Posts Tagged ‘Merchandising’

The Art Bar at Kittles Art Supply

Thursday, November 1st, 2018
Catherine Monahon, Copywriter, MacPherson’s

Like most of us in the art supply business, John Kittle wears many hats. He is the owner, manager, lead art teacher, and lead framer at Kittles Art Supply in Show Low, Arizona, nestled in the White Mountains in a tightly knit rural community. Like many mom and pop shops, moms, pops and other family members help the business survive and thrive. Running a business in a sparsely populated area presents its own set of challenges; John points out his three core business strategies: selling art supplies, offering classes (including a summer camp) and running a custom frame shop. Catering to a small community means seizing every opportunity– and creating your own opportunities. Here is where the Art Bar comes in.

MacPherson’s Account Manager Kim Cichy clued us in to an innovative try-table that John designed, built and recently installed in the shop. The experience table—or Art Bar—acts as a bridge; an overlap between the customers who frequent classes and those who spend more time in the store, a connection between the products on the shelves and the experience of creating art in your own home. The station has also increased foot traffic and positively impacted sales.

John, who is an artist and designer in his own right, designed the Art Bar on his computer with a CAD program and then collaborated with a “builder-friend,” bringing the concept to life. The bar has been designed with both the customers’ and the staff’s needs in mind. For staff, it hasa repository for replacing the product, and items can’t fall off of it and make necessary mess. Angled like a drafting table for a comfortable drawing or painting position with a catchment to prevent pens, bushes or markers from rolling away, the bar has cubbies below that stock a wide variety of surfaces for customers to select from. The flat surface at the top of the bar features holes that house various containers of brushes, markers, gel pens and more.

Curating The Menu

Staff members become Art Bar-istas of sorts—they tidy the bar, notice what works and what doesn’t. The incorporation of a Buddha Board was key. The board reacts to water, allowing customers to experiment with different brushes allowing them the opportunity to make an informed decision on their purchase.  Testing brushes and experiencing synthetic vs. natural hair, different shapes, and handle lengths- with no messy clean up, paint stains or dirty tools makes the buying experience fun and educational.

A sample menu of the most popular products for testing out at the Art Bar include:

As customers use items at the Art Bar staff maintain the supplies and switch out materials as needed. The little shelves underneath with extra materials serve as a repository for staff to pull from. If the Art Bar inspires someone to ask to try a specific product that isn’t there, John pulls the item from the shelf, no problem. This “go for it” attitude results in positive experiences and translates to sales.

The Regulars

Who frequents the bar?

“The coloring trend is still big here—so we get groups of older women who love to color coming in and they beeline for the station. I put out differents sets for them to try on Johanna Basford coloring canvases and other surfaces. The station has made a positive impact on sales because people can get to know new sets and bring them home.”

While the crafty retirees are in and out almost daily, the Art Bar is just as popular with teens. On Fridays in their community, schools are either a half day or not in session at all. John has used this as an opportunity to host after-school art classes; after class is over, the “adolescent types” congregate around the table to continue creating and socializing. The low-stakes concept of an experience station invites people to relax and get to know products outside of a structured class environment and without the pressure or confusion of standing in an aisle trying to make a decision.

The key motivation for creating the Art Bar was allowing customers to explore different surfaces including mixed media paper, Ampersand boards and various sketchbooks. As you can see by the menu, it has turned into much more.

Do you have something like an Art Bar in your store? A kids area? Other innovative sales tools? Share your story with our community. Email us at artdogblog (@) MacPhersonArt.com

 

Artisan Expo: The Positive Impact of Workshops

Thursday, November 1st, 2018
Catherine Monahon, Copywriter, MacPherson’s

In September, Account Manager Mia Fesmire and Brand Marketing Manager Ariana Faustini represented MacPherson’s exclusive brands at a three-day art supply extravaganza in Santa Fe known as Artisan Expo. The bi-yearly consumer show is sponsored by Artisan Santa Fe, a retailer with locations in both Santa Fe and Albuquerque. Artisan Santa Fe founded Artisan Expo in 2000, and the event has grown over the years to become the largest art materials and instructional event in the world! They host over 100 half-day and full-day workshops led by expert instructors, as well as a vendor trade show where over 80 vendors cater to artists who travel from all over the country, eager to learn and ready to restock their studios. We wanted to share a few takeaways with our community, because we believe the Artisan Expo model is a profitable sales strategy for retailers when replicated on a small scale.

The MacPherson’s booth, fully stocked with Art Alternatives surfaces, MABEF easels, Derwent Inktense sets and POSCA markers on day one, ready to go.

