Outdoor market season is here. Vendors, are you ready?

Spring has sprung in my neck of the woods and there is no shortage of things to do on weekends. Currently pop up markets and large vendor fairs are huge. This is fantastic because local artisans can reach customers directly, independently owned retail shops can source out locally made items to carry in their shops and consumers can shop local and feel good about supporting individual artisans. As most vendors know, having a great display at a show will attract shoppers. It will also get you invites to be a vendor at future shows. From now through the end of July, I am offering a show set up consultation for $75. Add a hands on set up for a ten by ten booth for $100. A travel fee may apply outside the greater Hartford area.


The eagle’s view.

This morning I was blessed with an eagle crossing my path, carrying a little creature in its talons.  Eagles are said to have vision that is eight times stronger than humans and are the birds with the ability to fly the highest.  Not only did this encounter remind me of some Native American philosophies that I studied in my twenties but also of what are perhaps some of my best natural abilities.  An artistic visual talent and the ability to see things from many perspectives.

When consulting with a small business, I talk with them about how they draw in potential customers, get them to purchase and encourage them to return.

Whether it’s brick and mortar, craft show vendor or internet seller there are many things that can be done to create enticing visuals.  Shoppers have endless options, an inviting up to date space along with creative visual representations of merchandise are the best way to grab their attention.  Perhaps they will see something that stirred a childhood memory or a way to use an item that they hadn’t thought of before.  Ask me if I can help your business.  Oh, sorry no jaw dropping action shot of the eagle so here’s one of pretty flowers in a vintage glass vase!

You don’t have to do it all.

Do you ever feel like you have to be a superhero to get everything done?  I’ve done my time in the retail trenches from sales associate right up Display Director.  In my twenties, it was my dream was to own my own store, however after years of working closely with owners of specialty shops, I saw how many hats they have to wear.  I realized that what I do really well and where my natural talent lies is visual merchandising.  I saw that my skills combined with talent were highly effective.

My expertise in prop styling and business consulting allows owners of independently owned retail businesses to focus on what they do well, while achieving the most inviting, successful visual setup for their customers, whether it is a brick and mortar space or an online presence.

#garnetleighdesigns #propstylist #ctpropstylist #merchandising #props #smallbusiness #retailmerchandising #ctsmallbusiness

Retailers- It’s time to transition into the next marketing season.

Retailers, if you haven’t yet marked down the holiday, seasonal merchandise do it immediately!  If you’ve already marked down, it’s time to mark it down again.  Right away, move it all.  Catch folks before they’ve packed away all their holiday seasonal items, believe me many are still working on that project, including my own household.

I’m sure that no-one has missed the numerous articles offering advice on the best way to enter 2017, right?  Streamline, organize, move forward, get rid of clutter, live a more minimalist lifestyle, purge that which does not serve you etc.  These are primarily written in regards to our personal lives but what if we applied the advice to our retail businesses?

Move forward with a clean slate, and a fresh looking, inviting retail space.  Highlight new merchandise, plan a shopping event, promote the next holiday, season etc.  Before you know it, the post-holiday phase will be over and consumers are going to be itching to freshen up their wardrobes and homes.

Do the puzzle pieces of your business fit?

Middletown RestaurantYou did your research, right?  The merchandise/menu was painstakingly selected, the interior of the space was painted, fixtures/furniture pieces were put in place and you are open for business.  Good work.  Now cross your fingers and hope you succeed.

I know of a white cloth Italian restaurant with a relatively high priced menu.  Elegantly set tables with fresh flowers in the front windows, beautiful décor and food to die for.  Now imagine that you are dining at one of those window view tables, perhaps to celebrate a special occasion.  As you dine, you cannot help but to check out the view out the window.  There is a sidewalk covered by a concrete overhang with passersby and people who have ducked out of the restaurant next door to have a smoke.  Look past that and you see a liquor store, again with people hanging out smoking.  The rest of your view is a rather large treeless parking lot.

Guess what?  The fancy Italian place is now closed.

The forgotten piece of the puzzle? 

The visual appeal of the space from EVERY angle.  To put it simply, someone needed to park it for a spell in one of those chairs at the window table and take a good look around.  To literally put themselves in the customers seat.  Location is important for more than just demographics and available parking.

The owners forgot to consider EVERY PERSPECTIVE of their customers’ experience.  A more casual, funky, pub style type restaurant might have done very well in this spot but it was not well suited for a high end, special occasion type of dining experience.  The advice I offer most frequently when consulting with any type of business is to be cohesive in all that you do, particularly the things that are visible to your customers and potential customers.

