Wednesday, September 28, 2011

We'll be smelling good this weekend ...

This weekend you'll find us hanging out at the Grapevine on Saturday for a Sidewalk Sale! We love to set up there and meet all kinds of new folks. We bring our pretty sparklies and so much more. Our friends Roz and Ray set up, and they bring loads of fun stuff and fantastic bargains.

Today, my friend Smokeo told me about a new fragrance from Bath & Body Works.
We're so excited that they honored us with our own fragrance !!

Ok. Ok. So maybe they didn't name it after us ... but a girl can dream, right?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

As I sit here typing this and look at my calendar, I see that Christmas is a short 95 days away.
Yes, folks, just 95 shopping days left until Christmas !!!

Between now and then we have Columbus Day, Halloween, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving. 

If you're an online shop owner like me, some cyber-housekeeping is in order. We need to shake out the welcome mat and dust away those cobwebs. We want our shop’s items to entice shoppers to come in and look around.
§  We need to check our inventory and make sure our pictures are all sharp and in focus. Are there any photographs in our inventory that need to be updated?
§  We need to check our descriptions and make sure we have used all the appropriate key words we need to get our items found by the search engines.
§  Have we checked our vintage clothing, accessories, and jewelry items to be sure their Google attributes are properly checked?
§  We need to check our shipping information and make sure we've got it right - keeping in mind that the post office may have changed rates since we listed that item. Is it time to think about offering free shipping for the holiday selling season?
§  We need to check our pricing and look at inventory items that have been around for a while. How long do we keep an item in our inventory if it's not selling?

The next big step is to make sure we have new items ready to list. We need to keep our inventory fresh and growing – which keeps our items at the top of the Ruby Lane search results.

What's going to sell this year?

What's on everyone's shopping list?

As a Ruby Lane shop owner, I also add these questions:
What are our buyers looking for while shopping on Ruby Lane?
We all know that Ruby Lane likes to see new inventory on a regular basis, we need to be sure we list something new ... every day ... every other day ... it will keep our items at the top of the searches from within Ruby Lane. And we cannot forget that Google needs some time to index our items!

Shipping is the next thing to think about ... do we have shipping supplies? If we need Priority Mail supplies, now is the time to order them! Are we up on all the latest shipping rules from the USPS? Don't forget to add bubble wrap, packing tape, tissue paper, paper and printer cartridges to your shopping list! Do we have a stock of business cards to tuck into our packages? Some gift wrap so we can offer gift wrapping as a perk for our customers?

A recent blog post on Notes from The Lane gave us some great information.  Here's a link to Thinking Outside the Box: New USPS Rates. I learned something new reading it! You might want to check it out.
Cyber Monday is November 28 this year … are you ready?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Kindness goes a long way ...

Kindness goes a long way. Respect goes even further.
I love a good auction as much as the next person. I enjoy arriving a little early and walking around the tables of offerings to see what there is to see. If I’ve done my homework, I’ve already been online to the auctioneer’s webpage and seen what there is to expect in the day’s offerings.
Since we live in a small community, it’s easy to become regulars at the local auction houses. We see the same faces most weeks, and from auction house to auction house. We notice when there are new faces in the crowd, and we can always spot a newcomer to the auction world. Part of the fun of attending an auction is the social interaction and the “people watching.”
We attended one of our favorite local auctions one evening last week. I toured the auction floor to check out items that had caught my eye on the auctioneer’s web page. I knew which tables held the treasures I sought. I said “hello” to my fellow bidders, caught up on the news from friends. I noticed that there were a few new faces in the crowd, and a few bidders I had seen a time or two before but not on a regular basis.
What happened this evening between two bidders left me shocked by one bidder’s behavior. We’ve all been caught up in the excitement of bidding and the thrill of wanting to win a certain item – whether for our own collection or because we just know our customers will love this just as much as we love it. Tonight the item in question was a small decorative piece, nothing remarkable. The bidding opened, and several bidders held their bidding cards in the air. Finally, the bidding came down to two bidders. One of the bidders became enraged that someone would dare to bid against them. Angry. Loudly demanding that the other bidder stop bidding against them. Declaring that they would win this at any cost. The second bidder seemed unaffected by the anger of the first bidder and continued to bid until they reached their bidding limit. The behavior of the first bidder caused several of us to look around at each other, eyebrows raised quizzically. This type of behavior is not seen among the bidders in our area. While we might enter into a lively bidding war, once the bidding is over we often congratulate the winning bidder – even if they outbid us on something we wanted. When a bidder wins something they really want and are excited about their win, we cheer them on and applause is often heard around the room when “good sale” is made. Civility is the norm.
One of the other attendees commented to me “That felt like we are on one of those reality television shows!” Indeed, it did.
What happened to manners? What happened to polite behavior? What happened to civility? It apparently went out the window that evening.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

How do you plan for a natural disaster?