Our experience: this year Artisan Expo saw record-breaking attendance with participation up 25%. We provided instructors with Art Alternatives canvases as well as assorted RGM palette knives to promote the product and encourage attendees to visit our booth to get the same products they use in their workshops. In addition to the samples, we brought Art Alternatives wood panels and canvases, MABEF easels, POSCA markers and Derwent Inktense sets.

Artisan Expo attracts creatives who have the resources to invest in their craft, either by enrolling in a workshop or by taking home higher end supplies. How do they do this? The answer can be broken down into three parts: 1) a thoughtfully put together long-form workshop, 2) taught by an expert 3) in conjunction with a targeted sale.

A Long-Form Workshop

There is a reason that college-level fine art courses are three hours, sometimes five. Art takes time. While quick demos or make and takes are strategies that work for some customers, people with artistic talent who are hungry to learn will revel in the extra time that a three or six hour workshop affords. This extended time helps artists gain confidence with a new technique, making them more likely to purchase the materials needed to continue practicing. They will leave rejuvenated and focused, inspired by the expert staff or instructor who spearheads the class. Some retailers are already taking this approach: this summer we covered an example of a successful two-day event at Dots and Doodles, with support from Royal Talens, which led with a movie screening of Loving Vincent followed by a painting workshop the next day. If you have the space and time to host an afternoon or full day workshop and have a community of artists to tap into, it is well worth the investment.

Aside from the length of the workshop, the title (and of course, the content) is worth focusing on.

Artisan Expo hosts workshops on book making, sumi ink, watercolor, encaustics, jewelry making, gilding and more. Choosing a topic, technique or material and titling it in an inventive way draws in a specific crowd that wants exactly what they are serving up. When glancing at the title, customers imagine what they might create and get inspired to take the next step: enroll!

Some well-titled workshops that caught our eye:

  • Inventing Your Own Alphabet: Understanding Letterforms and Calligraphy
  • Using Encaustics with Mixed Media Over Photographs
  • Layers: Capturing the Santa Fe Landscape in Wax
  • Think & Paint in Aesthetic Categories
  • Inventing Cityscapes with Zentangle® Inspired Art
  • How To Travel Anywhere and Paint Small Watercolors

Great titles often include strong verbs. What will they be doing? Inventing, capturing, traveling, thinking. The title also specifies a medium in conjunction with a style (incorporating photographs, broadening aesthetic style, Zentangle, plein air painting on the go). The site-specific class attracts people with an attachment to your community’s landscape or cityscape. 

This specificity is key. Spending the day (and the price of tuition) on “Acrylic Painting 101” is not very motivating; try “Light Up Your World with Acrylic Painting on Dura-Lar Film.” By being more specific, you reach more people. You are highlighting a technique and connecting it to a visual (lighting up your world) or another medium (watercolor). Reaching the attendees who are actually interested in what specifically the class is focused on, you’re (probably) more likely to turn those artists into avowed fans of your events.

Taught By An Expert

Many of us know from experience that a good teacher can propel us forward in directions we never thought possible. The instructors—whether they are expert artists on your staff or outside hires—will make or break this experience. Workshops are a great opportunity to pair expert artists with relevant product, and to work with vendors to feature specific items. Make sure the instructor is well-acquainted with the product you are spotlighting- they are advertising the expertise your customers should expect from you. Fine artists and enthusiasts love to get technical, and seeing why a specific product works best for a nuanced technique will keep them interested and engaged.

A Targeted Sale

When class is over and students are on their way out the door, they discover those very products they were working with in class are on sale! Offering a sale of specific items in conjunction with the workshop is the finishing touch that seals the deal. Once someone has already invested in a high quality half-day or full-day workshop, throwing in a handful of art supplies or an easel that will allow them to recreate the experience at home and practice techniques they are committed to will be a no brainer. Ensure you are well-stocked in any products used for the class, and have the instructor/staff member offer to walk students through your store/booth to answer any additional questions they may have.

Alternative: Compromise With A Try-Table

If you don’t have the resources or space for a workshop, having a “Try-Table” or a “Make It Take It” station is a great way to engage with artists. While the paper pads on various displays are useful for seeing what a marker or pencil looks like on paper, providing chairs and a full size surface allows people to get comfortable and really dig in. We reached out to John Kittles of Kittles Art Supply in Arizona to learn more about their successes with their custom-designed Art Bar. Click here to read the feature and discover how you might set one up in your store.

*Pro tip: If you organize a “Make It Take It,” include instructions as a part of the takeaway, and add hashtags and encourage people to share their work using on social media, using the hashtags. It goes a long way to expand your reach!

