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Small Business Tips and Tour: Nickey Kehoe

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I will have a retail store … someday.

Here’s how it will go: I’ll go shopping and buy a lot of my favorite things, then arrange them all together in cute little vignettes while we all sit in an architecturally interesting space, on a popular street, and gab about wonderful reality TV, while drinking (and offering) fancy coffee from our $2K espresso maker. People will come in to shop and chat with us about where we got each piece, and tell us how much they love our taste and style as they spend and spend and spend. Some days we’ll rearrange our pretty things just for fun(!), bring in flowers and have surprise sales to celebrate happy hour or Groundhog day. And some days we’ll just sit there and count our money, which takes alllll day long because there are buckets of it every day. In fact, I may just have to hire a money counter – not an accountant, but more like an adorable baby animal or, better yet, a talking robot to count my millions.

My friends that own stores tell a different story, but they are all running successful stores despite the crazy overhead of retail. Now, as you know, I am not exactly a retail business consultant. I learned what a ‘P&L’ was 2 years ago. But what I am is an expert on what makes a store appealing and popular to us customers. My shopaholism has had to become more acute with my busy schedule and kids, allowing me only the time to go to the good stores that truly feeds this beast (like Nickey Kehoe). These stores also happen to be successful businesses, which makes me think – perhaps giving your customers certain things is the key to a successful store. Let’s explore what these things are, shall we? Listen up, small businesses, this one is for you. Watch this video for the full store tour and all my retail tips:

Click through for the full post, including a tour of this incredibly beautiful store, Nickey Kehoe. 

Curb appeal gets us to pull over and walk in the door. It gives us a sneak peek into what is happening inside. It’s like the first impression of the relationship between potential customer and store owner. While I do love the classic, cluttered thrift store, if I only have a few hours to shop, I like the guarantee that I’ll get inspiration in a pretty space that sells pretty things. Nickey Kehoe has a simple and pretty exterior, with a big window and good signage.

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A friendly salesperson is worth so much to me as a customer. In fact, I may jump on a quick soap box about rude store personnel. It’s so baffling to me. There are a few stores in LA that sell such beautiful things and do such a great job of curating, but they are just rude. This includes acting like they are doing me (or my crew) a favor by answering questions and often they make it hard for me to spend money.

Recently we showed up at closing time to buy a specific piece for a shoot and we were rejected. They said ‘no, sorry, closed’ and my inner Pretty Woman prepped her ‘Big Mistake’ face. I was literally trying to pay them money to buy a piece that would bring them so much free advertising from the blog/social media.

It’s a small world. Be nice to people.

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Point being – the stores where the salespeople are friendly and engaging (but not pushy or overbearing) are just so lovely to be in. Simply smiling, saying ‘hi’ and letting us know that you are here to answer questions is so important. It makes a HUGE difference in my overall experience. It’s nice to be nice.

Timothy (and everyone else) is incredibly friendly, helpful and welcoming at Nickey Kehoe. And it’s definitely one of the reasons I return and am constantly so happy to tell all my friends and followers about them. Be nice to people. It’s so much easier, more fun and profitable than not being nice.

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Shoppers want to feel like they are discovering something – not feeling force-fed products by what the store owner thinks is ‘good’. This is a major difference between larger retailers and smaller stores. Bigger stores try to create a really easy-to-navigate ‘everything has its place’ situation, which is obviously helpful for a fast, efficient, and reliable experience. No one wants to have to search for the hypoallergenic laundry detergent or diapers. But when you are shopping at a boutique you want to feel like you are discovering something – that you’ll walk away with something special that you found, with the help of a great curator.

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How smaller stores create this sort of sense of discovery or ‘flea market feeling’ is by curating the store to feel full and exciting, styling pieces high and low, arranging everything to make it feel hand selected and specially chosen just for us. If the style of your space is more minimal, still make sure that you are engaging the walls and floor area.

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Nickey Kehoe does such an incredible job of this – putting product in shelving, stacking them on tables, putting smaller items in their pretty larger bowls, even putting things under the table. As a customer we want things to feel pulled together, but not force fed and treated like idiots.

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One thing that I love about Nickey Kehoe is I can go knowing that I’ll find inspiration in their larger custom or vintage furniture and at the same time I know that I can walk away with a pretty vase, tea towel or note pad. It doesn’t feel exclusive or luxury, even if it’s higher end. It feels like anyone can find something to buy, even as a souvenir. Business-wise, I’m not sure how much stores make from these smaller ticket items, but it keeps me coming back even when I don’t have the need or budget to buy a larger piece. Then when I am in the market for a sofa or coffee table, I’ll have their beautiful pieces in my head, ready to shop and purchase.

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Also, don’t be afraid to sell things outside of your intended market – that is what creating a brand is all about. Sure, you might be a hair salon but that doesn’t mean that you can’t sell lip gloss or even locally made sunglasses. And while this store is mostly home decor, the owners have chosen to sell cool office supplies, tabletop accessories and even scarves. They are all pieces that they would own/want and all of this tells a story of a character that I kinda want to be.

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This tip kinda goes in the ‘Sense of Discovery’ vein but what it means is this  – buy things, style things, curate things in a way that isn’t generic or common. In Nickey Kehoe they always hang a set of chairs on those hooks up there. Obviously chairs don’t typically hang on the wall and certainly they can’t be test driven while up there. But it’s weird, and cool and adds a bit of ‘cuckoo, ‘ which means these people are interesting. And I want to be ‘interesting’.

