We have created our news letter to highlight some basic information about our company. It has evolved into a format where the first two pages are new and contain important information about the coming year. Those pages also contain the selling horror stories we use each year to illustrate some marketing tip we provide. Following that is a information useful to new clients or perhaps new sales staff. It allows them to know a little more about us, as artists and how to best sell our work.
Celebrating our 30th Anniversary!
2016 was a year of great artistic growth for us. Carol was awarded a Niche Award! With that recognition, she was selected to be in the company of 100 master craftsmen at The Echo Lake Artist Conference. Echo led to an invitation to the International EMMA Arts Collaborative held in Saskatoon, Canada, which has been running for 34 years and is the original Artist’s Collaborative. Inspiration comes to us from many places -- a lake in Vermont, a camp in the boreal forest, or a table perfectly placed in our new workspace, allowing us to see the afternoon light on the pond. As we begin 2017, we are positive that our 30 years of experience as full-time artists, our strong market presence and great rep force will make this the best anniversary ever!
American made businesses are constantly evolving. 10 years ago, there were few cell phones and most people still had dial-up internet. It was a year before the recession and craft was king. Today the world is carried around in your phone, and most people are in constant touch with others all over the country (if not the world) with texts and social media. While that is mostly positive, there are a large numbers of people whose discretionary money now goes to pay for content and bandwidth. That means potential customers have turned to curating instead of collecting. Ask anyone to show you their Pinterest, and you will find that it is full of all the lovely things they admire, but never commit to owning.
To succeed going forward, we need to turn them from curators to collectors! In order to do that, we need to keep relevant with the times. For example, one of our strongest selling items (the Pixie Bracelet) continues to capture shopper’s imagination, so we have expanded that set for 2017 to include a fanciful, sizable ring. Our new designs for 2017 are like no other Seaglass line, with clean lines and details that have our unique hand and perspective. Gifting is still very important in this market, and our Seaglass Jewelry is strongly positioned to fill that niche. “Remember the thrill when you found that piece of Seaglass on the beach?”
Some things should not change, like the quality of our work! We are often copied but never equaled. We have an almost non-existent repair record. We ship fast so that you can maximize your season’s sales. This year’s product line is one of our strongest, filling all price points and demographics. Seaglass is a touchable gem and has timeless allure. Color sells and we are color.
Our success is built on your success. We would like to thank our clients, several of which have been with us for the whole 30 years. In fact, the majority of our clients have been with us for many years -- decades even. That same list also is full of friendships. We are proud that so many of you have gone from business partners to close friends. Your stores represent some of the finest artwork in the nation, and many of you are household names in your cities. We are honored that you carry our work. We have always said, “If our clients don’t succeed, how do we?”. Your success is our priority.
A major shakeup occurred in the glass manufacturing in 2016. The EPA closed all the glass making plants in Portland after discovering contamination in the surrounding moss. Sadly, the most modern factory, complying with the highest standards, was affected by the order. As a result, they went out of business. Hopefully a pending sale to new owners will resurrect this great company. The impact on White Light (and all glass craftspeople) was huge. Colors that we depended on ceased to exist. Other manufacturers made slight reformulations of their glass recipes to meet new guidelines, which produced noticeable changes in many of the colors we use.
We spent long months breaking and tumbling new glass in an effort to develop new color palettes for 2017. We are extremely pleased with the results. Sometimes adversity results in strong solutions. We discontinued a large number of colors, concentrating only on the strongest sellers. We also discovered a new green we call “Storm”. We redesigned several of the palettes, and our new palettes needed new names (Blossom, Royal, Jade & Berry) to reflect these changes. So, by example, it is no longer possible to order Pastel -- instead choose the new 2017 palette, Blossom. The back of our catalog is your new friend, with detailed displays of the 2017 colors. It is also available on our website, with additional details as to the colors used in “5” and “3” palettes. We will automatically update your orders to the new palette if you continue using the old names.
REPS: We have a remarkable sales force. Melissa Robbins has been with us for 24 years. We are represented along the entire east coast, the Pacific North West, Idaho, Alaska, and Hawaii. Our reps are an amazing resource, and they are committed to providing you with outstanding personal service. They bring unique insight to the line. They can steer you to bestsellers and help avoid conflicts with other retailers. All of our reps are the front lines in your territory and act as our eyes and ears. They should be your first point of contact, for sales, customer service and desires. Of course, if you want to talk to the artist directly, we are just a call away.
With the decline in show attendance, our road reps are the best way to see the work before ordering. Please see our catalog for contact details.
SHOW SCHEDULE: We will only be exhibiting in Philly at The ACRE Craft Show in Philadelphia, PA, -- February 14-16, Booth 100.
Melissa, from Sidney Robbins Co. will be at all the NEAC shows throughout 2017.