Are you already replicating Artisan Expo small scale? Celebrating the recent success of a half-day or full-day workshop? We’d love to hear about your experience and share it with our community. Share your story with us at ArtDogBlog (@) MacPhersonArt.com

Ready, Set, Go: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday & Giving Tuesday

Thursday, October 25th, 2018
Cassie Brehmer, Midwest Account Manager & Catherine Monahon, Copywriter, MacPherson’s

Mark your calendars! While you’re focusing on sales and promotions for the winter holidays, keep these three retail-related holidays on your radar. We’ve put together key links, hashtags and merchandising ideas so that you can easily integrate Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Giving Tuesday into your promotions next month.

Black Friday, November 23rd

Black Friday is the informal name for the day following Thanksgiving, the fourth Thursday of November. Traditionally recognized as the beginning of the holiday shopping season in the United States, Black Friday is an opportunity to reach a wide audience with deep discounts.

While this “holiday” is often utilized by larger nation-wide retailers to have “blow out” sales, in recent years some companies, like REI, have taken a different approach; not participating due to the perception that the focus on shopping takes away from the otherwise family-oriented holiday weekend. To keep your Black Friday sale family friendly, consider holding a small event with a family theme in addition to a sale. Choose a project like rock painting, alcohol ink on yupo, or ornament marbling.

  • Merchandising Tips
    • Consider having one or two items on closeout pricing. For great deals, check the October SuperMarkdowns list on the Macpherson’s homepage in the Tools drop down menu.
    • Alternatively, be a little cheeky and offer your own version of a Black Friday sale: a sale on all of your black paints, papers, sketchbooks, pens, markers, spray paint, etc.
  • Social Media
    • Black Friday is a great day to post on social media—in 2017 more than 130 million people discussed Black Friday on Instagram and Facebook…that’s more than the Superbowl!
    • Announce your holiday hours and any promotions your followers can expect over the coming weeks.
    • Hashtags: #BlackFriday #deals #giveaway #sale #Christmas #Thanksgiving #Retail #ShopSmall

Small Business Saturday, November 24th

Small Business Saturday is a day promoted by American Express and the United States Small Business Administration as part of the Shop Small movement—a nationwide effort to celebrate small businesses and strengthen communities.

The “Shop Small Studio” is full of free, easy-to-download promotional materials, ideas for events and tips for effective merchandising. To participate in Small Business Saturday and access these resources, you do not need to be affiliated with American Express. For access to even more planning resources, register your business here and receive promotional goodies such as stickers, balloons and tote bags.

  • Merchandising Tips
    • Feature locally made products on the day of, as well as store merchandise like t-shirts, mugs or tote bags.
    • Invite local artisans to set up a booth in your store.
    • Host a creative event for children or adults like “Make a Wishlist” where children can walk around the store and write down which items make it on their dream list for the holidays.
    • Utilize the Shop Small Studio to create custom signage.
  • Social Media
    • Share your story. Reconnect. Show your community why you love being a part of your neighborhood, and how valuable this season is to your business. Honest communication and a humble thank you will make a meaningful impression, differentiating yourself as a small local business that truly cares.
    • Hashtags: #ShopSmall #smallbizsat #smallbusinesssaturday

Giving Tuesday, November 27th

#GivingTuesday is “a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.”

Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity to build relationships with an organization or cause that your customers care about. Register here and download the media toolkit. Click here to see what other retailers have done in the past.

  • Merchandising Tip
    • Get wishlists from local community centers or arts organizations and set up donation boxes so your customers can do a little good while shopping for gifts
    • Poll customers or staff to help choose an organization to contribute to that is meaningful to your community
  • Social Media
    • Hashtags: The creators of #GivingTuesday say, “Create your own hashtag. We’ve seen #GivingZooDay, #GivingTreesDay, #GivingShoesDay, #iGiveCatholic, and more. Have fun creating your own twist on #GivingTuesday.”

#GivingTuesday even has an extremely well thought out social media toolkit with pre-written posts to help you post online. Tag @givingtues in your posts.

Artist Spotlight: Emilee Rudd

Friday, October 19th, 2018

Nominated by retailers, account managers or vendor partners, Artist Spotlights feature working artists in our industry community. We take this opportunity to explore innovative techniques, tap into the hows and whys of favorite mediums and tools, and celebrate artists who are shaping our world. To nominate an artist please email us at artdogblog (@) macphersonart.com

Emilee Rudd is a lettering artist, illustrator and graphic designer based in Sacramento, California. She is detail-oriented, strategic, whimsical, imaginative and grounded in nature; qualities that show up consistently in her artwork. We reached out to learn more about what inspires her, what it’s like to freelance and which products are essential to her practice and why.

