Archive for the ‘The Big Idea’ Category

Golden August 2015 News

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

MacPherson’s B-T-S Buyer’s Guide

Be sure to take a look at the new Back-to-School Buyer’s Guide from MacPherson’s to see the latest promotional offerings for GOLDEN Acrylics, Williamsburg Oils and QoR® Watercolors!

Don’t Miss Out! Digital Assets Available to Promote Buy Big & Save!

The Buy Big & Save promotion highlights GOLDEN’s pricing model, which provides more value to artists each time they step up in size. This fall, Golden is focusing that message on larger sizes of High Flow Acrylics. Ounce for ounce, artists can save up to 40% when they buy a 4 oz. High Flow instead of 1 oz.

Digital assets, including the images from this communication, are available through Marketplace, your MacPherson’s Account Manager, GOLDEN Sales Representative, or GOLDEN Customer Service.


Social Media content is also available, such as…

Facebook & Google+:

BUY BIG, SAVE BIG, and HAVE PAINT WHEN YOU NEED IT! Buying GOLDEN High Flow Acrylics in larger sizes saves money and ensures you have paint on hand when the creative mood strikes.


BUY BIG & SAVE with GOLDEN High Flow Acrylics. As size goes up, cost per ounce goes down. Save 20-40% per ounce by moving up a size!

Also available for in-store promotion:

M015183 Buy Big & Save High Flow Shelf POP FREE Until September 11, 2015
M015103 Buy Big & Save High Flow Product Sticker FREE Until September 11, 2015
M015168 Size Up & Save Magnet FREE Until September 11, 2015

ADB August BBS2015_4ozHFwStick

Just Paint #33 Hitting Mailboxes and Websites Late September!

In the latest issue of Just Paint GOLDEN shares news about QoR® Watercolors and the line’s inaugural year. They continue to inform readers about lightfastness testing results of these materials and Williamsburg Oils. Sarah Sands shares these insights and necessary changes that are being made to assure artists that these materials also meet the highest quality standards.

Amy McKinnon, a talented Materials Specialist, who recently left GOLDEN to begin a new venture, contributed to two articles in this issue: The Allure of Umber Pigments and The Safe Use of Oils, With and Without Solvent.

GOLDEN’s Working Artist Program Director Patti Brady has written a quick review of the endless creative opportunities offered by the new A-Z Acrylics set.

Mark Golden takes some time in this issue to introduce GOLDEN’s newest Materials Specialist, Dr. Cathy Jennings, who is an amazing watercolorist and teacher.

GOLDEN is delighted to announce the September opening of Judith Linhares, ‘Flora and Fauna’ at The SAGG.

Lastly, in this issue GOLDEN celebrates their second year working with the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers. This year we offered residencies for three teachers advancing their own painting practice. Be sure to check this article out as well!

Look for these articles in late September at Just Paint. If you’re interested in receiving the electronic version of Just Paint, go to

Urban Art Opportunity: Check out this NAMTA Seminar!

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Click here for more details

Strathmore’s New Online Workshop Series for 2012

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Strathmore Artist Papers™ is excited to announce its 2012 Online Workshop Series which will begin January 1, 2012.  This program reflects Strathmore’s commitment to offer consumer promotions that help drive retail sales by creating awareness of new products that inspire artists to create.

The free workshop series will feature experienced instructors using a variety of media and materials to teach three different workshops topics: Mixed Media Art, Watercolor Sketching and Life Drawing.  Each workshop includes instructional videos, downloadable instruction sheets and inspirational tips from the instructor.

Strathmore is collaborating with art instructors Traci Bautista, Cathy Johnson and Mike Mattesi and Stevens 470 Marketing & Creative to develop the online workshops.

Last year, Strathmore’s 2011 Visual Journal Online Workshops attracted over 8,600 students and earned the NAMTA 2011 Business Innovation Award.

Strathmore is offering a versatile, tear off flyer pad for retailers to use to promote the workshops.  Retailer benefits are numerous: Inspire artists to create more art, more often; increase sales as consumers purchase from class supply lists; drive store visits each time a new workshop is released; and use educational content to create their own event or workshop.

Visit Strathmore Artist Paper’s web site to order your tear off flyer pad today!