EVERY piece needs to be pulled together in a way that makes sense. 

Location, décor, price point, advertising, website, social media presence, employees, merchandising of your product etc. all need to fit and make sense.  Similar to the old school music systems with separate components (fess up, you remember those) the lowest quality component will determine the quality of your sound.

Don’t miss a piece of the puzzle and drag down everything else that you put effort into.

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words.

Imagine that one snapshot of the entrance to your business is the only thing a potential customer is going to see before deciding to come in or pass on by.  This potential customer has not been in before..  They will make a split second decision based purely on how it looks from the outside.
Most of us have seen or are aware of the HGTV shows and even real estate agents that emphasis the importance of curb appeal.

When was the last time you snapped a quick shot of your entry way, took a look from the sidewalk or from across the street?

Entwined a Unique Boutique
Entwined a Unique Boutique

Recently I sneaked out of town for a night to stay at a friend’s beach house.  On the way, she took us to a cute shop.  Not only did it look inviting with nice displays outdoors but once inside there was a perfect mix of unique, high quality clothing, like-new consignment clothing, fun affordable gift items and even exotic flowers by the stem.  Something For Everyone is key here.  After getting potential customers through the door, any retailer’s goal is to make a sale, or at least lay the ground work for a future sale, from every single person that comes in.  The customer walks away with something to remember your shop by and will likely talk to friends about their purchase.

Entwined in Charlestown, RI, is an adorable boutique and a fantastic example If a well thought out space and a careful selection of unique merchandise.  Just look at what an inviting scene she has created.  Seeing this would definitely be a U-turn moment for me if I had happened upon it on my own!

Retailers and crafters. The importance of keeping your look current.

Whether you are a business with a storefront, an artisan offering a fabulous product or even a service provider, we would all agree that branding is extremely important.

Traditionally your brand was reflected on business cards, brochures and more recently websites.  With the additional options of social media promotion, there are endless other avenues available to highlight and reinforce your brand.  After you have a graphic designer/website builder/branding specialist get you set up with a logo and website that reflects your brand, how do handle the social media portion?  Do you ever utilize social media?

All too often, I see a lack of social media promotion OR some attempts at social media promotion that fall short and do not accurately represent the brand or get your stuff sold.

The great thing about social media is that it is constantly changing, you have an opportunity to show your audience many different things in any given month over their “feed”.  This is fabulous for retailers and crafters because you do not sell the same few things over and over throughout the year.  Stock is constantly changing.  There are items that you want to sell during the appropriate season at full price as opposed to having to resort to post season markdowns.  Social media posts are a great way to show everyone what you have.

For many folks, this is the ONLY way that you are going to reach them, unless you are lucky enough to be in a location where you get lots of foot traffic.  But even then, why would you stop at reaching only those that pass by?  You need EVERYONE.


Styled for Farm to Bath, Photographed by Nikki Nicole Photography
Styled by Garnet Leigh Designs for Farm to Bath, Photographed by Nikki Nicole Photography


Unfortunately not everyone is actively seeking out your website or even searching for what you sell.  Therefore it is MUY IMPORTANTE to show them images that highlight what you are selling in the best possible way, in the way that makes them want to possess what you are selling, in a way that they can envision themselves possessing what you are selling, in a way that makes them think that if they do not act soon they may miss out on what you are selling.


How early is too early?

January Easter and Spring Promotions?
January Easter and Spring Promotions?

It’s likely that most of you had to venture outdoors at some point today, and you know that it was an exceptionally chilly January day complete with blustery winds. My daughter and I had a little extra time before her class so we browsed a local store. I almost laughed out loud when I saw this adorable little pastel colored, spring-like, flowery sign declaring “Happy Spring”. I’ll be the first to admit that winter is not exactly my favorite season but even I don’t begin to look ahead to spring until the very end of February or early March. To see all those adorable decorative bunnies and carrots seemed surreal on January 19th with weather reports of wind chills and an impending snowstorm. Is anyone with me on this? I’ve worked in retail and a retail related field for about 30 years so I am fully aware of the need to grab folks early with seasonal merchandise but the trend seems to be for each season to be pushed upon us earlier and earlier.
Does anyone agree? Would you begin to ponder your Easter and Spring decor now? Would you avoid this store until the cute bunnies and carrots don’t seem oddly out of place and time?