A quintessential Emilee Rudd piece: thoughtful, incredibly detailed and based in nature

What Inspires Her

Like most creatives, Emilee can’t remember a time when art wasn’t a part of her life. “I always had a sketchbook and art was always a part of who I was. I took art courses in middle school and high school and studied Graphic Design at Cal Poly—I had great teachers who encouraged me to pursue my own style.”

As for inspiration, living in the city of trees has shaped Emile’s aesthetic.

“Nature is number one. I grew up by a river and I’ve always lived by a river. You can usually tell what season it is based on the color palettes that I use…being in nature is a big part of my design process. If I see a really interesting branch structure, leaf pattern or anything I find striking, I research it. Sometimes I’ll hold clients till certain times of the year because I know when I’ll be in tune with the season that makes the most sense for that project.”

Emilee’s lettering on the cover of Sactown Magazine

It All Begins In a Coffee Shop…

“I stumbled into lettering. Junior year in college, I loved graphic design but hadn’t quite found my voice yet. I was working at a coffee shop and during slow days I would doodle and experiment with letters when writing the special. The owner took a chance on me and asked if I could do a menu. My first ever projects is still one of the largest projects I’ve done so far, surface-wise!”

And so began Emilee’s journey. She emphasizes the importance of lettering and illustration as a foundation that works hand in hand with her background in graphic design. A recent branding project she did for the Plant Foundry, a nursery and store in Sacramento, is a good example of how graphic design and illustration come together for her from start to finish.

“I couldn’t have done it without the art supplies. All the patterns and colors were derived from watercoloring with Derwent pencils.” She then moved from illustration to create the graphic pattern accompanied by a Pantone color set and logo look book.

What It Means to Freelance

Being a freelancer is a lot like being a small business owner. You strike out on your own and build your business from the ground up. Your comfort zone is suddenly a place where you spend very little time. Big challenges, big rewards. Emilee elaborates.

“I love challenges, and working with clients. The feeling afterwards is euphoria…I know what I was meant to do.” A recent challenge Emilee accepted with open arms? “I did bullet journaling for SoFi, a finance company in the Bay Area. They wanted it in one take so it was high pressure. I couldn’t use pencil, so I couldn’t mess up. We finished at three in the morning!”


The result is a beautiful video of what it means to create a bullet journal. Will Emilee be forging a career in long-form bullet journaling performance art? No, probably not. But embracing challenges like this push her to create with confidence and grace. She also discovered that she could create for 17 hours straight (!).

Emilee’s Instagram is vibrant and frequently updated, showcasing her sketchbook, works in progress, finished signage and favorite products.

In addition to accepting challenges and risk, embracing social media as a means for community is crucial to her business. “A good portion of my clients find me through social media. It’s a great thing when you use it right… to engage with the community, to create excitement about a project, to get your style out there in the digital world. I love seeing the grid view of the Instagram, it’s very much like seeing someone’s overall style, their portfolio, all in one place.”

While Instagram makes it easier for future clients to see what she’s working on and reach out, it is also a lush stomping ground for the greater artist community. And as an artist who is acutely in tune with the seasons, Emilee looks forward to this month in particular: Inktober.

“Inktober is great because of the community aspect of it: artists coming together, all inspired by the moment and the season. To produce something everyday is a marathon. You train hard, work hard and look back on your work to discover something new about yourself.”

Favorite Products & Shopping Habits

Where the magic happens on our end: art supplies. Emilee has a consistent style and a perfected method—so the supplies she has carefully chosen are essential to her everyday practice. For Inktober specifically? “I like using pigment-based pens and then dye-based pens. I use a pigment pen to lay down, let it dry. Then I go over it with the STABILO Pen 68 Markers. I use dark colors for the contrast and accent colors to play around with. I like to stay in a color palette, and STABILO has fall colors I love.”

For large scale lettering projects, Emilee relies on POSCA paint markers. “POSCA gives you both the pigment and the volume. You can trust that marker. I really like the opacity—gives a depth of color. Not too much shredding on the nib. There are also a lot of interesting, unique colors in the mix… I’ll overlay color with an impressionistic style. The tips are interesting, too – I use the whole range.”

Because she knows her supplies inside and out, she knows where to find them. Her shopping routine focuses on local shops with a few online orders for specific products she hasn’t had luck finding in her neighborhood.

“In Sacramento we are really big on hometown, so I try and shop local when I can. I order pigment pens online because I have very specific needs and online it’s easier and I know I can get exactly what I want.”

Appealing to fine artists who already have their go-to tools can be tricky—but here is where word of mouth, staff recommendations and Instagram visuals come in.

“I’m a creature of habit, but I will try something new if my art friends or personal acquaintances rave about a certain pen. Instagram is also a way to see what different products can do. I get jealous and want to try it out!”

