An Open Letter to shop owners by Ginger Wyatt


         In the beginning I was a purist when it came to my shop owners. As a miniaturist, I thought miniature shops should only be for miniaturists. Quite naive.  In the face of the economy and the rising costs of doing business, competition, etc. I have made almost a 180 degree turn. It happened slowly at first, then the realization that there are only so many shops doing business hit, and hit hard. Years ago I took an advertising course and learned that the local hardware store doesn’t just sell a bucket of paint. It also sells brushes, rollers, drop cloths, maybe a ladder or two.  Our times have changed and I feel very strongly that in order to continue many of you have/or will in the near future consider other related craft/hobby areas to include. One of the positive reasons to make some changes is represented in the buying public. When the baby boomers reach 60 they can begin pulling out a lot of money. Often well educated, well traveled, sophisticated, with time on their hands and an inborn desire to create, they are out there waiting for us.  The possible additions are, among others: trains in various scales, other scale miniatures (2-3”=1’), dolls, doll making, doll dressing, sculpting, teddy bears, model planes and cars, horses in miniature, craft supplies, animals, jewelry, antiques, other hobby areas like remote controlled aircraft, candle making , seasonal or continuous decorations (particularly Christmas), needle craft, knitting, stencils/paint (both oil and acrylic) and gifts in general. Another possibility that might make your shop unique is local artisan pieces (hopefully reasonably priced).

Yet another possibility, if there is another store in your area barely hanging on, what about getting together, twice the inventory, possibly half the work. More capital. More ideas.

How do we entice the public to take part in contests that are advertised, both our scale and larger.  Most localities are teeming with talent whose work is never seen, those artists both buy supplies and bring friends and family in. Give some materials to the local fine art center and ask that they thank you in their program. Hand cards out at art and craft festivals (print the map to your shop on the reverse side of the card). Consider putting up a small display.

Begin programs: scouts need projects, church school camps need projects, elementary schools need low cost projects for different areas. Begin an after school for a small number of interested kids.  Don’t forget baby shower presents, wedding presents and decorations, Christmas and all other holidays (include ethnic ones). What about the elderly who are still reasonably sound and who have good manual dexterity (hope that is all of us!!) for an early afternoon class. What about people who just want to get out and experiment in different media without tying up their entire home and purse. Don’t forget a small area for high school project equipment like slides, wood etc for architectural models for drafting classes. Christmas presents for the high school age group. There are also clubs who may be looking for a place to meet- miniature, gem, trains of various scales, dolls etc,.

 OK. How? Set up a schedule for classes, being careful to consider the times people are available. Place the calendar where the public can see it. If possible set off an area of the shop, towards the back, for 2-3 8’ tables. Eventually- shelving for supplies, closed shelving for in-the-works-projects (make doors of plywood panels that can be locked). A TV –VCR area with places for cassettes of taped or purchased demonstrations. A blackboard or a place to write instructions or diagrams. A copier in the area. A small refrigerator. A clean up area ( with bucket then sink {remember  plaster hardens in pipes}).  A radio with the volume on low as background music.  A place for coats, purses.  Look carefully at the hobby areas you represent and be sure to have the necessary supplies.  

You might look at your employees or your customers for teachers in the various areas.

Quite honestly, I have absolutely no idea whether this will work, hopefully I have given you enough to think about and possibly find something, or a combination that will work for you and make your shop more unique and much more special….a place where people really want to come, not just to buy glue……


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