After visiting w/my partners and establishing new contacts at the gift fair, I wish I could say that I witnessed a noticeable shift in accessory trends but due to the ‘recovering’ economy, many businesses are playing it safe by displaying micro introductions for their customers.
There’s also been a shakeout for those who have entertained the idea of getting into business for themselves and seeing it through the long haul. While that might be an unfair statement, I’ll follow it up with observations in ‘About the NYC Boutiques’ in a moment.
NYIGF Enchanting Scenes
I did stroll by some familiar booths and there’s one that has always captivated me: Par-A-Sol Garden. Since he doesn’t have a photo of it on his Web site (and by his demeanor, I didn’t dare ask to take a photo) I’ll have to describe it to you.
Imagine a corner booth where a large trunk of a tree is positioned at the open corner and myriad of branches and leaves fill the virtual booth ceiling. Along both walls are two very large white cabinets that serve as shipping containers to the show and add a base ambiance to the scene. You duck and swivel your head as you explore all of the sparkling bird feeders that hang in glorious colorful glass from the branches. Audio of song birds chirping in the booth with a large video display of a hummingbird dancing in the air is enclosed within a gold ornate frame. Who would want to leave this lush environment?
Mea culpa | My apologies if I seemed a bit direct in my questions, Mr. Zimmer, but your space display just encourages one to stay a bit longer than usual, just to enough to ruin the welcome. Sorry! But your scene was enchanting!
About the NYC Boutiques
Another disheartening factor was store abandonment by specialty boutiques in NYC. Most of those we had visited last Spring/Summer no longer existed today -primarily in Nolita. The shakeout I referred to earlier is also directly affected by the relationships the shopkeeps have with their customer. In this age, I believe the big boxes have blurred the customers vision of shopping expectations and it doubles the effort on the part of the shopkeep and the artist to re-educate the customer on the art of investing in handcrafted pieces.
Unfortunately, customers can no longer differentiate the small specialty shops that bring them hand selected goods handcrafted by North American Artisans vs. the art on the cheap provided by the big boxes made by children in 3rd world countries. Sadly, Americans turn a blind eye as they walk down the streets of NYC, strolling right by some of the most charming boutiques who depend on foot traffic to keep their lights on.
If I can’t afford to invest in a piece hand-selected by the boutique owner, I’ll do my best to talk about it in certain circles where it doesn’t fall on deaf ears. This can easily be done through dinner conversation with my friends, tweeting, blogging, or stumbling. Please consider doing the same if you cannot purchase a special item from your favorite artist.
In talking with one of the shopkeeps, she alluded to the fact that even their vendors are taking longer than expected to ship product. In commerce, if the cash flow isn’t readily available and if you’re still granting allowances to your partners, it’s tough to begin asking for money to buy supplies to build your product to ship to the stores.
Darting from one street to the next we froze our tails off, certainly no dawdling for the romantics. Many of the boutiques we personally visited were many that I had already contacted prior to our arrival.
Savvy Tip: Conducting quick reviews within the store is essential to ensure that the shopkeep’s space, products, and pricing meet my expectations.
If you live near a fault line, you’re no stranger to the aftermath of the dreaded Earthquakes and the same goes for the economic despair. Desperate measures that the shopkeepers are resigning to don’t bode well for the over health of the store.
3 Things to Watch for If You’re a Vendor:
1. Steep sales (the shop may go out of business in the near future). 70% off is usually an extremely bad sign for any store. You may read that the business is pulling in over $250,000, but the store owner may not be pulling a salary -that’s a very small part of the store’s success. Consider helping the welfare of both the shopkeep and yourself by proposing a trunkshow.
As a customer, don’t shop because it’s exhilarating to your shopping psyche, shop because you care that the store owner remains in business to feed her family.
2. Cheaper product (their jewelry is no longer handcrafted) This is the part where the blurred customer vision doesn’t meet store sales and the shopkeep has lost her vision, partly due to lost sales. If you have been watching & attending the open-store parties that the shop has conducted, you’ll know how she’s communicating with her customers.
If you want cheap jewelry, go to a box store. If you’re looking for jewelry, consider buying handmade first. Quality, not quantity is the savvy shopper’s mantra.
3. Irregular Hours (even though the Web site & store sign say otherwise) We observed many shopkeepers lingering away from their stores longer than the ‘errand sign’ indicated or completely abandoning their store by locking up a few hours early.
If you do plan to shop during these dark hours of winter and economic strife, do call first. The shopkeep will be excited to hear from you.
I Would Love My Own Shop | Passing by the dark echoes of bustling boutiques of yesteryear (and it was just last year), I pined to set up shop in one for my very own –I would love to have a flagship store in NYC. I’ve decided that whenever a shopkeep paints the front of their establishment red, it’s the same deep NYC fire engine red that other stores use and I love it! I would love a shop just down from our fav cafe with an apartment up above.
I don’t mean to paint a bleak picture, but I am as pragmatic as I am a realist. As we slowly move through this God forsaken economic mess, my plan is to work, watch, and wait for good news as I continue creating my craft.
How are the neighborhoods faring in your part of the country? I would love to know.