You’ve probably been following the minimum wage debate playing out in the fast food and big-box retail sectors. In this issue, we look at how this labor revolution could affect your business and offer strategies to help you prepare for an increase. After all, as the article on page 24 points out, some states have already bumped up their minimum wages, and a national increase is likely not far behind. We’re here to help you through this seemingly inevitable transition. With the right planning and the right frame of mind, you’ll come out on the other side of any wage bump with the assurance that your increased investment in your employees will be worthwhile.
Whenever we discuss a potential minimum wage increase on our social-media pages, readers typically express concern that such changes may force them out of business. While there’s no denying that finding more salary money in the budget can be challenging, it shouldn’t be impossible. We’re not saying this to be dismissive or insensitive to the struggles of the small-business owners who faithfully read this magazine. We’re saying it because we see this debate as an opportunity for readers to reevaluate and make sure they’re putting their money where it will really pay off.
Brick-and-mortar dance storeowners hang their hats on the idea that customers should be willing to visit their stores, rather than shop online, because of the expertise and above-and-beyond service only found in stores. Unless you run your store single-handedly, you are not the only one providing those services. You likely rely on a staff of faithful and passionate employees with years of dance-world experience. You’ve taken the time to train them in the art of fitting, taught them exactly how to treat your clientele and entrusted them with your livelihood. These people are valuable and cannot be easily replaced. Whether it’s mandated or not, we’re willing to bet that in the long run you’ll be pleased with an increased investment in the living, breathing assets who keep your business thriving. As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for.
Welcome to summer! After surviving the longest winter in memory, you’ve earned the chance to take a breath and reflect on the year you’ve had so far. With the bulk of your customers away at camps, intensives and on vacation, now is also an ideal time to deal with some issues you may not have time for during your busiest seasons.
There’s no better way to position your business for long-term growth than by making sure you’re literally in the right place. Our feature on mastering your lease renegotiation (page 24) offers advice from commercial real estate experts that will help you use your track record as a good tenant to negotiate more favorable terms when you renew your lease. Locking in a better monthly rate or convincing your landlord to spruce up your facility can give you the confidence and flexibility you’ll need to grow your business.
Similarly, you’ll want to keep your social-media skills sharp. At this point, all retailers know that a strong social presence is key to connecting with and courting customers.However, ever-changing algorithms are keeping marketers on their toes and making it necessary to continually tweak one’s approach.Turn to page 20 for the latest tips and tricks for making a splash on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.
Finally, be sure to set aside some time to check out our new-and-improved Dance Retailer News Directory, which has been mailed to you with this issue. This annual resource features essential information on more than 550 key vendors that sell everything from POS systems and fixtures to dance bags and pointe shoes. Essentially, you’ll find everything you need to keep your business running smoothly!
In DRN, we’ve always talked about the importance of building relationships with local dance teachers and studio owners as a way of driving traffic into your store. But those partnerships have never been more necessary. With seemingly unlimited discounts available online, the increasing prevalence of studio-only apparel and shoe brands and the introduction of services that allow studios to sell directly to students without the need to hold or manage inventory, you now need teachers and studio owners more than they need you. You must continually work to show them that you’ll go above and beyond to keep them and their students happy.
Get creative: Consider hiring a messenger and adding a same-day delivery service so your busiest customers can have the last-minute tights or shoes they need within a few hours of picking up the phone. Or try renting a corner of the lobby at your busiest studio and setting up a branded satellite location filled with tights and studio uniform basics, so students can grab them before class and be prompted to visit your main location for fashion items and accessories. And make sure you’re offering can’t-miss services to remind studio owners that it’s worth supporting your store because you’re providing more than just product. (For example, in “Relationship Reboot” (page 36), Diane Stein discusses how her in-store custom costume service is a huge draw to local dance educators.) The game has changed, and you must make it clear to your VIP customers that you will do whatever it takes to adapt.
With this in mind, back-to-school is more crucial than ever. Don’t wait to make sure you’ve got all of your ducks in a row for the busy season. “Back-to-School Guide” (page 20) features key fall ordering deadlines and incentives from leading manufacturers, plus ordering tips and tricks from several veteran retailers. Read on and get to work!
*Talk to me: How are you incentivizing teachers and studio owners to support your business in today’s marketplace? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject! Please e-mail me at email@example.com.