Your MacPherson’s sales representative has all the tools and information you’ll need to help start planning your own event or workshop.


Big Idea: Art Supply Stores, Claim Your Google Search Results!

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

ypBack in the day new customers looking for local products and services let their fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages.  Those days are not quite over, but consider this; over 80% of people are now using web search engines to get their local shopping information.


That means Google, Yahoo, Bing & are a new consumer’s gateway to your store. To underscore the point, Google according to comScore/TMP, grew its local search market share from 15% in June 2008 to 26% in June 2009. As these numbers grow, are you getting your rightful piece of the local search traffic? All of these sites want to offer the most useful and accurate information as possible, but gone are the days when a sales rep from the phone company would proof your listing and help you sort out the best image approach that’s custom tailored for your store. The good news is that a basic listing for all the most popular search sites is free. That allows you to write your story, post photos, videos, store website link, operating hours, services offered, and more. The possibly not-so-good news is you are required to “pump your own gas.” More to the point, if you want the best results, you’ll have to do your homework. Getting this simple and free listing right has the power to make or break a retail business dependent on the local market.

Here is a basic check list for turning this opportunity into something huge:

1. Business Information on the Web Must be Consistent, Accurate, and Up-to-Date

Google relies on information it finds on the Internet to improve the relevancy of their results. Customer reviews and mentions of your business information on the web play a big role in how Google ranks listings — it is important that Google associates them with your business. Inconsistencies in how your local business is presented online can make this impossible, which in turn can significantly reduce your local search visibility. Risk factors that can trigger inconsistencies are change of address, phone number or business name.  At the end of the day you want to eliminate all inconsistencies.

2. Claim and Verify Your Business Listing

Amazingly, most local business listings have not yet been claimed. Hey, it’s free to do, so there’s no excuse. We’ve provided links to the top search sites below. Google relies on business owners to keep information up-to-date and accurate via Google Places.

3. Categorize Creatively to Increase Your Search Results

Proper categorization in Google Maps is essential to matching consumer needs to your store’s unique mix. It can make a difference between a poor listing and a great one. Google will suggest categories as you type and you will have to use one or more of those predefined categories to classify your business. Examples that fit classic art materials stores are: Art Supplies, Painting‎‎, Drawing‎‎, Crafts & Kids‎‎, Graphic Arts & Cutting‎‎, Paper‎‎, Board & Films‎‎, Books & Video‎, but you can also create custom categories such as art instruction, encaustic supplies, urban art, spray paint,  graffiti, etc. When choosing custom categories think about the words a customer would use to find a specific type of product or service you offer.

4. Your Store’s Description Entry is Important

The description field should be used to emphasize what is unique about your business and to inspire trust. All that, in less than 200 characters! Having something remarkable about the business in the description is a must. Maybe you have the oldest company in your town, or your staff features practicing artists. Take great care with this critical field.

5. Pictures and Videos

Images and videos are ideal tools for making listings compelling and bringing their conversion rates up. Google allows 10 images and 5 videos to be added to your listing. Some types of images that would help your listing in many ways are: Company logo, key brands carried, pictures of the store, logos of trade associations like NAMTA you belong to, any video of the store or interviews, etc…

6. Details (Hours of Operation, Payment Options, Additional Details)

7. Coupons Get Results!

Coupons are a great way to promote products and services, however in Google Maps they are possibly the only reliable way to track business generated by your Google listing. It doesn’t have to be fancy:  store logo, one time discount, a place for the customer’s name and email address plus a disclaimer like “one per customer, only” will cover the basics.

8. Spread the Word

Even Google recommends this one. Strive to get your local business information mentioned on other web sites:  local art societies, Facebook or any trusted website. Google claims that they rely on mentions of your business information on the web to improve the quality of search results. That means the more mentions of your business on the web Google associates with your listing more certain they are that your business is real, in operation, and important. Google rewards this with greater local search visibility.

9. Get Reviewed

Reviews and Web citations (mentions of your business) are extremely important for similar reasons. Encourage reviews on Yelp, Google, Yahoo, Bing or other search engines and make it easy for people to review you. Make it a part of your routine to ask for reviews from happy customers and point them in the right direction. You can also ask for reviews in your email signature, business cards, on the bills you send out, etc.

