How will I be able to protect my goods during bad weather? (Rain storms, dust storms, smoke, etc.)
- Even getting our inventory from a Quilt Show building and into the vehicle without getting anything wet in the rain is a challenge. An outdoor-only venue amplifies that challenge. Don’t forget about bird droppings on a nice day....
How much inventory will my customers want to see? What will they buy?
- There are thousands of cotton prints, and even more color tones. How do I select inventory? Since I have put $1000 (wholesale) worth of fabric into the backseat of a Supercab pickup truck several times, with space left over, what do I take on the road?
How do I recoup my loss if I or a customer drops a bolt of fabric onto the ground in a wet parking lot?
- I didn’t mean to, and THEY didn’t mean to, but the whole bolt could be damaged from one slip.
How can I compete price-wise with the on-line sellers setting at home in their easy chair?
- Few buyers know (or care) that some on-line “stores” consist of a computer on the kitchen table and inventory crammed into a garage or backyard shed to provide minimal overhead costs. IMO, a pretty web page is not as hard to achieve as an attractive display in a shop or at a parking lot miles away from your home, in the rain, in the wind, in the smoke, in the elements. Some on-line sellers “sell on demand” too, if you didn’t know. They offer fabric for sale on their site, and if they get any “hits”, they order the fabric from their supplier. It happens all of the time. Sometimes they can fill your order, sometimes not.
I too, have a romantic urge to take our wares “on the road”. I just haven’t figured out a way to do it.
- A little history: Years ago, small fabric shops had traveling fabric salesmen come around to shops with bolts of fabric to sell wholesale to a retailer. The lady that had our shop before us bought a large part of her inventory “off of the truck” on the street just outside of the front door. That’s the way they did business back then. But remember, that was back in the days when several small shops sold fabric in the same community, so the salesman had a fair chance of selling something in each community. However, those fabric salesmen are few and far between these days. We still do get one from time to time, but rarely, and the fabric is generally close-out fabrics and bolt-ends. Our first-run salesmen come by these days with photos of new fabric lines. They usually don’t even have fabric swatches anymore. The fabric won’t be produced unless enough shops sign up for some, so there are no swatches to bring to us. Basically, it’s a “design idea” that we have to buy, if we want it, and even then, we won’t know if we’ll get the fabric until later on, usually six months or more later. Not all of the fabrics that we “order” are ever produced, so we don’t get them. The manufacturers don’t produce most fabrics that are not already sold by the marketing staff (at least their “minimum” amount). I think that they call it “on demand” sales, or something.
With the economy being as it is, I think we’ll see folks being less mobile in their shopping, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will shop locally. The internet can provide their “out of town” access to products in many cases. Why would they “catch the fabric truck” on a schedule, when they can shop far-away places at all hours of the day and night? Not being able to feel the fabric prior to purchase is becoming less of a consideration these days.
Also, I think that you’ll soon find yourself asking your customers what they want you to bring with you the next time that you come to their parking lot. Obviously, you won’t want to bring things that they don’t show an interest in, right? But....now we’re also involved with “on demand” sales, aren’t we? What are you going to do with all of that merchandise that is not “on demand” or “in demand”? Keep hauling it around?
CD in Oklahoma