reception. Heck, we can barely keep the Strawberry Puffs in stock, quadrupling our order every time. Yay for candy and treats, and now another pivot…
1. If you chase two rabbits you will only catch one
Aside from my personal struggles this year, there were also allusive business decisions to be made. How do we do all of this and survive? In a Hail Mary move, we nearly opened a second location, but the developer’s proof ended up not being in the pudding (I’m annoying myself with all of the metaphors). As we investigated this option there were countless meetings about Shop vs. Weddings, we love them both, what do we do? We started this year with the plan to scale up weddings but we were unsuccessful in finding another designer, and 6+ months of working 20 hours a day, 7 days a week needed to come to an end. After much review, we are dramatically scaling back on weddings for 2020 so we can focus on all of the above plans for the shop and give me more time for those creative juices to flow. So for the next year, we are going to tackle that rabbit for all he’s worth, and continue killing it with the weddings we have booked, and get moving with the waitlist for 2021 weddings (yes, already). Just to reiterate, WE ARE NOW BOOKED FOR 2020 WEDDINGS.
And last but definitely not least:
How can you help make sure that shops like ours, Lovely Somethings, stick around?
- Our friends at Penny Post said it best: Find it Here? Buy it Here! Keep Us Here. – don’t pull out your phones and order it from somewhere else.
- When you come shopping, bring a buddy (especially one that has never been).
- Don’t “keep it a secret.”
- PLEASE TAKE PHOTOS – in the shop, of your purchases when you get home AND TAG US
- When we post things on social media, LIKE, COMMENT and SHARE. This is how we can beat insane social media algorithms and have our posts reach more and more people.
- Make a day of it. We are only 20+ minutes from Downtown Akron and 30 from Downtown Cleveland; come enjoy Bath, Ohio. We have a charming bakery, The Bake Shop in Ghent; the best butcher shop around, The Farmer’s Rail; plus other awesome shops like jewelry/home destination, The Gardener of Bath; Tadpoles & Tiddlers for the little ones; and fashion at Coquette – plus have tasty food and cocktails at Ken Stewart’s Lodge, Tre Belle; Gasoline Alley; and Lanning’s.
- Who do you love? Are their local people/influencers that you follow? Let us know! we’re working on some fun packets to send out, but we aren’t paying the Kardashians to say what’s up; we want to introduce ourselves to local peeps that are trying to spread the word about cool places in the area, and send people their way too.
- Be honest with us. If you feel like we need more kids-centric birthday cards, tell us. We take great pride in knowing you by name and all we want is to make you happy, and we notice when we haven’t seen you in a while.
- Make someone’s day. Buy a $5 gift card and slide it in their cubicle. They can get a couple of the best pens in all the world here for that, and it will put a smile on their face at your thoughtfulness and hopefully again when they enter our pink walls.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you. If you’ve stepped in our doors, thank you. If this LONG page of honesty compels you to come shop, thank you. But I’m going to take it a step further, set a reminder on your phone: how often would shopping here make you smile? Every three months? Once a month to get cards for the next few weeks? Every Saturday, after the farmers market? The reminder isn’t a commitment, just a way to think about us, as we need the repeat business and our loyal shoppers. We need you to drive that extra mile for the perfect card, or we may not be here when you remember on your own.
Because of you, we exist.– Liz