10. Consider Using Special Marketing Services

Offered by Google and others, services like AdWords can optimize your search engine results to get noticed more. This can be especially valuable if you are located in a large metro area where there are many choices in art and craft supply retailers.

Here are a few more online resources for claiming your store’s very own Google business listing:

Google Places How To and Support Guide

Add a Google Places Listing

Google Places Start Page

Bing local listing center

Bing Listings How-To Guide

Add a Bing Listing

Add a Listing


If you’d like to see a great “real life” example of claiming your Google Business listing, type “art supplies, 94103” into the Google search box. This mirrors what a consumer living in San Francisco’s zip code 94103 might do if they were looking for their options for buying art supplies in their neighborhood.  Note that the top unpaid choice is Flax on Market Street. Now click on the More Info link next to the store name. You’ll find concise description of what makes this store unique, photos, videos, reviews, and more. Now that’s helpful and compelling!

The Big Idea: Sell More by Seeing Your Store Through Customers’ Eyes

Friday, August 21st, 2009

andersonkareHere is an article from a recent Small Business Trends blog by Kare Anderson that seems particularly timely given the huge challenges facing all sizes and shapes of brick and mortar retailers.

How often have you entered a store. . .
* And observed two clerks continue to chat instead of turning to smile at you?
* To find that the order you called in the day before is not at the counter, ready for your quick pick-up and payment, because the clerk said she “got busy with other customers?”
* And asked the clerk a question about a product and get an “I don’t know” response, with no offer to find out?

These situations describe Americans’ top three in-store pet peeves according to a multi-client Gallup Poll taken in January.
In a stressful economic time, coddle customers to keep them.  In fact, give them bragging rights about “my store” so they come back and tell others.
Next to value-priced quality products, a motivated staff is the most cost-effective way to stand out from the competition while avoiding costly price wars. So many no-cost and low-cost staff behaviors can make all the difference in how a customer feels about your store.  The devil is in the specifics because even the most well-intentioned staffer may unwittingly slight someone.

As customer service expert, Holly Stuhl is fond of saying, “You never get bitten by an elephant.  It’s the mosquitoes that eat you alive.”
Just as a cultural group has commonly recognized rules of etiquette, your store staff can agree on the specific behaviors that constitute “good store manners” – with each other and with customers.
If everyone in your store agrees to propose and abide by specific  “Rules of Conduct,” (ROC) then each staffer knows what is expected and can feel it is appropriate to speak up when a co-worker, including the owner or manager, is not abiding by them or is demonstrating outstanding customer service, according to their “ROC.”

For a brainstorming session with your staff to agree on your outlet’s “Rules of Conduct” here’s some suggestions to jumpstart the discussion:

1. “Welcoming Smile”
Smile at each customer immediately as she enters the door. Their instinct will be to smile back. Safeway asked their clerks to smile at customers and some staff accused the company of trying to “enforce friendliness.”  Some women on staff even said that smiling encouraged some male customers to flirt with them.
Hopefully your staff feels comfortable in their ability to smile as a gracious gesture of welcome.

2.  “Agree on Your Greeting”
Rather than leave greeting to chance, consider various phrases you think are fitting for your kind of store and market area.  Compare notes on what feels comfortable to say to demonstrate that you are willing to help if they need it.
There is a fine line between greeting and overwhelming customers. Avoid opening phrases that don’t recognize their purpose in visiting the store, such commenting on the weather.

3. “Sunshine Over the Phone”
The four most frequent complaints Americans have about talking clerks with whom they speak by phone are that they:
* Speak too fast
* Do not enunciate clearly
* Do not sound like they care
* Do not propose ways to solve a problem but simply answer the questions they are asked
Agree on the exact greeting and tone of voice for answering your store phone.  Some people on staff may resist spending time on a seemingly obvious and small detail, but, like the first face customers see upon entering a store, the “faceless” voice over the phone is the “stain” or “sparkle” of first impression.
For example, you may simply agree to say warmly and clearly, without speed talking, “(name of store), (your name) speaking.  How may I help you?”  Ask each staff person to practice saying your agreed upon phone greetings and give candid feedback to each other about clarity, warm, loudness, tone and rate.
In a chain of Italian clothing stores, clerks are asked to listen to audiotapes of melodic, rich male and female voices, saying the greetings that the store owner believes most represents the signature style of the store.
Practice with each other until you are proud of what you hear.