Kathy Desmond will be showing at the Trendz Shows throughout 2017.
Julie Waterman will be at Seattle Gift Shows throughout 2017 & NW Market Association throughout 2017.
Mary Sellin will be at the HSRQ Trade Show throughout 2017 & the JAGA Trade Show throughout 2017.
Many of our other reps have regional shows where you can see them, so give them a call! Return to top
As we celebrate our 29th year of making Seaglass Jewelry, we are declaring it “The Year of Art”. We are extremely proud to announce that Carol is a Niche Award Finalist. She collaborated with two other artists to produce a stunning turned bowl that was fire etched (Pyrography) and then embellished inside and out with the most amazing paint and dye finish. Additionally, Carol had her first solo painting show in Philadelphia at the Boston Street Art Gallery. As always, we have designed stunning new Seaglass creations - we are particularly proud of our Siren collection. This set features blackened Sterling with polished highlights, and all our delightful Seaglass colors.
Anniversaries that end in “0” or “5” always seem to be more important than others, but we see this year as very significant. Perhaps it is our impending “30th”wedding anniversary, but we find ourselves taking stock, of not only our company but the entire industry. This past Fall, we had the opportunity to talk with show promoters and many fellow crafts people, and everyone has agreed - our business world has changed.
One theory, is, what we choose to buy has changed. Back in 2006, before the recession, AOL was the largest internet provider, charging $14.95 per month. Most households had a phone, cable and maybe a cell phone: average cost $150.00 per month. Fast forward to 2016, where most households have added broadband, and smart phones with data plans for everyone in the house. The monthly cost has at least doubled, if not tripled. That’s a significant amount of a monthly budget that is no longer available for discretionary purchases.
Content and content delivery has dramatically changed how families spend money. It is our job as makers (and yours as sellers) to capture the attention, and ultimately the dollars, of our customer. We need to be relevant in the new marketplace. What better way than with unique Art and Artisan made products?
Part of what makes a handmade product special is its backstory. When buying gifts or treasures for themselves, people also buy that story. It is vital that sales staff be able to talk about the product and artisans. This creates a connection that is then passed on with the gift. We were at a gift exchange once, where unbeknownst to us, one of our items was given to someone. We were thrilled when they took the time to explain all about our work and tell stories about Carol and I. Suddenly it went from a gift to a treasure with history – and not made in China!
Occasionally the story grows in the telling to becoming a family legend. Carol's father was famous for starting his stories with “Would you believe …”. The family thought buying gifts for him was impossible, but I found it easy. What he truly lacked was time, so we hunted out unique items for gifts - always artisan made (or wine - he often bragged that he was the best glass supplier, in the form of recycled wine bottles, for our fledgling business). The more details we could supply, the better he liked his gift. He had great respect for the maker. He once drove 3 hours out of his way to visit a metal worker’s studio. Once there, they spent hours talking about the quality and process used in the fabrication. Then, whenever he would show off that work, he could say “Would you believe...” and then regale everyone with all the details. Memorable.
Business consultants identify 7 reasons why consumers choose American over foreign products:
1. Support American economy
2. Product Quality Standards
3. Economics - Small Batch Manufacturing
4. Buy Union
5. Buy Eco Friendly - Consumers don't want to be part of the problem.
Looking at the list, we make 6 of the 7 reasons. We miss out on being a union shop, because we are a husband and wife team and Carol likes to think she is in charge. Seriously, when you add “Artisan Made” to the list instead, our line of Seaglass Jewelry nails it. As awareness grows for the importance of buying locally, market research has shown the average person will pay up to a 25% premium for a Made in America item over a similar import. But have you checked our prices? I think you will be surprised with how very affordable we are.
How many of you remember business before email? Before faxes and Fed-x? Times change and there is a new king - our smart phone. We need to embrace this technology and bring it to the workplace. Do you need to place an order, but are too busy to do inventory? Snap a picture of your display and text it to Carol (484-228-1232). She can put an order together for your approval. Do you have a handwritten list but can’t fax it or call it in? There is a marvelous app - CamScanner - that allows you to snap a picture of any document. The app cleans it up, makes it high contrast and legible, converts it to a PDF and readies it for email or texting.
It is also the end of an era for us. After making them for 29 years, we have officially discontinued Coke Bracelets. The supply is now so erratic, we can not reliably sell this design. That said, we have a wait list, and we will hopefully produce small batches that we will ship to interested clients. Call to join this first come, first served, list. Return to top
This is the first year our daughter, Rowan, hasn’t worked in the studio since she was 14, as she was attending the summer semester of college. On the short semester break, we met her in Las Vegas for our catalog cover shoot and to celebrate her 21st birthday. The concept was “If Rowan can’t come to the Seaglass, the Seaglass will go to Rowan”. This highlights an important idea -- Seaglass Jewelry is not just for the beach. Seaglass in the desert??? Absolutely!!! So we spent 4 days shooting in the Valley of Fire State Park, in Nevada. We were up at 3:30am to drive out to the desert, so we could hike in and set up the shots before the sun got too high. Direct sun overhead makes unflattering pictures and 110 degree heat is too brutal to work in. And have you noticed how pale Rowan is? Rowan does not do sun. In one of life’s ironies, the very first day we stopped at the rest area to try some new equipment out before packing the cameras into the desert. Don’t you know that is the picture we chose for the cover!
