Thursday, July 23, 2009

Different & Special? California Gift Show Report, Summer 2009

WSL: Women ready to spend on home – if goods are ‘different’
-- Home Textiles Today, 7/23/2009 10:55:00 AM

New York – WSL Strategic Retail’s recent consumer survey found women are itching to spend again, if carefully. The top four items on their list: apparel, vacation, a night out and decorative home items.
But they’re not seeing the kind of merchandise that would stimulate a purchase, according to the consultancy.
WSL’s “How America Shops/Pulse of Shopping Life” found 48% of women surveyed could afford to shop but want to spend on items that are “different and special.” Among girls age 13 to 17, 50% would be willing to cut back on small purchase for something more expensive “if they really wanted it.”
One-in-four women said they were tired of penny-pinching and “ready to splurge,” according to the survey.
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That’s the article I received from a retail-specific publication in my email today. Great news and something that I think Webster’s Fine Stationers can definitely offer our customers! Our fabulous WFS buyers, Lori and Michelle, handpick everything here. We also have the input of our crew, who hears what you’re saying about what you’d like to see in our store. All our merchandise is special and isn’t something you’d find elsewhere. From our hand-made Altadena signs and cards to original oil paintings and picture frames, we’re stocking the decorative items you want at prices that aren’t out of this world. Even our office supplies are different. Many companies we feature are made here in the U.S. and you don't have to buy a pack of 50 file folders, envelopes, Post-It Notes or sheet protectors. Pens, pencils, binder clips and report covers are also available individually.

The Summer 2009 California Gift Show just ended Monday and I thought it was the best show we’ve been to. Granted, attendance was down due to the economy but those who were there were upbeat and looking forward to happier times ahead. The mood was lighthearted and we were happy to spend time in those showrooms that had the best and brightest to offer. It was nice to have time to make critical decisions and not be distracted by hundreds of buyers clamoring for attention.

I was personally very enamored by a newish company called Open Hand, out of Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Although their merchandise is made outside the U.S., they are a fair-trade company and provide all their artisans with safe, clean working conditions, fair wages and medical insurance for their families. Their products – scarves, wraps, jewelry and bags – are made out of post-consumer waste material and are uniquely beautiful. I love their messenger bags made out of recycled billboards and rubber tires! What’s great about this company is that they donate 10% of their profits across the board, before taxes, to organizations committed to helping people who have been subjected to the injustices of human trafficking here in the U.S. They’ve partnered with Wellspring, an Atlanta-based non-profit that helps women and girls who’ve been victimized by the effects of alcohol and drug addiction, depression, and working in the adult entertainment industry. Human trafficking takes many forms and is a complex problem. As long as there is a demand for products and services, and there are people living in poverty who are easily taken advantage of, trafficking will continue. We’re proud to be helping in any small way we can…look for Open Hand to arrive in store shortly.

Just in is inspirational jewelry and d├ęcor from Praols, a California company who manufactures their merchandise in Chula Vista. They create unique handcrafted jewelry and believe that everything in life carries a message. Therefore, their bracelets and necklaces aren’t just jewelry, but a fun way to pass the message on. Stay-at-home moms and low-income single mothers that find themselves in dire circumstances make the line. Working for the flexible company, these women are able to earn an income without the burden of day-care expenses. This great company’s merchandise arrived this morning and we couldn’t be happier to introduce it to you!




Check back in soon for another sneak-peek of the new items we’re expecting in.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Report from the California Gift Show

Hello faithful readers from the L.A. Mart on Broadway in downtown Los Angeles! There's not so much foot traffic this season as there has been in the past, but I suppose everyone's waiting until Friday, when the temporary exhibitors open on Floor Two. Even with less traffic, though, things are still humming along, and there's some fabulous new innovations that we're seeing. I'll give a more detailed report after market, but listen to what we've picked up on so far.

Green is the new black and I'm happy to report the amazing amount of recycled and post-consumer waste recycled products being shown! This tells me that eco-consciousness is not "just a fad", as was predicted a couple years ago, but here to stay. We are proud to support this effort by bringing in as much eco-friendly product as we can. Another cool thing is that the merchandise being shown is much better looking than in past seasons, and there's many more fair-trade companies climbing on the bandwagon. Yay for them!

Calling cards are in, in, in! In today's busy world, emails get missed and not everyone sees your status reports on Facebook or catches your Twitter updates. What's a trend-conscious computer-user to do when you can't get your message through? Leave a calling card, of course! Playing on a wonderful Victorian tradition, calling cards today have the punch of style needed to get you noticed when all else fails. As a reminder, WFS can make gorgeous, custom calling cards for you at very reasonable prices. No need to break the bank to be a trendsetter - come see us and we'll tell you all about it. You can save a bit, too, by looking us up on Yelp.com (http://www.yelp.com).