4. “No Matter What”
No matter what else you are doing, from re-stocking a shelf to talking with another customer, pause to smile at the new customer entering the store to acknowledge their presence.  It only takes a moment.
If you are with a customer when a new customer enters the store, still take a moment to smile and greet that new customer, perhaps saying “Hello.  I’d be glad to help you right after we’re done here.”
Research shows that people are more willing to wait for service if they feel that the moment they can see the clerk, the clerk makes direct eye contact and acknowledges their presence by a smile, nod and some greeting.

5. “Serve the Line”
Serve people in the order that they have asked for service.  If one customer interrupts you while you are serving another customer, be especially warm as you turn to the “interrupter” and say something like, “I look forward to helping you right after I’m finished assisting this customer.  Thank you.”

6. “Advance Orders”
Actively encourage your customers to place advance orders by phone, fax or e-mail, indicating what is adequate time for you to prepare the order in advance of their coming in.
Even if people walk into the store as you are preparing that order, greet the newcomers and explain that you are completing a prior order.
Tell them how long it will take and ask for their patience, because you will be with them next.

7. “Their Go-to Expert on That Situation”
Become your customers’ top-of-mind subject matter expert. When people come into browse, ask if they would like some suggestions for their particular situation.  If they would like such assistance, ask sufficient questions so that you know something about the budget, the customer’s feelings and needs for the situation and what kind of similar products they or their friends have used and liked in the past.
Understanding the big picture of how the customer sees their situation helps you advise them more specifically and thoughtfully.

8. “Specific Sampling Scripts”
Invite customers to participate, to offer advice and to learn.
Every action someone takes on behalf of a prospective sale moves him closer to buying. Set a standard of always having something to sample, ask about, offer suggestions for or otherwise take action on.
For example, a gourmet store might offer samplings. Set the food to be sampled on a counter near a staffer.  That way the staff person can offer samples and engage in conversation, perhaps asking a question or making an offer. Art supply stores store might have a demo area.
Asking for advice starts a dialogue where the focus is on the product not on someone trying to get another person to buy. That gourmet store staffer might ask:
* (While holding a platter of sausage slices with toothpicks and three bowls of various flavored mustards): Would you mind telling me which mustard you think goes best with our new smoked chicken and apple sausages?”
* “Do you think this cheese is soft enough to serve on the kind of crackers you use?”
* (Holding a platter with three bowls of slices of different kinds of cookies, with stand up cards in front of each with the names of the cookies on them): Want to guess which one of these cookies is our best seller?”

9. “Would You like French Fries With That?”
Just as McDonalds instructs its staff to suggest additional food items, such as drinks or fries with each order, you can establish a low-key and helpful standard for making suggestions of products that would go with each other for a meal, a gift or other special situation.
If in-store displays involve a combination of products for a timely occasion, staff will find it easier to refer to product combinations to buy as a bundle.

10. “Cross-Sell to Stand Out and to Sell More”
Let customers literally see a situation in which they’d enjoy using several of your products, as a natural extension of their lifestyle – or the life to which they now want to become accustomed. Stage a scene on a table or shelves or in the window. Sometimes include products from a partner’s store to complete the picture of that situation.

In short, encourage more spending in your store by reducing the number of boring or irritating steps to do so and increasing the number of positive in-store moments and reasons to buy.

The Big Idea: The 3/50 Project to Help Independent Neighborhood Retailers

Friday, April 17th, 2009

371192861v1_350x350_backWe just received this timely article from Jay Rice at Creative Catalog Concepts showcasing a wonderful grass roots idea to promote  independent, locally owned and operated “brick & mortar” retail businesses. Have a read. You might find it to be something of interest that may help your  business engage customers in this challenging economic environment. Participation costs nothing but a positive attitude!

The 3/50 Project: Saving the Brick and Mortars Our Nation Was Built On

By Cinda Baxter, Founder of The 3/50 Project

No one needs to tell storefront retailers times are tough; truth be told, you were the first ones to see the mysterious tea leaves, being the closest connection to consumers. As early as last June, stores began seeing serious drops in revenue. Last fall’s “fall” was just the next chapter.

