So if you haven't heard of it already, there is a campaign called 'Just a Card' which I have championed for a few years now. It's a simple message based on a quote from a shopkeeper who was closing down. "If every customer who said my shop was lovely had bought just a card, I'd still be open".
Powerful. To me anyway. I'm very proud of Yellowstone Art Boutique and the atmosphere, community and reputation I have built in my cabin over the last 7 and a half years. I hear the words "I love this shop", "My favourite shop at Trentham" "I could buy everything in here" on a daily basis and it fills my heart with joy. I'd also like to add that shoppers at Trentham are mostly spenders. They appreciate the individual shops on our street and really support them. If you don't live locally, the Trentham Estate has a quaint, pedestrianised shopping street with free accessible parking, full of wooden cabins, next to an Italian Gardens and lake. It's beautiful.
BUT (there was always going to be a but) there are a small proportion of people who come in to my shop on a very regular basis, say lovely things, and leave every week empty handed. That's fine. Not everyone should have to buy and browsing is more than encouraged in Yellowstone. But after 6 months of those visits, even 6 years in some cases, it's tough as a shopkeeper to see the same faces saying 'I love this shop' and never buying even a £2 card.
It's always been a niggle of mine but on the whole, we've never struggled money-wise so I could never complain.
Last month, I had an interaction on instagram that stopped me in my tracks. A customer had commented on a @Justacard post and mentioned that they LOVE Yellowstone. The lady commented that they live locally and use my shop for inspiration. She comes in and although doesn't buy, she always write down the names of the makers and then shops online directly with them, throughout the year.
I thought about this for a while (it's a VERY common occurrence in Yellowstone) and suddenly it came to me. If every person who came in to my shop and used it for inspiration, then went elsewhere, how am I going to pay the rent? Because inspiring people is brilliant but unless people are spending with me, I won't be here next time they need inspiring!
So I carefully replied "I love that we give you ideas for gifts. Food for thought though- if you always get ideas from me, but don't purchase from me that I might not be here next year to give you the ideas! So to shop here would be the best statement to make. (Please don't take that the wrong way as I know you meant your comment as a flattering one)". I nervously pressed send, aware that I didn't want to sound mean. But the lovely lady replied "I haven't taken it the wrong way and you're right. I mean so right, so this year I'll be on it".
It made me realise that people might not even think that using us as inspiration might be having a negative effect on us.
I have friends who have seen prints or pieces in my shop, and then gone directly to the maker to buy it at the same price from them. Which baffles me. If it wasn't for Yellowstone they wouldn't know about that item so why not shop where you found it? I spend so much time finding the best design led gift and homeware to bring it to your fingertips- it'd be amazing to know that's appreciated.
To end on a brutally honest note- 2018 has been a tough one. It's nationwide- retail is struggling and Yellowstone is no exception. I'm all for keeping social media positive (no-one likes a moaner and I'm genuinely so grateful for the situation I'm in). But honestly, for the first time in almost 8 years I've wondered if it's worth staying open. The pressure of paying wages for 4/5 staff (no matter how busy/quiet we are) is overwhelming some months and with a baby on the way, and a mortgage to pay, we need every single customer who loves Yellowstone to USE IT. Shopping in your favourite independent business is a huge statement to make and it's a vote for the kind of high street you want to see. Use us or lose us.
I've seen 8 shops and businesses who I greatly admire close this year and I don't want Yellowstone to be the next. I'm not planning to close so don't take this as a threat (far from it, I have plans to take Yellowstone Art Boutique from strength to strength) but I don't want to leave it so late that we don't have a choice.
I really don't want this to be a preachy blog about shopping independent. At 37 weeks pregnant, I'm not afraid to admit that I've been ordering sterilisers and bottles with next day delivery from huge retailers for the ease of convenience and an easy life. I'm only human and I'm also realistic about how busy our lives are.
But when you're struggling to find a gift for that fussy Aunt or want something special for your friend who is having a really tough time, why not shop with a small business?
As a very last point, we obviously can't afford to compete with BLACK FRIDAY codes this year. But as a thank you for deciding to spend with us, we will be popping a treat in with every order placed from now until Sunday 25th November. Have a browse and SHOP HERE.
To learn more about the Just a Card campaign, visit their website and follow their engaged instagram which raises many of the issues and habits I've mentioned here - justacard.org