Cowhide and giraffe prints are sizzling this season! We're all over it and we're searching the show high and low for a taste of it.

More updates to follow....stay in touch.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Bloggus Interruptus Affects WFS!


We've caught that dreaded disease, Bloggus Interruptus, and accordingly, posting will be light this week.

Bloggus Interruptus is an incredibly disabling virus, especially in the summer, and is shared amongst retailers across the nation as they attend the July Gift Shows. To date, there is no cure, so the only hope is to go to these shows and buy what you pray your customers are looking for. We will be searching out unique merchandise made by local companies, prefferably sustainable, recycled and multi-purpose.

Rest assured that we'll be back as soon as the virus runs its course and we'll continue with the "Meet The WFS Staff" posts. I'll leave you with a picture of my home garden (when it looked good)....ciao until next week!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Meet The WFS Crew....Installment 3


Now that you know Michelle and Leilana, it's time to introduce you to Betsy, our resident artist and muse.

Betsy's real name is Violetta, but that's a mouthful, so she mainly goes by her nickname. We call her our artist because she's so creative and her lettering is perfect. She's responsible for making the majority of our hand-written signage in the store and outside.

There's a sense of quiet strength to Betsy, and her love of children shows in all she does. Put her anywhere there are children and she's happy. Betsy works part time with us, mainly in the mornings and weekends because her "real" job is working at Mayfield Jr. School in Pasadena. It's too cute to hear the children calling her "Miss Betsy" when they come into the store! Betsy says that she loves to be around children because it's from children that she learns about life. In her own words, "not only do kids brighten up your day when you're feeling blue, they also make you feel so loved".

Betsy and her family are local residents, too and when she's not working, she loves to be with them. She also loves listening to music. Music, she says, is therapy for the soul. She wants to go back to school to get her college degree and work with kids. She's not sure yet if she wants to be a juvenile probation officer, a social worker or a teacher, but she's working on the decision. She also dreams of helping her mom buy her dream home someday. Most young people Betsy's age would think of buying themselves something, like a new car or clothes, but not Betsy. That's what we love about her - always thinking of someone else's needs before her own. That was so evident during her little sister's recent bout with leukemia, which thankfully, she seems to be winning. She was there for her in every way possible and that's difficult when you're working two jobs. Kudos to Betsy for keeping it together for her family during such a terrible time.

When asked what she enjoys most working at WFS, she replied, "it's close to home, so that's a plus! I also like the fact that we get involved with the Altadena community, make donations and want to make improvements. I like that we inform people about how your town benefits when you spend your money in locally-owned businesses. I love how we've shifted our emphasis toward earth-friendly and locally-made products and feel that we've taken that important first step that hopefully other retailers will follow. But the best thing about WFS is that I love my co-workers - we're like family!"

You're like family to us, too, Betsy - thank you for all you do!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Meet The WFS Crew - Installment 2


Now that you've been introduced to our manager, Michelle, it's time to get familiar with our next crew member, Leilana. Leilana hails from the beautiful state of Hawaii but she's been a resident of Altadena for a long time now. If Michelle is my right hand, Leilana is my left, and all our regular customers know that Leilana is knowledgeable, capable and will go out of her way to take care of them.

Friends and family are important to her and she likes to spend what time she can with them. Unfortunately for her, there's very little time for that as she recently went back to school to continue her education (yay, Leilana!). In addition to work and school, she also volunteers time to do service work in the community twice a week. She keeps her equilibrium by remaining positive and making people laugh. She's a great prankster and loves nothing better than a good joke. Her favorite thing to do is talking with her young grandson, who lives in Texas, over the phone and sharing laughs with him.

Leilana plans to finish college and get her degree in social services. She'd love nothing more than to continue helping people by becoming a counselor of some sort. I'm content to have her work for WFS forever because she's the best and I know that I'd be hard pressed to find someone as skilled. She also hopes to marry her long-time boyfriend, buy a home and in her words "live happily ever after".

When asked what she likes most about working for WFS, she replied, "I love that WFS isn't just a dreary office products store anymore. There's different elements in the store now, like the home accessories, children's toys and games and fine social stationery that make my job more challenging and interesting. I also love working for a company that gets involved with our community. We've run fund-raisers for The Quality of Life Center and Five Acres, both worthy Altadena non-profits. WFS has donated so much to St. Elizabeth Church and Pasadena's Union Station. Lori and Scott are members of the Altadena Arts Coalition and are working toward revitalizing the North Lake Business District. All this makes me feel like we're helping give back to our area and I know that we'll continue to try to make a difference. That makes me feel good."

Thanks, Leilana, for all you do, both at work and off....we want you to always feel good about us. We couldn't do what we do without you!