As if that wasn’t enough, you now find yourself stretched across two battlefields—the economy…and the mainstream media, who seems to be hell bent on painting as bleak a picture as possible. Not only does it depress you each time the news comes on, but it depresses your customers, and we all know depressed customers don’t spend.

In the words of Erin Burnett, business news anchor for MSNBC (and my new favorite media voice), “I do think a lot of this is psychology,” referring to how determined the media seems to be to make things sound as hopeless as possible. “I’ve been collecting words the media has been using to describe the crisis: carnage, apocalypse, bleeding, hemorrhaging, crash. There is something to be said for a loss of perspective and a sense of hyperbole that’s taken over.”

Hear, hear.

Folks, it’s time the message changed, and if the media’s not going to do it…well…. Tell me again—who is it that’s closest to the consumer? Who’s going to lift them up and empower them? Yup. You.

Enter The 3/50 Project.

In a nutshell, The 3/50 Project is built on a simple concept—consumer loyalty to independent storefront businesses equals stronger local economies.

Yes, that’s the same message you’ve heard from Buy Local organizations for years. But this has a twist—it’s easy, it’s free, it’s something you can put into motion in under five minutes…and customers love it.

Here’s how it works: You visit, download a free flyer, print some out on your color desktop printer, then hand them to customers with their purchases while thanking them for shopping with you. That’s right. No sales pitch. No annual dues. No complexity of any kind. It’s simple…which is probably why it’s taken off like a rocket.

The flyer does all the talking, staring with it’s tag line: Pick 3. Spend 50. Save your local economy:

Pick three locally owned stores you’d miss if they disappeared, then return to them. Say hello. Pick up a little something that will make someone smile. Those purchases are what keeps those businesses around.
If just half the employed US population committed to spending $50 in locally owned stores each month, it would generate more than $42.6 billion in revenue. Imagine what would happen if 3/4 of them did that.
For every $100 spent in locally owned stores, $68 returns to the local economy through payroll taxes, property taxes, sales tax, payroll, and other business related expenditures. When purchasing from a chain or franchise, that amount drops to $43; if it’s spent online, nothing comes home.
The key to making this pop is to hand the flyer directly to the customer, not just stash it in the bottom of the bag. Consumers are desperate for someone to tell them they’re appreciated; when you look them in the eye, smile, and thank them personally, things begin to happen. They become more loyal. They tell their friends what a great store you have. They go home and read the flyer, “get” how much control they have over saving a business and saving a community, then start spreading the word.

This is empowerment and evangelistic marketing at its best. And you reap the benefits.

Since the idea first popped up in a blog post mid-March, The 3/50 Project has taken off like a rocket. Not only do retailers “get it,” but so do their community counterparts. Store owners are forwarding them to other types of locally owned businesses. Property management companies are printing them out for all their tenants. Community groups and business organizations are doing the same. There’s even a movie theater in North Carolina showing this on their screens before films begin. Magazines and blogs—both in and outside the gift industry—have recognized the positive impact, and have sung its praises while also praising small business everywhere.

Participants and other supporters of The 3/50 Project will be listed on a special page (as soon as the full site is built out, currently in production), as well as given a member icon for use on their websites and Facebook pages. Window banners are planned…a copy of the flyer suitable for web use on blogs or sites is already available…and that lovely movie screen version is, of course, yours if you need it.

The more visibility, the more consumers who understand the importance of remaining loyal to locally owned stores, then purchasing there.

After all…isn’t that really the goal to begin with?

