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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Giftshop and Studio Owners Adapt to "Prudent Restraint"

How is the significant contribution of the summer resident and visitor to
the Adirondack North Country economy impacted by the recession?
How can North Country giftshop owners and craftspeople who are part
of the third largest industry (retail) of the region, prepare for the
continued "prudent restraint" of the 2009 customer?

In the upcoming years, how will the decreasing availability of fossil fuels
and natural resources impact people's ability to shop during their
annual summer retreat to the mountains and lakes of the North Country?
In every community north of the Mohawk River up to the Canadian
border, owners of gift shops and studios have been taking action. The
flat average in the sales tax numbers since 2004 for independent
retailers indicates that a slower sales pace is not new.

But, as always, there are unexpected trends. Last summer there was
significantly less drive-by traffic but the people who did stop often
bought more. Nadia Korths, Craft Programs Coordinator for the
Adirondack North Country Association for the last 13 years, has seen
many changes as she prepares for this year's 23rd annual regional gift
trade show Buyer Days (http://www.adknccrafts.com/). Shop and studio owners

are welcome to post their own adaptations.

Some shops, open for 25 to 30 years, recently closed after a few years
of trying to find new owners. Even more shops closed or reduced their
hours this past winter. Many have reduced their inventory levels to free
up more cash flow. More shops and studios held store wide sales this
winter and spring. Most are ordering new product and raw materials at
the last minute.

Many producers, familar to all who attend the region's many craft
shows, are keeping their 2008 prices. Many are creating smaller and
more functional pieces. Some are creating pieces from scraps or
recycled materials. Some are inviting their regular customers via email
to the craft shows they will be exhibiting at.

Shops and studios with no budget for purchasing are rearranging their
existing inventory so their regular customers will discover "new"
pieces. They are creating vignettes with consumables such as specialty
foods, candles, and bath and beauty products. Their customers, living
with less, will continue to welcome friends and family to meals, evenings
by the fire and overnight. Smaller furniture pieces are being placed
more prominently in the shop since the few customers who are building homes
are downsizing.

Shops and studios with a strong sense of customer service and
community have become social gathering places. Many now offer
coffee and baked goods. Many hold regular events with print, radio
and online invitations.

Customers respond to shopowners and producers who share their
knowledge and passion. They also appreciate knowing that the object
they are considering is made in a way that is healthy for them and/or
the environment.

For those small business owners and staff who are not fluent in story
telling, there are many visual tools to tell the story. Signage, branding
labels, story cards, photos of the process, the raw materials or of the
shop over time, printed pages from websites, blogs or other social
networking sites and more.

Customers want to know who or what they are contributing towards,
whether it be the local humane society or the local producer or about
the environmental or health benefits, each time they buy.

To find out about more local stories directly from the producers in an
informal and professional show setting, giftshop owners are welcome to
attend Buyer Days (http://www.adknccrafts.com/) at the City Center in Saratoga
Springs on Wednesday, April 8 and Thursday, April 9. Bring business ID.

The Adirondack North Country Association provides retailers and
producers with resources, products and sales venues as part of their
committment to economically viable communities and a rural quality of
life. For more information, visit

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