“Ten percent of the stores I visit are ‘dance stores,’ while the other 90 percent are ‘stores that sell dance products.’” A rep for a major manufacturer whom I met at a recent trade show made this startling comment. He explained that most of the stores he sees lack atmosphere and unique identities—you could swap out the pointe shoes and leotards for cell phones or appliances and the shopping experience wouldn’t change. Meanwhile, the exceptions to the rule have distinct looks and vibes that envelop you the second you walk in the door.
During that same trade show, a veteran storeowner told me that even though the retail world has undergone many dramatic changes in the past several years (see: recession, growth of online retail, etc.), brick-and-mortar stores aren’t going away. However, “mediocre retail will not survive much longer.” In other words, the bar is higher than ever. Today’s most buzzed-about retailers (Warby Parker, Lululemon, etc.) have captured customers by providing unique on-brand experiences that translate seamlessly both online and in store. Customers demand engaging environments, a breadth of inventory and competitive pricing. Your challenge is to find a way to be indispensable. You already have the products, the knowledge and the passion. Now, you need to take all of that and build it into an exciting shopping experience.
To get you started, “Mastering the Meet-and-Greet” (page 22) will help you plan a successful event, during which you’ll connect customers with a dance idol and draw in extra traffic. (One recent event featuring “Dance Moms” stars pulled hundreds of customers into a Tampa, FL, store on a single afternoon!) Then, turn to “Storefronts: Beyond Window Displays” (page 32) to get inspired by several dance stores that are making immediate and lasting impressions on customers. You’ll be amazed at what a
difference a few simple decorative choices can make!
First impressions count. Want to gain customers who have the potential to be loyal shoppers for the next few decades? Spend some time courting tots—and their parents. By creating an inviting environment for your youngest customers and carrying inventory that will satisfy both children and their parents, you’ll establish your store as a dancewear destination long before that little one masters her first pirouette. This issue is devoted to helping you forge those lifelong relationships.
Read “Attention, Small Shoppers!” (page 30) for expert advice on how to create kids’ apparel and shoe displays that will enchant patrons and drive sales. Then, turn to “Little Ones in the Limelight” (page 18) and “Tiny Toes” (page 16) for a roundup of manufacturers’ latest apparel and footwear for those young-but-discerning customers. Finally, don’t forget to check out “Togs for Tots” (page 38) for insights from teachers on what they want to see their youngest students wearing in class.
Of course, you don’t just have to appeal to tots. Consider the clothing you and your employees wear in the store. What kind of messages are you sending? “Look the Part” (page 22) discusses all the benefits of instituting an employee dress code or giving your staff a uniform—from making it easier for customers to find employees on busy days in the store, to reinforcing shoppers’ belief in your expertise. There are also tips on how to select a look for your employees that’s functional, fashionable, practical and professional.
*In this month’s Retailer Spotlight (page 26), we visit The Dancer’s Hut in Morrison, IL. Karla Green and Tyler Smith (a mother-and-son team) run the store, along with a custom T-shirt business and a tanning salon. Find out how they make it all work!
Dance retailers always tell me they can’t read enough about ways to promote their stores. Marketing is more challenging than ever because storeowners must compete for attention in more mediums than ever before. This month, we’re looking at a tool every retailer needs in his or her promotional arsenal: a strong tagline. A good one gives customers a sense of your store’s role in the marketplace and helps differentiate your shop from the competition—every store needs one. Read “Tagline Tips” (page 24) for pointers on how to write a great one and how to use it to make your business stand out.
Once you’ve mastered the art of catching customers’ attention, turn to “A Matter of Time” (page 22). Through monitoring dance stores on social media, we’ve noticed several that adjust their hours with surprising frequency. While we always encourage readers to experiment, it helps to know when you’re doing too much of a good thing. This piece will help you optimize your schedule, so you’re open when customers need you and when you’ll stand to make the most profit.
Finally, it’s time to prepare for recital season. To help get you started, “Taking Center Stage” (page 18) is filled with performance-ready looks, and “Simple Pleasures” (page 14) showcases several must-have gifts. Then, check out “Recital Window Ideas” (page 32), for fresh window concepts that will draw in customers this spring.
Wishing you showstopping sales!
*Speaking of Shows…
If you’ll be attending the Atlantic Dance Retail Shows in Chicago (February 9–10) or Baltimore (February 23–24), set aside some time for DRN! I’ll be hosting business-building seminars each day during lunch. Visit atlanticdanceshow.com for registration information, and then e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell me which topics you’re dying to talk about. I’m looking forward to meeting you!
Welcome to 2014! One of the best things a new year can offer is a fresh opportunity to focus on growing your business. To strengthen your store, adopt these new year’s resolutions as your own.