To learn more about The 3/50 Project or download the free flyer, visit

Strategies to Win in the Down Economy

Thursday, March 12th, 2009

economyUSA retailers are facing challenging times that rival anything seen in a lifetime. For the first time, it seems the art supply retail sector is no longer immune from the broader trend. In this dreary environment it’s refreshing to witness new thinking and creative approaches. The best merchants in our industry are clearly not satisfied to grumble or leave their fate to chance. Instead they are undertaking an urgent search for approaches and strategies that will ensure survival and with patience, success. The customer counts and average ticket may be down, but top retailers realize that this situation is temporary. In managing core resources such as personnel and inventory it is critical to maintain the positive outward image of business as usual.  If the shelves look half empty or there is no one to answer questions, the customer gets the message loud and clear, “Do your shopping somewhere else”.
dsc00085_2MacPherson’s core advantage to retailers is our ability to ship small quantities from a huge vendor selection at warp speed.  This allows for high customer satisfaction with a resulting low inventory investment through reduced minimum “presentation quantities” and quick stock recovery. In these times this strategy may seem like a “no brainer”, but it is actually smart in the long-term, too.  We call it “buying for the best total value”. Look at it this way; the price you pay for goods is not the only cost associated with inventory buying. Ask Bruce Merrifield, the “guru of TPC,” or Total Procurement Cost. Bruce has identified 11 elements of buying that range from fill rates & buying costs to lost opportunities & carrying costs. While, to a lot of buyers, searching for the best deal usually means the lowest price, there are added financial factors that need to be weighed. Understanding all the procurement costs and deploying ways to reduce them can pay big dividends. The simplest example is the time it takes to delivery and fill rate. If it takes a month to order, deliver and receive, and only 75% of what is ordered arrives in the shipment, how many sales will be lost and how many consumers will leave the store discouraged? Even if the fill rates on the direct orders are higher than 75%, most retailers have to wait to get up to the minimums for free freight and that lag time adds to the potential for customer-frustrating out of stocks.

So, what’s the appeal of the large order purchasing concept?
outofboxpicOld thinking: When you’re small you buy from distributors because you can’t meet the manufacturers’ minimums. When you graduate to the “big leagues,” you buy everything you can for price because you need the margin to compete. When you’ve “arrived”, small and frequent orders are just for “fill-ins.”
New Paradigm: Art supply stores are full of slow moving items. “Large order” minimums for all but a handful of products will last months if not years on the shelf. Slow inventories choke growth and profits. Concentrate direct buying energy on the few SKUs that really move and use “just in time”, “turn & earn” methods to get rid of all excess items. When you reach this state of “Inventory Nirvana,” distributors like MacPherson’s are the only true partner you have!
The new paradigm has produced impressive results for art supply retailers because its primary focus is on having just enough inventory to last until the next order arrives rather than an arbitrary amount dictated by supplier minimums or buyers convenience. The problem of inventory management is particularly tricky for art supplies. MacPherson’s stocks 32,000 items. The fastest 1,500 items by dollar volume account for 49.6% of our sales.  The next 4,500 add up to 30% of sales. Proof that the 80/20 law holds true… that is 80% of our sales come from 20% of the items. Take a look around your store. Our bet is the 80/20 rule works there too. The top items or “Triple A’s” are what your customers measure you by.

Consider this: The average art supply store turns its inventory 2.2 times per year or 5.5 months worth of the typical item on hand at any given moment. If your inventory is worth $300,000 at cost and you improve turns to 4 turns, the bankable savings is an incredible $135,000! Why not earn interest or pursue another market niche with plenty of “liquid” resources.

Leave nothing to chance: If you are like us, your business is your life and needs to be guarded and cared for with the best partnerships available. It’s just too important to leave to emotional or capricious decision making. Our fast fulfillment and high fill rates are the result of a rock solid commitment to keeping the industry‘s highest-tech distribution centers, the best purchasing staff and an uninterrupted flow of goods from the manufacturers. All of this requires MacPherson’s to have rock solid financial strength.

So the next time you are tempted to put a large order out to bid consider a few of Bruce Merrifield’s TPC factors. Is the lowest price all-important or do inventory turn and fill rate issues have a much greater impact on your bottom line? If you want help in evaluating these points, remember that MacPherson’s professional sales representatives are skilled in the process and full of positive ideas. Working with us can be a modern business partnership at its best!

Big Idea: Time to “Dial Down the SKUs”?

Monday, January 5th, 2009

While all retailers are wrestling with what this recession will mean to consumer spending patterns in the months ahead, Karla Martin, a partner with Booz & Co. says savvy retailers are sifting through spending data to learn how they can use the downturn to their advantage – redefining the way they serve their core audiences.

Karla says it’s all about smart allocation – stores devoting more space to what consumers want, and limiting the offerings that simply get in their way. Done well, it boosts profits and customer satisfaction. In fact, Booz says it’s the biggest trend in retailing since the Big Box. In a blog article at MediaPost entitled “Sales Down? Time To Dial Down The SKUs”, Martin explains how companies can reallocate resources and win new customers, even at a time when business is down.

