Many quilts shops participate in a shop hop at some point in the year. This is a specific time when customers are encouraged to learn and shop from all the quilt shops in your area. Why should this be a single occurrence when it can be done all year round?
Quilt shops are often known for their own specialties. Perhaps you have a wonderful selection of batiks or you are known for the best wool felt in town. With the many different types of quilting, each quilt shop has the ability to have the best selection of something. As the shop owner you probably know the other shops in your area and what they are known for but will you continually recommend them to your customers?
How many times has a customer come in and asked for a specific product that you don’t carry? Perhaps they need a specific novelty fabric for a baby quilt or are looking for a specific blender they cut wrong from a kit. The customer might have a specific fabric designer they like, a type of pattern they want to make, or a specialty tool they heard about. They came into your store looking for help.
Even if you don’t have the exact item the customer is looking for, you can still help them. Begin with your own products, something that may be similar and work for their needs. If it doesn’t you can recommend another local quilt shop if you know they have the missing product the customer needs. The customer will be thankful that they are receiving information to assist them and amazed that you are recommending another store! Seeing that you are a friendly, helpful shop owner or employee may make them want to stay in your store longer. The items you showed them they first turned away might now receive a second look. Talking with your customer about the project they are working on will keep them in your store longer and more likely for them to pick something else up to purchase. Receiving good and friendly service will keep your shop at the top of their favorite shopping locations.
We know quilters are creative people that have lots of projects of all kinds they can be working on at any given time. Recommend other services and types of crafts when you customers are checking out. If there is a guild that meets at your shop similar to their purchase selection, recommend they visit next when the group is in store. Perhaps you are a fabric store only and have a few local longarm quilters you recommend or a trusted sewing machine repair technician. There may be a local seamstress nearby to mend clothing or an interior decorator that needs home décor items. Meet other local creative businesses for new networking opportunities.
If your business is on a town main street mention local places where your customers can eat or might like to shop. Is there a yarn store down the street they might like to view? When they visit these other locations there is a high chance they will tell those owners you sent them. These businesses will return the favor with their own customers and everyone’s in store traffic will increase!
If this feels like you are sending your customers out the door instead of shopping with you, it’s not. There are many ways you can recommend people to other businesses with deals in your favor. You can make a deal with a local coffee shop or diner to hang quilt models for sale on their walls. They can receive a small commission for each sale and it’s a great way for you to move models you no longer need. Create a wholesale account or discount for your local longarm quilters to buy their thread and batting from you instead of online. Sponsor a fabric challenge with a local quilt guild with a specific fabric line you carry. Give a gift certificate for the challenge winner ensuring they come back to your store.
With any recommendation you give, be sincere and honest. You are here to help the customer and give them reason to return to your shop. Knowing you are a friendly shop willing to help in all areas will keep your customers returning to you.
Check out the most popular tool on QuiltingHub. Use the search 'Map Of Resources' or the 'Resources Trip Planner' to the right (or below).
Ellen Ault is a professional long arm quilter. Her quilts have been in national quilt shows and in numerous publications. Ellen is a graphic artist and assists local quilt shops with social media.