Several clients have been talking to us about what constitutes a branded line. You may remember that Carol and I were formerly in television, and produced hundreds of commercials which supported both the product and company image. Branding is concept that has been around forever and has been given new life with buzzwords. Some may remember my favorite commercial starring John Houseman for Smith Barney. The slogan was “We make money the old fashion way -- We earn it!” White Light embodies those ideals. Our jewelry is handmade and our quality control is outstanding as everything passes though either Carol’s or my hands. This all leads to a stellar reputation for our company!
The branding of small handmade companies is just as important as for large production companies -- often more. Yet, there are a couple of downsides to large commercial brands. There is usually a massive buy-in and display case size commitments. White Light has a modest first sale requirement and no minimums on reorders. Unlike others, we never dump our discontinued work at discount stores.
We are going into our 28th year of business, which is amazing and makes us proud. We have a national presence in all markets and trade shows. The product line is deep and changes to keep it relevant. Our designs are often copied but never equaled. Our distinctive logo and packaging are instantly recognizable. To assist in your marketing efforts, we offer 100’s of product images, free for use in advertising and on the web. This past November, a customer requested camera ready artwork for a rented billboard on the highway. We are thrilled that she chose us to represent her shop. We also offer large format printed posters for your point of purchase displays, or we can supply the files directly to your printer or ad agency. We are the Seaglass Brand!
This might well be the end of an era. We have been making Coke Bracelets from the start. The supply is now so erratic, we often have to backorder this design, which is something we hate doing, as we pride ourselves on complete shipments and fast turn-around. We will be taking requests and allocating each batch that comes out on “first come, first served” basis. Make sure we have your email to stay current on when batches are expected. Return to top
As many of you know, we haunt antique and flea markets looking for exotic glass to break. Imagine our surprise to discover one of our Scallop Necklaces in glass display case this Summer. The sales people had no information about the original owners. We were able to date the piece as approximately 15 years old, based on the color of a glass chip we no longer use. Seeing that “vintage piece” proved to be the inspiration for the reintroduction of our Scallop Set, last shipped in 2010. The chain for this design was made by one of America’s oldest chain manufacturers who was in the business for five generations. Sadly, when they went out of business after being hit hard by the recession, we had to discontinue the style. This year, we've found a new supplier and are delighted to be able to offer an updated version of one of our strongest sellers.
We have also introduced a new chain this year. It is a Box Chain that is 16” long, with a 2” extender. The finished length is 18”, with multiple clasping points. We did this in response to a trend where clients are ordering longer necklaces. 2013 was the first year we sold more 18” chains then 16”. Prior to this it had been 2-1, favoring 16”. The multiple clasping points are a fantastic way to avoid loosing a sale due to sizing. Our Box Chain has a silky feel and doesn’t kink or grab at hair. It is priced extremely competitively, at the same price as an 18” Snake Chain.
This year we traveled to sections of New England we haven’t visited in many years, visiting some galleries that are old friends and others that are new. We noticed that many stores were overcrowded with too many artists with only a few pieces representing each line. One gallery had 9 beach glass artists, which we found troubling. After 27 years making Seaglass Jewelry, we know all the competition. We are often shown side-by-side with other beach glass lines in a store. Time has proven we are the standout seller. We felt that the over-represented displays watered down each artist’s impact. We entreat you to choose less artists this year, and add more product depth – even if it isn’t with us. We firmly believe that high stocking levels are the best way to improve all of our sales.
For some parts of the country, a very wet Spring dampened sales. Some clients decided to push back their first order so when business picked up, their Seaglass displays were not well represented. Even when cash flow is tight, it's better to have a stocked store at the beginning of the season and cancel the last order of the season, if your expectations aren’t met. If your store is open, why not have it full?
We were lucky to work with a new model for our cover. Tomiko is the sister of a client, who we met at a trade show. She is a lovely addition to this year's catalog. She brought her whole family to our house for a weekend photo shoot. It was a pleasure to host her wonderful boys and husband. We are all inspired.
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As we enter our 26th year in business, you’d think we would have figured the whole thing out by now. In fact, ours is a constantly changing and evolving industry. To keep abreast of the changes, we took 3 different trips to check out our client’s stores and scout new locations. We noticed that one thing hasn’t changed - success takes dedication and hard work. Many people on the East Coast face additional challenges in rebuilding after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy.