Same with that beautiful Capiz shell chandelier. This store is certainly eclectic, but it always feels rooted in a sophisticated ‘California Cool’. Then all of a sudden there is crazy, beachy, almost tropical hanging light that is incredibly special. They have a lot of elements like this that truly make my heart pound harder because they pull me into another exciting style realm.

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Of course you don’t want it to be totally haphazard, but being unpredictable allows you more freedom in what you sell and how you curate. It also gives us the need, the blood thirst, to come back.

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What you sell and how you sell it is how you tell the story of your business. Please don’t let that story get boring. We as customers like to rely on a few things (a full inventory, housewares, predictable hours, etc.), and those things need to always be there. But the more you shake things up, the more the story has layers and alternate endings. And that is how you create customers that feel compelled to come back.

So keep it fresh. Sell both new and old, mass market AND local, quantity and one-offs. Sure, if something is a big seller, order a lot of those pieces, but don’t be afraid to have ‘limited’ pieces either – pieces that once sold, are truly gone. These pieces are harder for me to pass up as they become ‘Once in a lifetime opportunities’ that can be accompanied by years of regret if passed up.

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Find local handmade makers – this is a ‘win-win’ for everyone. You look cool because you have unique pieces, the makers benefit from selling their wares, and I get introduced to a new artist/maker who maybe I didn’t know about. This trend is increasing and starting to feel a bit expected, so if you aren’t considering doing this, you really should because your competitors are.

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The more layered, interesting, and unpredictable your story is, the more I, as a customer, want to keep coming back. Most importantly, it makes me want to spending money with you because I want to be part of your story.

A few quick extra tips:

1. If you are on a street that has foot traffic and nightlife, stay open until at least 7 or 8. You may not get the designers, but I promise that you’ll get people who may browse, and browsers may eventually turn into free word-of-mouth marketing (especially in the social media age) and ultimately customers.

2. Get on social media – especially Instagram. Give me, the customer, an opportunity to share your pretty work with my friends and tag you in it. Again, if you are intimidated by social media, the least you HAVE TO DO is register your account and link it to your website and location. This allows people like me to tag you and your location, literally giving you thousands of dollars worth of free advertising. If you are like Nickey Kehoe, you can be smart enough to curate a beautiful Instagram feed of your pieces so I know what is new and exciting that you are selling. Follow them on Instagram, even if you don’t live in LA, for inspiration.

3. Display your prices. It’s so terrible to shop and have to ask the price for everything. Give me the information and control to shop on my own without needing to bother you if I don’t want to. You are doing no one a favor by keeping the prices to yourself.

4. Limit your NFS (Not for Sale Pieces). I get it, you love that cabinet or your collection of library clip lamps, but just put a high price on them or sell them as a collection for sooo much money that you might even think if cost prohibitive. I get pretty annoyed with NFS so make sure that it’s truly NFS and that you aren’t just being scared to put what it’s worth to you on it. Maybe someone will pay it.

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5. Take all forms of payment. This includes American Express, which is very popular amongst us shoppers because it gives us a lot of  awesome perks. It will often help someone who might have only spent some money to spend a lot more because it’s easier for them. Also, if you are trying to grow your business and you currently just have a booth somewhere (flea market, antique mall or kiosk) use either Venmo or The Square (or both). Here’s what happens to me at the flea market: I bring what I think is enough cash and I pull out my maximum. Then I start spending and the panic sets in. Often I’ll find something (or a few things) that are amazing but maybe I don’t NEED and without the cash flow, I may not purchase. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked if they take credit cards and a wave of relief and excitement washes over me knowing that I can spend freely here. I end up buying WAY more than I would have if it were just cash. In fact, if you are trying to market your goods at a flea market, go ahead and have a sign that says what forms of credit cards you accept. It will attract people to your store/booth, I promise.

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Naturally, I couldn’t leave without a few things per usual. A few wonderful things that I may need or simply just want.  If you are a small business or know people who run a small business, share this post. It is always such a bummer when you see a good small business close simply from not doing a few simple things that will make them get and keep customers. And nothing is more exciting than when a small business is so successful that it has to expand or open up more stores.

Follow these tips and I promise retail success and loads of credit card toting customers will follow you.

*This post is presented by American Express, with photos by Jessica Isaac for EH, video by Scrunch Media. American Express is ­committed to helping make merchants like you be even more successful with the latest in business trends, insights and tools. Learn more here: http://knowledgecenter.americanexpress.com

Enter for a chance to win $10, 000 towards redesigning your store by uploading a photo of your storefront window displaying any of our window decals (including the new decal series by Design*Sponge) to Twitter and/or Instagram with the #LoveMyStoreAmexContest hashtag. 20 runners up will receive a $100 American Express gift card. Get your decal now to get started! For full contest rules, go to https://knowledgecenter.americanexpress.com/lovemystore-contest-rules/

No purchase necessary. Open to American Express® Card accepting merchants with brick and mortar locations in the 50 U.S., DC, PR & other U.S. territories & possessions (“Territory”), who have $3, 000, 000 or less in annual American Express charge volume and who have 25 or fewer locations (“Qualified Retailers”). Franchisees are not eligible to participate in this Contest.  Industry exclusions apply. Only owners or authorized representatives of Qualified Retailers who are at least 18, or the legal age of majority in their jurisdiction of residence, whichever is older, and legal residents of the Territory, may enter on behalf of Qualified Retailer.  Contest ends 11:59 p.m. ET7/31/15. Void where prohibited. See Official Rules at https://knowledgecenter.americanexpress.com/lovemystore-contest-rules/ for complete details.

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