Art Dog Artist Spotlights are also an opportunity to connect. Inspired by Emilee’s work? Conveniently located near Sacramento? Connect with her and learn more how you might collaborate.

Super(natural) Merchandising: Window Display Or Portal To Another World?

Friday, October 19th, 2018

Last month, we showcased budget-friendly strategies for eye-catching window displays, with a focus on creating a unique experience and a call for submissions from retailers who are proud of their windows. The holidays offer opportunity for an extra dose of creativity, and it helps to have enthusiastic staff who take initiative. We are pleased to share a creative window just in time for Halloween: this Stranger Things display grabbed attention last year at JWS Art Supplies, in Great Barrington, MA, a quaint tourist town near the Berkshires. JWS has a reputation for having fun window displays that allows them to get extra creative when their favorite holiday comes around, bending some of the rules most adhere to—this window doesn’t feature art supplies, but it draws traffic all the same!

Stranger Things is a popular show on Netflix in its third season. Set in the fictional town Hawkins, Indiana, in the 1980s, the science-fiction horror series has somewhat of a cult following. Think synthy, spooky and supernatural, or, as it is called on the show, the “upside down.” The story revolves around a group of kids’ experiences after their friend disappears and a girl with otherworldly powers mysteriously appears shortly after.

For people who know Stranger Things, it’s an instant draw and a photo opportunity with the lifesize “statement piece”—the Demigorgon, a supernatural demon on the show that staff member Meghan Spaniol recreated with a mannequin, chicken wire, newspaper, paint and a lot of hot glue. For people who have no idea what Stranger Things is, the window is a conversation waiting to happen. From the box of waffles to the Christmas lights, every prop ties into the story.

“We’re known to have a lot of displays in our town. What’s funny is our window doesn’t usually have a lot of art merchandise,” manager Emily Levine muses. “We use the art supplies to actually create the window displays, and those bring people in. Our repeat customers love the window, look forward to it and remember it year to year. New people come in and say, I didn’t know you were here! I love your Halloween set up!”

Logistics for creating a display can feel overwhelming, especially during the holidays. Catering to staff interests and skill sets and using inexpensive or free materials helps.

“We use a lot of supplies that we carry, and we don’t budget much for them. We probably didn’t spend more than $50 on this window, I would say probably even less. We have to be pretty resourceful since we change our window so often, about every two months or every month if it is a holiday. The mannequin we got for free because somebody was getting rid of it, and other things are usually made out of cardboard and foam core scraps. Our biggest expense would be lights, and fabric, which we use a lot so we have a pretty good stock of them.”

Tying In Product & Incentivizing with a Monthly Challenge

Balance is key: while other-worldly windows that draw on pop culture are a great way to create an experience for customers, bringing that imaginative spark to a window that focuses on a specific product line or targets a specific artistic community can drive sales.

Another JWS hit from last year was a window featuring giant sculptures (something of a crowd pleaser in stores) of COPIC markers accompanied by a jumbo illustration done by Meghan. This display is inspired by Instagram challenges and tuned into the social media following for COPIC markers. Staff created a monthly challenge for customers to boost sales of specific color lines.

“Customer participation is growing quickly for the COPIC challenge. They receive 15% off the bundle of three markers when they buy it for the challenge and if they tag us on social media they get a discount on any item the next time they come in the store. We display the art they make in the store if people bring it in, or they can also tag us on Instagram to enter. If they win they get the next month’s bundle for free. It’s picking up each time we do it, and with any new thing you’re trying it takes some time.”

Your windows can be a creative playground, a connection to your social media presence and an open invitation. We look forward to learning more from our community and seeing what the holidays have in store.

Do you have a window you are proud of? A monthly challenge your store has championed? Share it with us at artdogblog (@) macphersonart.com. Or better yet, document your next window display design process, from ideation to execution. We’d love to celebrate your team and amplify your expertise.

Community Events: Camp Flax Kidsfest

Friday, October 19th, 2018

Every year Flax Art & Design in Oakland, California celebrates summer, art and kids with Kidsfest: a free, fun day of family-friendly arts and crafts. This year’s Kidsfest theme was Camp Flax, which celebrates the great outdoors and the California camping experience: think redwoods, wildlife and scouts. The event features various vendors and community organizations such as The Musem of Children’s Arts and the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design. Staff dress up and the store is transformed into redwood forest where kids and their families can enjoy face painting, a sing-along and dozens of craft activities.

Getting The Word Out

While people in the community simply know to look out for this long-standing event every summer, Manager Joni Marie outlines a multi-faceted outreach strategy aimed at reaching new families as well as the repeat customers.

“We advertise through our own social media, the store landing page and others as well: 510 Families, Mommy Files, Red Tricycle, FunCheapSF. We create banners and decorate the store to pique customer interest, with signs in our kids area of the store.”