I grew up in the Midwest, in the heart of tornado alley and along the New Madrid fault line. I know what to do in tornadoes and earthquakes. Mostly it’s “duck and cover” sprinkled with a dose of “pray”. You don’t have time to think or prepare. Tornadoes and earthquakes both hit and run – you might get a few minutes’ warning to head to the basement or storm cellar with a tornado.

A hurricane was new to me. We could sit, glued for days to weather reports on television and the internet, and watch Hurricane Irene inch her way toward us. Where would she go? How strong would she be when she gets here? How high will the winds be? How much rain will fall? It seemed to be anyone’s guess. Of course, some guesses were more educated than others.

We made certain we had plenty of bottled water for drinking. We stocked our pantry shelves with staples like peanut butter and crackers. The pet food was restocked. Large containers of water for household use were gathered in a safe place. Batteries, candles, propane, medications … everything we were told were essential to survive.

And then Hurricane Irene arrived. She wasn’t as forceful as they predicted, but she was certainly strong enough for this girl’s first Hurricane! The huge changes in barometric pressure triggered a migraine (glad I had my medication!). We lost power with the first tree that went down at 7:00 p.m. Our only access to the outside world was our cell phone, which also has “smartphone” technology.

As a Ruby Lane shop owner, I knew to put my shop on vacation. I also added information to my shop’s information page that we were visited by Hurricane Irene and were without power. Our loyal customers were welcome to shop and we would ship as soon as possible.
The morning after Hurricane Irene hit us, we stumbled around the neighborhood – all our neighbors came out with the same shell-shocked look on their face. Hair unkempt, exhaustion in their eyes, wearing whatever they threw together. We made sure everyone was safe, that no people or pets were harmed. The next order of business was to make our roads passable so emergency vehicles could access our homes if necessary. The only sounds we heard that morning were the engines of chainsaws. Those who didn’t have a chainsaw grabbed limbs and branches and began the task of clearing the roads by hand. Then the driveways. Then entire neighborhood worked together until everyone had safe access to the roads and to the greater community. Generators started to hum. We all began to assess the damage to our homes and property.

While our neighborhood suffered extensive tree loss and complete loss of power, the damage to homes was minimal. As we heard over and over from friends and neighbors “It could have been so much worse, if that tree had fallen this way or that way we would have lost everything!”

As a small business owner, with my inventory stored in my home, I had to stop and think about what that means as I prepare for the next natural disaster (and I’m sure there will be a next!).

My means of communication with my business and customers is through the internet and my computer. Are my files backed up in case of computer damage? There are online sites that allow for backup so the records can be restored to any computer. If my home is damaged, do I want my backup files on my property along with my computer? If my backup files are on a disk, which is sitting on the same desk as my computer and a tree falls through the roof into my office, then I lose both my computer and my backup files.
Is my computer on a surge protector that is strong enough to protect it? If my computer is damaged in a natural disaster, will my homeowners insurance cover repair or replacement of my computer?

If I am without power for a significant length of time, do I have a way to stay in communication with my online business customers? Does my local library have internet access? Perhaps the local coffee shop? But what if they are without power? Can I use my “smartphone” to keep in communication with the outside world? Do I know how to use this technology? (The time to learn is before an emergency, not during!)

Then there is the question of my inventory: is it stored safely? Will it survive a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, tornado or hurricane?
If my inventory doesn’t survive, would my homeowners insurance policy cover that loss?
While we might have coverage for our home’s personal contents, is the dollar enough high enough to absorb the cost of re-stocking our inventory? Is there a separate endorsement we should have to cover our small business inventory against loss?

These questions need to be asked now. A discussion with your homeowners insurance agent and/or company may be in order. It’s time to pull out homeowner insurance policies and find out exactly what they say. Take the time to read them carefully, and ask questions of your insurance agent and/or company if you don’t understand.