We are thrilled by the trend to supporting local and hand made in America products, as promoted by ABC World News and Diane Sawyer. I was stunned to learn that for every $3.33 spent on American-made goods instead of imports, almost 10,000 new jobs would be created. Staggering! Distressingly we find others trying to emulate our work, many producing it off-shore. Imitation is not a form of flattery! We consider it the highest form of theft. What stands us apart from the other frosted glass lines is our innovative designs. This year’s line is a perfect balance of new designs and proven sellers. Interestingly, we are holding our own in pricing against imports, and our quality and customer service is unsurpassed. Our shipping time is stunningly fast for a crafts line. Why go anywhere else?
There is a bad, nasty word that no one in the industry wants to discuss, and it is Tarnish. We think it is time to confront this issue head on. In our travels, we saw occasional collections of tarnished jewelry. Sadly, some was ours. You simply can’t sell tarnished jewelry. Keeping it in a case just wastes valuable space. Worse, it is contagious. When wandering through a store, my eye would skip over a shelf or case containing tarnished jewelry. Close proximity to a bad piece caused me to fail to appreciate lovely work. To combat this, we use Tarnex on our work - EXCEPT pieces containing pearls. It is extremely simple to use and it will keep your merchandise shiny and saleable.
Success breeds success, and a full display leads to ever higher sales. We had a new client in Maine who read everything we wrote (because, it’s brilliant if I do say so myself!) and cautiously tried the line. They quickly placed a reorder, and having faith in us, made it a deep reorder. Two weeks later we heard from them again. This pattern continued until the end of their season in August. In September they were surprised to need another order. We weren’t. We have always stressed we are not seasonal and Seaglass is awesome gift, year-round! It is vital to commit to a line, a case of orphans never sells!
I was asked recently at a trade show, “Why should I buy White Light’s Seaglass line?” This letter answers that question in depth. My short answer was pride and quality of our work. For our entire career, Carol and I have made it a priority to create the best hand-made product we could. We were confident that others would see that as well. What didn’t occur to me at the time was to mention sales, I should have added that if you give us a chance, equal space in a display, our work will out sale the competition. We have proven this again and again. As proof your order is returnable within 30 days no questions no problem.
Our innovative designs incorporate the widest range of colors. This year we have added Lilac. It expands our offering of purples, bridging Alexandrite and Plum. It is featured in the Wild Orchid and Rainbow palettes. A wide selection of color translates into increased sales.
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2012 is a year of Milestones. White Light Productions is celebrating its 25th year in business. We are extremely proud of this achievement. Do we get a watch? Are we now officially a “collectible” because we are 25. Surely we are not an antique. 25 years ago, we were both 25 years old – not really, Carol is a few months older. We were newly married, excited with life and our new jewelry creations. Some of our original designs are pictured in our catalog.
In the past quarter century, we have learned the most important aspect to our business is the relationship we develop with our clients. We are truly a partnership - when our clients are successful, then we are as well. Many have become good friends. This year we traveled to Maine to shoot pictures for our catalog, which is one of the more extraordinary coastal regions. While there, we had the most amazing meal only because a client took us to the restaurant where the locals eat the best seafood.
This past year was the most challenging we have ever faced. It was a record-shattering year for extreme weather events. Tornadoes, hurricanes, snowstorms, flooding and droughts were all unexpected impediments for many businesses. The year started out with horrible cold rain, ruining weekend sales. There were hurricanes that ravaged the entire east coast, and wild fires in California. The government and the news services also conspired to put a crimp on business. The constant chatter about government spending and shutdowns brought consumer spending to a halt early in the summer.
Listing the negatives truly doesn’t help matters, but what will? First, I think attitude plays a major role, followed by smart merchandizing. A brilliant business man, President of a fortune 500 company and also Carol's father, often told us “All we have to do is do it”. It was the slogan that he used to increase sales 100 times in 15 years. His underlying message was that you need drive, enthusiasm and vision.
We are thrilled with the growing awareness of the importance of buying American made products promoted by ABC World News and Diane Sawyer. I was stunned to learn that for every $3.33 spent on American made goods instead of imports, almost 10,000 new jobs would be created. This insight has made it easy for shoppers to understand that every time they open their wallet, they can affect the economy directly. The fact that we are a Made in America product has always been a big part of our marketing strategy, and we are proud that many shoppers are valuing this aspect of our business.
Our best year, and the best year for many of our clients, occurred because they took orders early. This translated into full displays, which translated into strong sales. If you are going to be open, be open. We want to be the first company you think of buying from, as well as the last! With our exceptionally fast shipping, we can have an order coming to you in a couple of days. You will often find yourself placing a filler order before other companies have shipped their first order. One of our favorite clients called for an order the day we closed for Christmas break. It was never a question that we would get that work out to them.