MacPherson’s Account Manager / Ranger Kim Cichy with Store Manager / Ranger Joni Marie

As for logistics the day of, it’s all hands on deck. Joni ensures that all of her staff can make it that day; participating organizations man their own tables and bring a helper if needed.

The decorations go a long way in making an impression – especially when customers begin to notice redwoods and owls popping up throughout the store.

As for logistics the day of, it’s all hands on deck. Joni ensures that all of her staff can make it that day; participating organizations man their own tables and bring a helper if needed.

Tips & Tricks For Activities Kids Love

What makes a successful kid activity? How do we make a lasting impression that impacts sales? Events like Kidsfest inform these questions, especially when staff can learn from the experience (and improve it) year after year. This year, Kidsfest activities included:

Joni points out the key to facilitating a popular activity. “The most successful crafts? The 10 minute make-and-takes. Kids get to take something home, that day. Parents like that kids actually make an object, not just another drawing to stick on the fridge.”

Camp is in session! River rock painting with Sennelier Abstract Acrylics

Kidsfest also reminds us of the integral role of art supplies in creating memorable playing experiences. Art supplies can be used to inspire play, whether or not the activity is specifically related to creating art. Encouraging play that utilizes products that you carry introduces parents to supplies they need to recreate the fun at home.

“One year, Faber-Castell brought in a kids art specialist. We spray painted gravel and went panning for gold; it was a fun freebie for the kids. We try to center play with art being a part of it. Doing hands on things, trying to hit different age groups with the kids. It’s not just about the products, but we do have the goal of having parents seeing how they work. Most kids are under ten, but sometimes siblings want to participate and feel encouraged. Then the whole family usually ends up participating.”

Do you have a community event you’d like to share with us? Ideas about utilizing the power of play in your store? Connect with us at artdogblog (@) gmail.com and share your wisdom.

The Wet Paint Way: 4 Strategies For Successful Social Media

Thursday, September 27th, 2018
Catherine Monahon, Copywriter, MacPherson’s

Wet Paint is an independently owned store in St. Paul, MN that is well known for their social media and marketing verve. They organize regular in-store events, classes, weekly newsletters, an interactive website, regular social media postings via Instagram, Facebook, a bit of Twitter and Google+ content as well as a blog on WordPress and videos via YouTube. They also maintain a steady flow of print materials. In short, they do a lot. This dynamic, multi-platform strategy is made possible by the dedicated Social Media and Marketing team: Kristina Fjellmen and Chris Nolt.

Clockwise from the left: Kristina Fjellmen, Chris Nolt, Darin Rinne, and Scott Fares

Kristina and Chris are both working artists with years of experience on the sales floor. Kristina works full time as the Marketing Manager. She recruited Chris to help with the social media about a year ago. With Chris focusing on social media, Kristina works full time on the website, email digest, print materials and marketing strategies. Chris spends 1 to 2 hours a day on social media as well as one full shift (8 hours) on content creation and curation each week. Both are artists in their own right: Chris is a mixed media artist, working with ink and watercolor for about 5 years; he also designs laser cut jewelry and has dabbled in music production, printmaking and writing methods. Kristina works with textile or fiber-based sculpture and installation and is also a theater artist. Both of them mention the Wet Paint community as a huge draw to working there. “I think we are pretty lucky to like our jobs,” Kristina notes. “I know that enthusiasm influences how we approach the marketing and social media work we do.”

While Wet Paint maintains a strong online presence, they haven’t neglected print materials. Many of their customers like to take home a pamphlet or schedules of events and classes or a catalog of sale items. The consistent production of schedules and catalogs in combination with a “steady drip” of digital content allows for a broad customer reach that respects a preference for paper while also engaging with click-happy millennials.

Breaking It Down

The following list is designed to be helpful for everyone, wherever your store falls on on the marketing and social media spectrum: from tentatively googling “Why do I need an Instagram?” to having a dedicated social media team.

1. Holy Trifecta: Products, Services & Real Life Interactions

Much of Wet Paint’s content touches one, two or all three points of this trifecta. Their posts showcase a product, clue the audience into an experiential opportunity and/or reference real life interactions with customers.

A weekly special called “Customer Questions” features real life in-store questions from customers with answers provided by a rotating list of staff members. These posts generate conversation and interest, as well as reminding their customers that they have an educated and trusted team of artists on staff. Other store-to-social connections are video demos of new products, favorite products, or products that people have lots of questions about. Conversations on the floor inspired Chris to create this video, which features the Wet Paint community while demystifying the pronunciation of a paint color:

When content stems from real life connections, relationships and interactions in the store, the bridge between the abstract, digital realm of the internet and your very real store strengthens. New followers and subscribers become customers.

