What fun! I think every creative maker has a dream of opening their own storefront. A little place where you can work on your craft, while welcoming customers to shop. 3 1/2 years ago I did just that and it was so exciting! This month, I am closing it. I've been sharing a lot with people recently about my time there, what I loved about it and what I learned.
Retail vs Festival
I think the biggest thing I learned was that the Retail Life is completely different from the Festival Life. Not only for me, but for my customers. Most obviously, the high energy festival booth vibe is completely opposite the sit in a store and wait vibe. I love the rhythm of doing festivals. I work really hard, engage thousands of people, make a lot of sales, all in a few days. Then I retreat the rest of the week either into the woods if I'm traveling, or into my studio to make more clothes. I don't really enjoy having to engage the public and be "on" every day, that's why I no longer have a day job. Also I learned that my local customers I've acquired over the years at the craft shows, are not necessarily that into shopping around town. Festival people are not always Retail people. I am totally like that! I do all my shopping at shows, and I'm not much of a consumer otherwise.
Hours are Important
I knew this already. Really. So the first year I slowed down my travel, and tried hard to stick to my regular hours. I mean, I'm setting the hours right? Should be able to follow them. Yeah mostly I did pretty well that first year. I did Arts Alive nights regularly (our local monthly art walk) with musicians, bought some print ads, and the momentum was going pretty well! But for yr 2, I decided I needed to do more shows, since I wasn't yet making enough at the shop to really cover that income. And also because I realized how much I missed traveling... I thought I was ready to settle down, but not quite. So I cut my hours more, and I was gone more often. I also did my 5wk tours both in yr 2 and yr 3, so that didn't help. People would always say they came by but I was closed, or they assume I moved out (I take all the clothes with me). Who can blame them? After a couple times finding it closed, I probably wouldn’t come back either. Many have suggested paying someone to run the shop while I'm traveling, but that would require double the inventory. I'm just not that big time.
I know, it's what they always say. I think this whole thing would have done better in a busier shopping area. Even with my travels and closures. But around here there are very few tiny storefronts in the main shopping districts. Most of them are over 1k sq ft, and just too big and spendy for comfort. So my location wasn't terrible, it's in a downtown area with good businesses around it. It's just a bit off the beaten path for regular foot traffic. Many people, even into my 3rd year, would ask if I just opened. Advertising more would have helped that, but only if I was open regularly. Which I wasn't, so we're back to my last point.