Our best client - one we visited once in Aruba - is an awesome force of nature in her own right. She is constantly changing displays to feature different items. It can be as simple as changing a display left to right. Another key to her success is that her orders are big and deep. Color is key and she provides her shoppers with widest range, after all, who is to say what someone’s favorite shade will be? Continuing our commitment to color, we have added new hues this year. Sky is a beautiful, soft blue. We also have a brighter red glass.
We have been selling our wrapped jewelry for our entire career. It was gone through subtle tweaks and it is a powerhouse seller. Every display should be anchored around these pieces.
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What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. 2011 is looking like another strength building year! Just as the economy starts to show a meaningful recovery, commodities have gone through the roof. Gold & Silver have set record prices. American consumers are finally willing to open their wallets, but what can they afford? The short answer is Seaglass. I was asked at a trade show “Why should I buy your line over another's, particularly as they are now using the word ‘Seaglass' now?” While it is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we weren't. The reason to choose us is simple: We are the original and best Seaglass line.
24 years ago, when Carol was going door to door at the Jersey Shore , most buyers had not heard of Seaglass. Ocean tumbled glass was commonly known as “beach glass”. We can't lay claim to inventing the material, but we did coin the word. We are the first national Seaglass line. Our product is still handcrafted in America and you can always reach Carol or I on the phone. Our quality is unmatched, with a repair rate of .106%. We offer the largest selection with gorgeous new designs, all featured in a 24-page color catalogue for easy reordering. We fill orders on time and work to ship within the week. And did I mention price? We offer strong selling designs that are extremely affordable, as well as stunning high-ticket pieces. We are committed to your success.
Carol and I designed a beautiful line that we were particularly proud of this fall. As the catalog was in final proofing, the silver market had its first massive jump. With a critical eye, we eliminated pieces and created the 2 nd collection, which we then re-shot for the catalog. As silver continued its meteoric rise, we went back to the drawing board and came up with the 3 rd version. This assortment was forged on the anvil of necessity, with our 24 years of experience, to position us as the strongest seller for 2011.
We borrowed from our past by reintroducing a Nickel Silver Cascade Set. This is an updated version of the very first collection we made, which was a bestseller, until we discontinued it to make the line entirely Silver. We added a Silver Plate Lattice Set and Oxidized Nickel Plated Unbridled Set. These unique chains form the basis for an eye-catching and very affordable collection.
The snake chain has long been the king of chains. It is dramatic and substantial, while also being affordable. In the current market these chains simply cost more. Discerning clients will always choose that quality. To position our line at the most attractive price-point, we are now offering pendants on twist link chain, which was first introduced on our best-selling Whisper Necklace. The Crystal Ball Set was designed around a faceted ball chain and that chain is an option on all pendants as well. This chain is the most flexible choice, as you can size it on the spot for your client by snipping any length off this 18” chain. Starting in 2011 all pendants will be shipped on Twist Link Chain unless specified !
In the past, we mentioned how a store on the Cape takes a standing order every week. We are now fortunate enough to have a second store that has the same commitment. These two stores are two of our top accounts. The owners are masters of merchandizing whether by adding a second display of Seaglass upstairs or creating a fresh outdoor table display each day. The real secret is they never stop, be it merchandising, changing up displays or sales meetings to invigorate staff. Interestingly, the sales staff is told exactly what the store sold this day last year, and the goal is to always beat the day, the week, and the month.
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Welcome to an exclusive club -- if you are reading this, you are a 2009 Survivor! Nothing in our 23 years experience prepared us for last year. Craftsman and retailers battered and bewildered hung on for the ride,. Some noticed business picked up later in the year -- the government claims the recession ended in July 09. I noticed everyone began acting strange. It was almost as if we had an economic concussion, we were the walking wounded, alive but not sure how we got here. A new religion was born that I call “Economic Voodoo”. It works like this:
Yesterday sales were great, so today I will do the same thing so it will all happen again! Let's see... I got up late, bought Starbucks, spilled on myself, dropped keys twice while opening store, dropped purse getting alarm, and - oh yeah - sold Seaglass…but only if the earrings were facing north, were blue and one was higher in the case. One piece had a jag, pendants have to be diamonds, and seahorses can only be on rectangles...
You get the idea. If sales didn't materialize, retailers blamed the coffee, the Seaglass pointing south or whatever was handy. I'm here to tell you that it was all simply the times. Don't over-think it!
The survivors are the lucky ones, and I believe smart as well. Now we need to move forward and commit to 2010. The key to success will be working intelligently this year. You hear large companies saying it all the time, “return to core fundamentals and focus your efforts on productive lines”. Maximizing cash flow and lowering costs are a given. At White Light our vision has always been clear -- We make the best selling Seaglass Jewelry line -- and we are not just surviving, we are thriving! We should be part of your business strategy for 2010.