2. Identify Your Voice (And Use It)

The bottom line: be authentic. The passion and commitment Chris and Kristina have for the community of artists and art enthusiasts who step into Wet Paint shows. Chris puts it well:

“Everything I post, I want to make it feel like it’s a conversation in the store. Straightforward, honest and casual. All of the staff here are working artists with a lot of character, and customers get attached to certain people. They’ll ask for them on the phone, they’ll come in on specific days when that person is there. I’m okay with adding child-like excitement to my copy, or talking about when something is adorable or cute. We had a whole post all about how cute Japanese pens are. Because they are! And people loved it.”

Wet Paint’s instagram is chock full of personality, character, silliness, artsiness and content that gets people pumped up about art supplies. To learn more about how to develop your store’s voice, here are some useful tips.

3. Save Time With A Little Tech

If you don’t have a dedicated team for social media, that’s okay. These strategies can be scaled down as needed based on what resources and time you do have. Try synching the social media platforms you use (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc) with a social media management tool that “funnels” all your posts to the proper channels. These tools allow you to create multiple versions of a single post for all the platforms you use and post to all of them with just one click. Pre-schedule your posts for the week so that you are not thinking on the fly everyday—it will post automatically.

4. Consistent & Imperfect

Consistency is key. It doesn’t matter if you post four times a day on three different platforms or twice a week on one… just pick a method and stick with it. Let followers or subscribers know what to expect, and they’ll keep coming back for more. Being consistent means giving up perfection. You can waste time hesitating over language in an Instagram post, but it lasts about a minute on the internet. It may drive someone to click, come into the store or buy something but if you mess up, no one is harping on it. Think of your online presence as a growing portfolio. Practice makes progress!

…OK, Go!

Once you get a handle on your content, clarify the way you’d like to talk about it, set up a realistic system for posting and commit to a “just do it” attitude, you are ready. Whether you are dipping your toe into social media or looking to revamp your marketing strategies, these tactics can help you strengthen relationships, build new ones and get your products and services to the people. And, in line with the “Wet Paint Way,” try to have fun while doing it!

Best Practices: Plan Ahead For Holiday Merchandising

Monday, September 24th, 2018
Cassie Brehmer, Midwest Account Manager, MacPherson’s

The holiday season brings in customers beyond the everyday shopper, which is an exciting opportunity to connect and encourage repeat business from these “non-regulars” throughout the year. In reality, it is also the season where empowering customers to help themselves will keep sale opportunities moving through your retail space in a healthy flow. Early October is a great time to set-up a a semi-permanent featured items table or end-cap up in store to rotate through Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the December holidays. Your regular customers may notice something new – and your new customers will see fun products at great prices.

October

Ah, Halloween, the season where a customer could ask for literally anything under the sun to create the perfect costume… The obvious requests for essentials like masks and face paint and glitter arise – but for creatives wanting to explore more advanced costume making techniques, consider featuring any of the following:

  • Mold making tools and supplies
  • Plastercraft
  • Styrofoam
  • Carving tools
  • Armature wire
  • Glues that adhere to multiple surfaces
  • Fabric paint and glue
  • Oven-bake clay
  • Beads and ANY craft supplies (buttons, sequins, rhinestones, findings, etc.)
  • Economy acrylic paints
  • Googly eyes
  • Tissue paper

Provide project ideas, images of how the products can be used, and share relevant YouTube videos on your social media pages. This a great time of year to educate curious customers on new materials and inspire them to try something out of their comfort zone at a great price.

Click here to revisit featured Halloween items on www.MacPhersonArt.com!

November

Holiday shopping begins!  You can leave a lot of your craft items from October on your features table here. In preparing for the holiday rush, start showing your customers how to make their own wrapping paper or placemats using a block printing techniques, how to create a handmade “hostess” gift, fold easy origami ornaments and the classic – homemade holiday cards. Consider featuring the following:

  • Craft supplies
  • Block printing tools and materials for printing on paper and fabric.
  • Craft paper rolls or white paper rolls
  • Hemp/twine/ribbon
  • Candle or soap making supplies (easy hostess gifts!)
  • Origami paper and other paper crafts
  • Card making supplies (see project ideas from Strathmore here)

This is also a good time to get store staff involved by writing notes about supplies they are “thankful for” and prominently posting them on displays. Start to set out some holiday sets as a preview for what’s to come.