Look for Installment 3 coming soon and meet Violetta (Betsy) Lopez.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Meet The WFS Crew, Installment 1


I've been wanting to introduce you to our crew here at WFS for such a long time and now is the perfect time to do it. We are blessed with a fabulous team and I'm proud to say that they're not just employees, they're friends. I'd like you to know them better, too, so I had them fill out a simple questionnaire and you know what? There's very common threads running amongst them all and those are family, community, children and education, plus they all live locally.

We'll start with Michelle, our manager, without whom WFS wouldn't run nearly as efficiently as it does. She's indispensable to us....if you've heard the adage "good things come in small packages", know that it was written about her. She's a bundle of energy and seemingly endless patience. Read on and discover what makes Michelle so special!

Michelle grew up in the South Bay (like I did) but moved to the San Gabriel Valley years ago. She's currently a student at Pasadena City College, majoring in business. She hopes to transfer soon to a four year college and get her degree. As most of you know, it's very difficult to go to school while you're working full time, as Michelle does, but she has very clear goals she's reaching for. When she's not studying, she enjoys spending time with her family. She's known as "Auntie Chelle" to her three adorable little nieces that she loves to spoil. Michelle would love to have kids of her own one day and she looks forward to meeting Mr. Right. She also loves playing racquetball, bike riding, reading and relaxing at the beach when she has the time.

When asked what she liked most about working for WFS, Michelle said, "I love WFS and have gained a lot of experience and knowledge about the business end of running a store. What I enjoy most is working for a company that I believe in, and working with people I believe in."

Thank you for that, Michelle....we believe in you, too! It's so great to have a crew that gets along well with each other and takes pride in what they're accomplishing.

Watch for our next blogpost for an interview with Leilana, our crew member with Hawaiian roots.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Altadena Arts Coalition's Project: Altadena! Launches!

> IV>The AAC's Project: Altadena! launched this past Wednesday and it's quickly proving to be very popular. Blogs all over town are talking about it and the Pasadena Star News wrote a piece about it: http://www.pasadenastarnews.com/ci_12758702 We're very excited about all the coverage because this is going to be one heck of an exciting event!

If you haven't heard of Project: Altadena! yet, please check out Tim Rutt's Altadenablog article http://www.altadenablog.com/2009/07/project-altadena-still-snappin-away.html or simply scroll down this blog for my posts about it.

Last I heard, there were still a few cameras available. See Molly Tierney at Photography by Walt for them and once you have your camera, simply point and shoot! Be a part of the largest one subject photography exhibit in Altadena ever!

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Ink Cartridge Conundrum and Our Take On Economic Stimulii


Let's face it....replacement ink cartridges for your printer aren't very glamorous or exciting, are they? That is, until you need one, then they become a driving force in your life. Ever run out of ink in mid-print? Aaaargh! Whether at the office or at home, running out is a real pain in the keester.

Printer ink cartridges are a hot topic here at WFS lately. We used to be able to buy them a lot more inexpensively than we're able to now, because our former vendor of office products went out of business last year. Could be because the ink cartridge prices were so low. We had to find a replacement vendor but their prices aren't as attractive as the other company's, but such is life in office products and supplies. If you're not Staples, Office Depot or Target, forget it....unfortunately, our prices will never be as good because we'll never have the volume of shoppers these stores have. They buy in huge amounts so therefore can offer the cartridges at a low price, even though the margins are slim. That's the short explanation of why our prices are higher than the chain stores, depressing though it may be. I'm sure you've noticed the hike in cartridge prices and, God love you all, you've been buying them anyway. We appreciate the support very much.

However, yesterday a gentleman came in that needed two HP printer ink cartridges, one color and one black. Combined, the total for both was over $100.00! He was stunned and I was ashamed. Ashamed? Yes, indeed I was....during the midst of a bad recession how can we be selling these things at such a high price? Trying to explain it, like I did above, to customers in the store doesn't work well. Not too many people understand, or care, that we buy these things at a higher cost. Traditionally, the margins (what we buy them for vs. what we sell them for) are slim, like I mentioned above. I'm going to break a retailer's rule here (Retail Rule #28 - never tell the public what your margins are) by letting you know that in the past, Webster's was making anywhere from $5.00 to $15.00 per cartridge sold. That's not very much, considering the amount they sold. And since the split of the stores 2 years ago, we're selling even less than that. It's a definite conundrum, you see....lower the prices to try to compete with the chain stores and make very little on the sale or raise the prices and feel like a highway robber? Neither option is very attractive to us.

Therefore, for the month of July, we're offering printer ink cartridges at 20% off! That's our little offering of an economic stimulus for our customers. We'll take the hit on our margins to ease the hit on your pocketbook. There is a catch, though - we'd like to start an ink cartridge buyer's club and we need your email address. That's all....your email address for 20% off our ink cartridges. Pretty fair trade, don't you think?

I'd like to thank that gentleman who came in yesterday. We weren't able to make him happy, but because of him we're trying to do something to make you happy. We all love being happy, right? Come in today and let us make you happy!