One of our clients related a tale that will be familiar to many. His business was surviving right up until the restaurants in his complex went out of business. Without the daily lunch traffic, sales plummeted. One by one, the other stores in his area closed their doors until he was practically the only one left. I'm thrilled to say that he was recently able to move locations and is preparing for the upcoming season. This illustrates a vital point – Body count is crucial, if no one walks into the block (let alone your store) how can you close a sale? It is imperative to generate interest in your area to draw the customers. With customers, I know your hard work will pay off and translate into sales – as long as the Seaglass points North How do you do this? You can't do it alone -- involve the Chamber of Commerce, the local paper and your fellow storeowners. Hold festivals, restaurant walks or events. A neighboring town holds a goat race. 10,000 people turned out for that one. We were in Woodstock , NY , and they held a town wide sidewalk sale.
We visited Stowe Vermont in 2008 and 2009. For our first visit the stores were well staffed with a wide array of merchandise displayed. In 2009 at the height of the foliage season the same store had mostly empty cases. My sister raised a key point, why would someone buy what was left – knowing every retailer ran huge sales this year you had the impression that this what was left over -- something not worth buying. It is critical to look well merchandised in the coming year. We can help with that, we offer amazingly quick turnaround on orders. Call us on Monday and we can get you work to fill that case by the next weekend.
Many of our other clients reported just the opposite problem – overfull shelves with merchandise that was just sitting. We have made this suggestion before – don't just have a % off sale, offer a 2 for 1, or a huge discount off the second piece. Psychologically people see that they get 40% of an item not 20% off two items. It has the very real benefit of clearing your shelves of not one item but two.
A corollary to the empty case syndrome is the orphan piece. We heard from a client who wanted to return a piece for a new color, as the one she had was not moving. When we looked up her order history we found she sold dozens of that very style and she took frequent orders, when she told us that it was Alexandrite, our top selling color we knew it was something else – that voodoo rearing it's head. It turns out she had a lone Seaglass earring in with our Soulstone line. She had been waiting to re-order until other venders sold. Sadly, the message she conveyed to her customer was that this piece was a remnant not worth buying. Our solution was to send her next order and with a full case all the worked sold through.
We had a client who took many small orders, sometimes 2 a week, for the shore. While ordering one day her husband was yelling in the background that money was tight and not to spend until other work sold. Her shouted response was that she was talking to White Light and Seaglass was moving! I can't stress enough jump on what is moving!
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2008 was the most challenging year in our 22 years in business. If you do the math, you'll realize that we started selling jewelry in 1987 (another recession year), which until now had the largest meltdown on Wall Street since The Great Depression. The lessons learned during those first years have served us well throughout our career. You constantly hear about companies having to refocus and return to their core business. White Light has always known what we do -- We make the best selling Seaglass Jewelry line !
The past year began with high expectations, but then slammed us with economic forces beyond anyone's control, including absurd silver prices, the high cost of oil & gas, and the largest stock crisis ever. The biggest problem facing everyone in 2009 will be reestablishing consumer confidence. The engine that drives the world's economy is consumer spending, but things won't bounce back quickly. We understand these problems -- this was the first down year White Light has ever had. After feeling worried and scared, we dusted ourselves off and started planning for the future.
In doing so, I was examining our sales numbers and realized that while sales were down, it was also our 4 th best year ever! We were thrilled when we posted that number just a few years ago. The more we thought, the more we took pride in our accomplishments. In a year that saw the largest financial intuitions go bankrupt, we endured as a Handmade in America Craft Business.
The craft industry is very susceptible to the economic climate. Early on there was evidence foreshadowing a recession, even though Washington avoided the “R” word. One client told us about her soft sales last Christmas. As a result, she was manning her own store in the month of January, when she typically traveled. She placed several reorders that month (in previous years she would normally sell through existing stock). In talking with her, we realized that it was her presence in the store that made all the difference. As owners, our involvement is vital to the success of our businesses. There is a reason why we are in charge. We may have talented staff that is indispensable, but it is our energy and vision that drives our company's success stories.
A dear friend and client stayed with us for a long weekend this year, right in the midst of the economic meltdown. She owns 8 stores, and is opening a 9 th (Wow!). She has a policy of randomly dropping in on each store. Because employees never know when she will appear, they are always on their toes. We have talked about her before -- she is the queen of re-merchandising displays. She looks at the sales figures every day, and if an item is not selling or sales have dropped, she shifts that item to a different location. Our Seaglass is always featured prominently, which pleases us to no end. Her sales were up this year, because she committed heavily to Seaglass and to our new Soulstone line. We are elated with her success in 2008!