December

Holiday Bonanza! It’s time to feature all those sets you brought in at great discounts for the holidays. Create signage to educate your customers on the differences between sets. Physically separate them into categories for “Child/Beginner,” “Hobbyist,” “Student” and “Professional.” Don’t forget to have a few sets open and ready to try with appropriate surfaces. Focus trending products under a sign: “Your Grandkids will LOVE….{Insert: marbling, alcohol markers, slime kits, or glitter gel pens}”. Put together a house kit for a trend like bullet journaling, with a creative staff-made examples! Other products to consider:

  • Fine paper/wrapping paper
  • Ribbons/twine/hemp (for wrapping and gift tags)
  • Gold and silver writing pens
  • Scrapbooking appliques and stickers
  • Blank cards (see top selling Strathmore cards on Page 25 in the Buyers guide)
  • Knives and blades
  • Tape (double sided and regular)
  • Glitter/glitter glue
  • How-to-calligraphy and hand lettering books
  • Paper mache figures
  • Origami paper
  • Ready made frames

Colossal Creativity: Bring Art Into Your Store

Monday, September 24th, 2018
Catherine Monahon, MacPherson’s Copywriter

Staff member Abby Langley (they/them) creates larger than life sculptures of everyday art supplies for displays at Creative Coldsnow stores in Kansas City, MO and Overland Park, KS. Their recent creations include an XXXXL Posca marker and a gargantuan Gamblin paint tube; they got the idea for the larger than life sculptures at a staff meeting. “We were trying to think of ways to merchandise and advertise the new POSCA markers,” Abby recalled. “I was looking a marker one day and thought to myself, it would be fun to make a giant version.”

Abby is a sculptor, having graduated with a BFA Kansas City Art Institute; their preferred medium is glass, but they also use wood, metal and paint.  While they hadn’t worked with cardboard in years, they were excited to take on the challenge.

With a well thought out design, cardboard, paper and paint, Abby created a Posca marker 6 times the original size.

The sculptures are on display in both store locations, hanging from the ceiling above respective aisles, beckoning customers to find their miniatures in the shelves below. Next on the docket? An Angelus paint jar or a Golden Hi Flow bottle.

A  tube of Gamblin paint 7 times the original size (which now seems miniscule – we want more paint!)

Bringing art into stores has been on their mind since day one. “One of my first days, someone came in and was like, ‘Where is all the art?’ I looked around and realized we didn’t have much… Since I’ve been here I’ve tried to incorporate art into the displays.” Abby is not just contributing to imaginative displays – they are creating conversations. People stop in their tracks and want to know more about what the sculpture is, which product it is, what it can do. “People realize that the people who work here are artists themselves,” Abby explains. “We have knowledge and resources and they can ask us, learn from us, relate to us.”

The staff at Creative Coldsnow contributes collectively to the displays. There are two other artists on Abby’s team, Ron Wickersham and Bobby Haulotte. “Ron painted the arrow that’s paired with the posca marker, and they’ve both done individual projects for other products we carry.”

“Making displays is the part of my job that I enjoy most,” Abby explains. “It’s a way to use my creativity in a functional way. I like using my creative skills in a retail environment and have it make a difference.” And art in stores does make a difference – the POSCA marker in particular has had a positive impact on sales while launching the product.

There are so many ways to incorporate staff-made art into merchandising to generate interest and create conversations. Unconventional displays or community-specific artworks are a great way to strengthen the connection your customers have with your store and your team.

Do you have artistic displays in your store you’d like to share with us? A staff member whose artistry we can celebrate? Email us at artdogblog (@) macphersonart.com and show off your work.

 

Come To My Window: Create Innovative, Inviting Budget-Friendly Window Displays

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018
Catherine Monahon, Copywriter, MacPherson’s

While the upcoming holidays are a great incentive to create expressive, themed window displays, we think any time is a good time to step up your display game. Our Emeryville office is just down the street from a bustling quirky-chic shopping destination in Berkeley, CA. While our designers were hunting for inspiration this summer, they couldn’t help but notice the impact of window displays in this creative retail hub. Nearby stores whose window displays we love include Papercraft, Athropologie, and a local toy/art supply store that specializes in the weird and wacky.

We discovered a handful of resources from the creative geniuses at Anthropologie; click here to learn more about how they design their store experience, from window displays to promotions to discounted items.

Change the experience, change the results

This article outlines seven easy, low-cost tips for displays that catch the eye and draw people in.

Staff skill set

Discover your employees hidden (or not so hidden) talents! This article showcases the portfolio of an artist who worked for Anthropologie as a display coordinator. Check in with your staff and discover who may have a knack for construction, installation or arranging. Maybe someone on your team is into a little-known craft that can add craftsmanship and intrigue to your display, like paper quilling.

A clever window display by Fortnum & Mason in London, 2016.

Get Featured!

We’d love to see your store’s window displays – please email us at artdogblog@macphersonart.com include a photo or two and the names of employees or community members who had a hand in the design or construction.