Thursday, September 4, 2008

Retail Therapy: Ecru

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# of employees: 1
Did you write a business plan (y/n)? Yes
How many hours a week do you each work? 45-50
Day your doors opened: July 6, 2006
Owner: LeAnn Dolan

>> click here to continue reading about Ecru

>> Think you're ready to open up a shop? Read on and find out what really goes on behind the register...

1. Name one thing that completely took you by surprise when you first started Ecru - something that neither biz how-to books or any "SCORE" workshop prepared you for.

So far no big surprises except for the realization of how much I love owning my own stationery store! I had been the manager/buyer at a family owned stationery store here in Portland for 11 years -then 1 ½ years at Crate & Barrel selling furniture before opening Ecru. So I opened Ecru with a quite a bit of experience.

2. You've received great reviews on sites like citysearch and yelp. "The owner seems to always be in the store and is very knowledgeable about her merchandise. She is very friendly and helpful when I am in the store." "Owner, LeAnn Dolan really knows how to make customers feel special." It's clear that you've got the touch when it comes to customer service. Can you recommend to our budding shop owners 3 ways they can improve customer service that can make a huge impact on their bottom line?

Customers are my #1 priority at all times. I do my best to help and find solutions for each customer even if that means sending them elsewhere. Customers always appreciate the information and come back the next time.

Greet and welcome everyone who comes into the shop. Then after a few minutes I like to follow up to make sure they are finding everything or just let them know that I am available to help if needed. I try to pay attention to customer’s body language you can tell when someone just wants to look at their own pace or if they need help right away. I want my store to be very friendly and comfortable place to shop.

ALWAYS thank the customer for their purchase and for stopping in.

3. How long did it take you to set up the shop? Start from the day you decided and said to yourself "I'm opening a shop" to the day your doors actually opened.

Six months.

It was funny that finding the name of my shop was the deciding factor for me in starting my shop. In January of 2006 after several weeks of searching my husband and I came up with the name Ecru Modern Stationer and it stuck. From there everything fell into place – we spent 2 months looking throughout the city for the space, writing a business plan and getting our financial matters all together. By March we had the lease signed. The space was in a new building so we had to do a complete build out. Fortunately, my husband is an architect and we were able to design the store together. The build out went very smoothly and we were able to open 3 months later on our target date of July 6, 2006.

4. They say that "A business that doesn't grow eventually dies..." How has Ecru evolved since you first opened your doors back in 2006?

I definitely have a better sense of the “Ecru customer”. I have paid attention to what people are asking for and what they are purchasing so my merchandise mix is much more fine tuned and diverse.

5. Do you have a magical "buying" formula? Can you please share 4 things you've learned about buying and deciding how much inventory to purchase for the very first time.
(See side panel)

>> So you think your goods are perfect for Ecru?

6. Do most of the other designers you carry approach you, or do you actively seek out new designers? If so, where?

I am constantly looking for new lines for the shop. I do get artists and vendors that approach me but I find the majority of my lines through the internet, blogs or the National Stationery Show.

7. What is your process in choosing merchandise and what 3 things can artists do to stand out in your mind?

My process is simple – The design needs to catch me eye then I look at the quality and attention to detail then ask the price.

3 things to stand out:

a. Have an idea of what the store’s merchandise style/mix is. Think about who the customer is. A quick visit to my web site or visit to the store will give you a good idea of what kinds of merchandise I stock and then think how your product fit in.

b. Make an appointment instead of just dropping in.

c. Know your product and have a catalog or a web site to refer to. Include clear pricing, order minimums and any other information needed.

8. Owning a shop means constantly wearing different hats. Here's how LeAnn ends up spending her time:

10% Buying
5% Marketing & Promo
10% Production & Operations
65% Customer Service
10% Accounting/Billing/Finances

9. We all have days when we throw up our hands and say "I can't do this anymore!" - what 3 things do you say to yourself or do in order to snap out of it and persevere?

10. If Oprah decided to give you $10,000 tax free for your business, but you had to spend it in one week, what would you do with it?

Pay bills

>> VISIT Ecru
1215 NW 11th Ave
Portland, OR 97209
(503) 227-2611


Thanks LeAnn!!


Learning Spanish at 41 said...

Thank you for posting this interview. I live in PDX and have planned to visit ecru for awhile but now I know I must. The personal tidbits in this post are just as inspiring as the the shop/business info and tips!

Much success to you both,

Emerald Arts said...

Fantastic interview, great blog too, adding it to my RSS feed :)

sulu-design said...

Yet another fabulous post. Ecru is close to my apartment and I stop in there for several of my stationary needs. What a wonderful shop. Thanks for the inside scoop.