This ties in to a client who also has White Light featured in beautiful displays in several stores. Another beach glass company offered a rack of earrings with “Guaranteed Sales”, which they put in their store thinking it could expand profits without risk. When we visited one store, there was an uncomfortable moment when we all acknowledged the competitor's display. But we were confident, knowing our Seaglass would produce stronger sales and better service. As the season wound down, we received a lovely call saying that they were no longer carrying the competitor. Guaranteed sales just means you can return merchandise – not that you can actually sell it at a profit . Your merchandising space can't be tied up without turnover -- White Light Jewelry sells out consistently!
Cape Cod is one of our strongest regions. One of our clients there takes an order every week during his short season. We fill two display cases in his store -- one upstairs & one downstairs. This conveys the strong message that he is devoted to our line and it should be purchased. Customers are given a wide selection of styles and colors to choose from, allowing them to find a special treasure that fits their desires and pocketbook. This buyer only devotes space to vendors who can commit to shipping reorders with extremely fast turn-around. We were thrilled to step up to the plate. To motivate his staff he posts the daily sales figures for the previous year, and is constantly inspiring his staff to beat last year's numbers. Good staff becomes great when influenced by his energetic enthusiasm. We talk each Monday to tweak the next order, which gets us stoked as well! Late this summer we realized that he was going to beat last year's Seaglass numbers. Good business practices led to this goal, despite the difficult economy.
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2007 was our 20th Anniversary and 2008 is the start of a new era! This summer, we took an opportunity to combine business with pleasure and revisit our past. Our daughter, Rowan, attended mountain climbing school in Acadia National Park , in Maine . It just so happens that 20 years ago Carol and I had rattled around New England on a delightful honeymoon trip, so we decided to retrace our steps and show our daughter some of our favorite spots. After a few days, we left Rowan at camp and took an additional week for ourselves, creating new “Mark and Carol” memories!
20 years made quite a difference! It was a little harder hiking the cliffs, the water sure seemed colder, and the state had undergone a renaissance. The quaint fishing villages with a couple stores were now bursting with dozens of shops. In two decades, tourism had replaced fishing as the primary industry. We enjoyed visiting over 100 galleries and stores in dozens of towns. We are proud to be a small part of that, for in each town there is a store selling our Seaglass.
We learned a lot speaking with the storeowners in each town about the challenges they faced as retailers. The local papers had large sections devoted to improving the economy through tourism. Maine 's “season” is only 6 weeks long, so in order to keep above the tide, these retailers really need to make the most of that short time. Carol and I noticed that all the businesses were cooperatively geared toward special events such as clam bakes, restaurant festivals, and music events, to draw in people. 6 weeks is not a long time to generate enough money to carry them through the year. Could you do that?
Selection : I can't say it enough: A good display leads to strong sales. We noticed that the Maine galleries and stores have carried it a bit further. They have back stock, and more back stock, while they make use of our placeholder concept and our fast turnaround, they can't afford not to have the best day possible – every day! When a piece sells, it is immediately replaced. Back stock also permits them to have varied color choices to suit everyone's preference.
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Two of our clients stand out because they have illustrated “Sell-Thru”. The first has been featured in our newsletter in the past, because his techniques always inspire us. He has a weekly order shipping “Next-Day” every Tuesday. In 2006 he doubled our display space, and in the process doubled his sales. His stocking levels are huge, and so are his sales. His enthusiasm shows in everything he does.
The second client really didn’t understand what Sell-Thru was. She approached Carol at the summer show for an explanation. There is a mathematical formula to determine when stock is costing you money, but in simple terms, when you purchase stock for your store, you are making an investment in your business. Ideally, your investment will return keystone plus and you will more then double your money. In reality, it is not an easy flip. The item occupies sales space, so you are paying rent, overhead and expenses to market and sell that item. Each month the cost of “stocking” that item goes up. Should that item sit for several months, you can no longer profit from selling it. At best you can only hope to recover your money. (Wow, your job can be hard!)
So what do you do? Have a sale! Simply marking an item down is the easy solution - but be creative! Our favorite idea is a “buy one, get the second at a discount” sale - that way you move two items out freeing up sales space for quicker moving items. So instead of 10% off, give them 20% off the second item. This has a perceived higher value, but costs you no more (and sometimes less), while getting additional items sold.
Another idea was suggested by our first client -- he marks slow moving items down each week until they finally sell. He doesn’t put them on sale; he lowers the price to find their “comfort zone” for strong sales. Then he decides if he can continue to stock that item, based on that profit level.
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Gas prices were the single biggest obstacle to growth this past year. Energy prices affect every aspect of our business, your business and the lives of the end consumer. If the average shopper is spending an extra $50.00 - $75.00 each week on gas they certainly aren't spending money on non-essentials items. And when the gas crisis is weathered, there will always be the next business challenge. Which raises the question, if our clients are not succeeding, how do we?