Improve Your Inventory. Our “Guide To Ordering in 2014” (page 22) features deadlines and incentives from more than 35 companies. You’ll also find feedback from several leading manufacturers about must-watch apparel and shoe trends for 2014.
Amp Up Your Displays. “Dressed for Success” (page 32) discusses the art of dressing a mannequin and offers several tips and tricks you can use to get the most out of those displays. Plus, “Ask Leslie” (page 34) outlines several store design updates that will keep your store feeling fresh in 2014.
Have Lunch With Me! This isn’t a resolution, but rather an invitation. If you’ll be attending this year’s Atlantic Dance Retail Shows, please set aside some time for DRN! I’ll be hosting a series of business-building seminars for dance retailers during lunch each day in Los Angeles (Jan 12–13), Dallas (January 26–27), Chicago (February 9–10) and Baltimore (February 23–24). Visit atlanticdanceshow.com for registration information, then e-mail me at email@example.com to tell me which topics you’re dying to talk about. I’m looking forward to meeting you!
Wishing you a profitable year,
*Don’t Miss It!
This month we’re launching a new section devoted exclusively to shoes! Each month, we’ll feature the latest offerings from manufacturers in a different shoe category. This month’s section (page 16) is all about jazz shoes!
Devoted ballet customers are key to the success of any dance retail business. Whether you cater exclusively to bunheads, or if they account for just a slice of your market, you need to give them reasons to return to your store. After all, highly profitable products that must be frequently replaced (Hello, pointe shoes!) are the holy grail for any successful storeowner. This issue will help you draw ballerinas’ attention and drive sales.
A strong and varied assortment is essential to capturing the hearts and minds of experienced ballet dancers. To keep your inventory fresh, stock up on all the must-have knitwear and accessories featured in “Snow Bunny Style” (page 14) and “Bunhead Essentials” (page 12). Then check out “Service to the Stars” (page 20) to find out how some retailers are tweaking their offerings to attract professional ballet dancers, and how those elite customers can improve a store’s reputation.
Once your inventory and services are up to par, consider how your decor influences dancers’ view of your shop. As “Divine Ballet Decor” (page 30) points out, nothing signals dance to customers like ballet. Get inspired by the gorgeous ballet-centric looks.
Wishing you a December filled with deep-pocketed Sugar Plum Fairies!
Leotards? Check. Tights? Check. Shoes? Of course! When it comes to stocking dance staples, you’ve got it covered, so this issue is devoted to helping you round out your assortment with the add-ons customers demand. Read “Hot Legs” (page 12) for a peek at the latest legwarmer styles, and then check out “In the Bag” (page 38), where dancers discuss the dance bags they want and need. Then, head over to “Ask Leslie” (page 34) to get inspired by Leslie Groves’ unique ideas for eye-catching accessory displays.
Once your accessory game plan is in place, turn your attention to a few issues that may be flying under your radar. “Get the Most from Your E-Commerce Site” (page 22) offers practical tips on updating your store’s website to better complement your brick-and-and mortar business. And “What Does Your Floor Say About Your Store?” (page 32) includes advice to make sure your flooring is inviting to customers. Finally, “Tax Tips” (page 18) offers plenty of essential info to help you take advantage of soon-to-expire tax benefits and start planning for 2014.
Wishing you a winter filled with growth!
*This month in our Retailer Spotlight (page 26), we visit Kim-Lee Dance and Gym Wear in Fort Worth, TX. Find out how owner Sierra Krohn makes her boutique stand out in a competitive local marketplace.
Strong shoe sales are the foundation of a successful dance retail business. This issue has all the tools to help you attract shoe shoppers and drive sales. First, to ensure you’re stocking all the styles your customers need, check out “Shoes on the Rise” (page 14). It showcases best-sellers across all genres from leading manufacturers. Then turn to our “2013 Pointe Shoe Special” (page 18) for insight on the latest developments in pointe shoe technology from nine leading makers.
Once your stockroom is in order, check out "Staying in Step" (page 30) for tips on creating eye-catching shoe displays that will draw in shoppers. The article features several real-life shoe display solutions from veteran dance retailers. We think you’ll be impressed with the storeowners’ creativity and inspired to create your own clean, functional and inviting shoe showcases.
Wishing you a season of shoe sale success!
*Don’t forget to read our Retailer Spotlight (page 24). This month we visit Li-Bo’s Dance Barre, Inc., in Dothan, AL. Find out how owner Bobbie Johnson draws on the merchandising skills she learned as a manager at Macy’s to attract dancers from three states.