What do customers want from retailers? Obviously it depends on types of store, but in general, there’s a widespread consumer frustration out there, with many shoppers feeling there are too many choices, presented in a way that’s needlessly complicated.

So in apparel, they want stores to be curators. You don’t go to a museum to see every landscape ever painted – you want to see things from the 18th-century pastoral school. They want that kind of editing. They want retailers to stock brands that show they understand a certain lifestyle, especially now, coming off five years of hard-core brand identification.

In art supply stores, they see way too many SKUs. In a given year the average household buys far fewer than the 10,000 offered at the average art supply retailer. Many stores have seen category sales go up 25 to 50% when they streamline – consumers don’t necessarily want to see ten brands of oil color and seven lines of sable watercolor brush.

It’s standard operating procedure for larger stores to schedule time to review their over all product offering, make some hard decisions and pare back slow moving lines and inventory through the process of a clearance sale. Chain stores call this “editing the mix”. In some cases it can be the end of a noble experiment such as a new color line that did not catch on or a collection of individual items throughout the store that seem to be collecting dust. It is a fact of life in retailing that the popularity of items is generally short lived. Consumers want their favorite stores to constantly re-invigorate their product selection as well and after all, the market can only support so many full ranges of color lines such as watercolor, oil and acrylic. When this time comes, strong and decisive action is called for. If you don’t, not only is valuable space being under-utilized, but more importantly, the financially resources that could be used to bring customers into the store are tied up unnecessarily in under-performing products.

So is it as simple as cutting back on the products that don’t sell? No, it really takes careful analysis and tough decisions. Sometimes, when stores make cuts based on the “numbers”, they can wind up cutting off their nose to spite their face. A consumer buying regularly from a slow moving line of paint may turn out to be a teacher who gets turned off by the store and sends her students down the street.

Chains also need to figure out what’s missing. In some stores, Kroger now sells milk in three-quarter-gallon containers for people who found a gallon too big and half-gallon too small.

Is the recession actually changing consumer behavior, or are they the same, and just spending less? They’re spending differently, possibly less interested in new for newness’ sake, but open to products that can help them get better creative results. Consumers are buying less, and part of the reason is that they are being choosy. There are trends to take into account; Manga and Aerosol can not be denied. If you are hanging on to marginal product at the expense of trend or growth categories you need to reassess your judgment and priorities. If not, you and your store run a huge risk of being left behind.

We’ve taken note of the steps needed to “edit the mix” and detailed a simple “outline for action” to help you get started:

Analyze: Use available data. POS if you have it, or a MacPherson’s AOD report. What’s the AOD report? We track all customer purchases for 12 months and we have a nifty report that shows all items ordered, how many bought and how many times each item appeared on an order. Look for too many duplicate lines in the same merchandise category. Make sure you end up with enough variety to satisfy the customers who shop your store.

Watch items within a line: Sizes of brushes, colors in a range… It is a common mistake for newcomers to the art supply world to look at the rate of sale figures for specific colors and conclude that 1/2 the line should be closed out. The reality is that some of the colors that are required on a class list have such tinting strength that the literally last forever and are rarely re-bought. If a store discontinues any in this category they will almost certainly lose the all important art class business.

Condense space: Once the decisions are made, plan the “exit strategy” to make room for new items and categories. It is generally better to move close outs to a special area of the store such as right inside the front door.

Conduct a clearance sale: A big sign in the front window says it all. Informally run a “tag sale” for a few weeks and then move it to tables in the front of the store.

Learn lessons for the items that did not work. And watch out for making the same mistakes.

What to choose when space and resources are freed up? Red hot Montana Cans, Manga, STABILO POS impulse pens? We can help and don’t be bashful, ask your MacPherson’s sales representative for your own AOD list.

Big Idea – Aerosol Art Brings a Community Together

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Recently, MacPherson’s collaborated with an Oakland-based local arts & entertainment paper called the East Bay Express in an effort to promote understanding and appreciation of aerosol art as a valid and upcoming art form.