Sell – thru is the answer! For years we have been stressing the concept of Sell-thru. This past year we heard from many galleries that we were the only line selling. Two clients stand out because they exemplified sell-thru. The first had a weekly order shipping “next-day” every Tuesday. The other would place a large order on Monday, discover she had to add to it on Tuesday, it would ship Wednesday and she would call wanting more work on Thursday. This went on for weeks, with each reorder getting larger. It has become an inside joke - “It Sells Like Seaglass!”
Each year we tour random client's galleries, chronicling stories that illustrate areas of improvement for merchandizing our work. This year it is publicity. All of the images on our website are yours to use. One client uses our pictures for his publication that he stocks in the tourist info centers. We have some great press releases that can be found on our web under “Wholesale Info”. We have also created a printed press kit, complete with articles, and a DVD with high-resolution images for print.
Ok, all that material is great but how do I use it? One client sends out a press release at the start of their season, announcing the arrival of our jewelry. His local paper runs the story with a picture of the jewelry, which translates into sales. Now most of you are not writers, nor do you have the time for yet one mores task - this is where we can help. Simply give us the name of your local publication and we will send the press kit. If you have any themed events, special fairs or festivals, those make great “hooks” for press. Just remember, we need to work within the publications lead-time. With perseverance, good press and publicity will translate into sales.
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For several years now, one of our clients on Cape Cod has taken our concept of “The Placeholder” to heart. At the Winter Markets (the five trade shows we do in January – March), he makes it a point to meet with us to confirm that he will be selling the work this year. Starting in May, he schedules an order to be shipped every Monday. When June rolls around he ups the amount, and again in July. That's not to say that he orders and walks away. We actually talk to him every week, going over his current inventory. Together, we plan each order by replacing his low stock & strong selling styles, reviewing his selection of color, and moving different styles through his store over the year to keep his display fresh.
This might seem obsessive, but he manages to outsell every store on the Cape. It might seem like too much “work”, but his standing order is always 50% of our best sellers. That leaves just a few styles to track and reorder. The weekly phone call is more social than business – we all enjoy sharing our successes. And nothing cheers on a Monday morning like having your standing order confirmed and hearing some stories about great weekend sales.
By working this way, he always has the widest selection of both style and color available for his customers. The store is in a tourist area that turns over each week. He can't afford to tell a shopper “I can have it next week”. Saying that just moves the shopper to the next store. Lets face it – tourists are impulse shoppers! They want it, and the want it NOW .
Our other store is in the Midwest. They place one order a year, and have for many years. No amount of phone calls or catalogs ever generates a second order. We have always been mystified as to how they run their store. This year, they called wishing to exchange styles that just didn't work. Sadly, we couldn't accept the return because when we received it, we discovered it was styles that we discontinued over 5 years ago. The work also came back to us very dirty and tarnished.
It's hard enough competing in today's market, but impossible with tired goods. All of our jewelry can be cleaned to its original brightness by dunking it in Tarnex (never put pearls in Tarnex!), which is available at most grocery or hardware stores. Simply follow the directions on the bottle and rinse thoroughly. If it's just dirty, use liquid dish soap. If this client had taken some time to clean this jewelry it would have sold.
However, this return was wrong on so many levels. Don't ever sit on inventory that long. Can you imagine shopping in a store where the merchandise didn't change, year after year? What kind of message does that send to your shopper? “Gee, we've had this work for years, but I'm sure it's a good piece for you.” – Not hardly! The best way to improve your store's operation is – Sell Through !
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This occurred on a mini vacation to the Hudson River Valley, in New Paltz NY. We desperately needed a break and went there to see the fall foliage. The town was full of great restaurants, curious shops reminiscent of the 1960's (Woodstock is not far), and great galleries. Mark and Rowan entered one store though a side door (without noticing the sign) and immediately fell in love with the dozens of items. Completing our shopping took some time, with a brief power outage also causing the fire alarm to sound. The proprietor was forced to cope with this problem for the entire shopping center. In the end, we purchased several wrought copper Christmas presents for hard to shop for friends.
Mark was so impressed with the store that he hurried back to grab Carol, exclaiming we should sell our work here. After touring Carol through the store, we arrived at the front to pay and discovered we were in a gallery that we had been selling to for years. A beautiful display of our jewelry was right by the register. It was great fun to stumble on one of our own galleries and we were honored to find our work included with such an array of fine crafts. And most importantly, we followed the owner's instructions as to where the locals eat and hike and had phenomenal meals and saw breathtaking sites.
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We have an ex-client that had two necklaces in their store that sat there for 7 years before they finally sold them. They were displayed in the back corner of the store under terrible lighting. Just down the street is our current client, who has a bright display with a large selection. She has managed to sell hundreds of that same necklace. Orphns never sell.
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