The East Bay Express first held a newspaper box painting event. An invitation was extended to 40 local artists to come out to the Oakland Museum on a Sunday in June, and paint a newspaper box using Montana Gold spray paint. Seasoned users and artists new to painting by spray can shared the full spectrum of 91 colors to create their own unique works of art. The newspaper boxes turned out amazing, and they’ll be placed at highly trafficked areas in the local community for all to enjoy, becoming eye-catching functional works of public art.

Before placing the finished boxes out in the community, they were exhibited at the Oakland Museum in July during the East Bay Express “Best of the Bay” party. This was a nighttime event that was free to the public and featured live music, dancing, art vendors, food & beverage vendors, a skateboard demo area, as well as community groups. In addition, 4 local aerosol artists did a live mural painting on Art Alternatives canvas. There was also a Montana/ Art Alternatives booth, where people could come and get their name done graffiti style with Montana Hardcore markers on a 12”x12” Art Alternatives canvas free of charge by a local artist. People of all ages lined up for over an hour just to get their own personal piece of art to take home!

The party was attended by a few thousand people, who enjoyed themselves by eating, drinking, and dancing the night away surrounded by incredible works of aerosol art!

Big Idea: Word of Mouth Marketing

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

Word of Mouth
Our ace Southern California sales representative Dawn McKay reported recently that a customer promoted a store-wide sale through the social networking website called Facebook and saw a 30% sales lift. This got me thinking about how independent retailers can market their stores through cheap or free avenues in these very challenging times. I keep tabs on trends in small business by subscribing to various free news services available on the web. One recent article that I read was “Why Word-of-Mouth Should Be Core to Your Business”. In brief, the author lays out the case for why word of mouth or viral marketing is so much easier for small business to employ than the chains. After all, owners of independent stores generally have regular contact with customers and are the best messengers for communicating the virtues of the business.

While this article did not exactly lay out a plan for mounting a word of mouth campaign, it did direct me to a web site that specializes in this clever art. They are called the Word of Mouth Marketing Association and you can find their web address below.

Word of mouth is…
• The voice of the customer
• A natural, genuine, honest process
• People seeking advice from each other
• Consumers talking about products, services or brands they have experienced

Word of mouth marketing is…recognizing that a happy customer is the greatest endorsement!

The bottom line is it’s all about creating customer enthusiasm instead of pushing marketing messages:
• Focusing on customer satisfaction
• Improving product quality and usability
• Responding to concerns and criticism
• Opening a dialog and listening to people
• Earning customer loyalty

Want more information on this form of marketing that seems ideally suited to independent retailers? Check out these web resources:

Wikipedia on Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM)

Entrepreneur Dotcom Article

Word of Mouth Marketing Association

The Big Idea – Artist Trading Cards

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

Big trends have a way of sneaking up on you and Artist Trading Cards (ATCs) are no exception. What are we talking about? ATCs are miniature pieces of art that are traded around the world. Artists create, trade and collect art at organized swap events, either in person or online. The only official rule is that the trading card measures 2.5″ x 3.5″.

The movement started in 1997, when M. Vanci Stirnemann, a Swiss artist, created 1,200 cards by hand as part of an exhibit. On the exhibit’s last day, he invited others to create their own cards and trade with him during the closing reception. The movement has skyrocketed and many other artists now organize major “swap” events. Today, there are ATC swaps online and in almost every major city around the world. ATCs are traded, not sold. However, there are some artists who chose to sell cards. Cards that are sold are called Art Card Editions or Originals (ACEOs).

Of course you could always make your own cards, but Strathmore has made it easy by developing a line of Artist Trading Cards – downsized versions of the same Strathmore papers that artists use for their full-sized art, conveniently cut to the official trading size – to help retailers take advantage of this huge opportunity. Because all the rest of the materials needed to create the cards are staples of any art store, these blanks make it easy for artists to join this large and growing movement. The cards are available for a range of mediums – drawing, watercolor, acrylic, oils and mixed media collage.

Here are some ideas for jumpstarting your store’s success with ATCs:

  • Increase store traffic and sales by organizing events such as presenting how-to sessions, organizing swap nights and sponsoring contests.
  • Make in-store signs pointing out that the small, non-intimidating size encourages artists and emerging artists to experiment and create more art so they can trade and collect with others.
  • Strategically locate signs near other categories such as small tools, dry media and paints to encourage artists to experiment with different mediums.
  • Reach out to schools, clubs and other organizations to promote the arts in the community.