We seem to have reached a plateau, normally when people say this it is seen as a negative in that you are no longer moving forward or learning something. But in this case I see it as a positive. We seem to have figured out our client base and are now attracting some amazing new crafters to the shop and to our events and so many are returning customers which is even more proof that what we do, we do well. The icing on the cake is when our regulars pop in with friends and you hear them say 'this is what I wanted to show you, isn't it gorgeous?'. Then we really know we're doing something right.
But .... we have learnt that no-one will do the work for you, and to be honest never expected it. We are an independent trader, and as such must stand or fall on our own merits and hard work, but we did expect a little better communication and promotion within the site we're on. This may seem slightly trite but to give you an example of what we are up against. We are based at a gorgeous farm shop in the middle of the Shropshire countryside but we are neither employees or outsiders. We pay rent for the shop and try to support and promote any activities the site are doing as that helps everyone. The ToyShop is independent too and we always advertise any specials they are organising. The site is not big enough for one part to go off doing their own thing without damaging another. So, we foolishly anticipated joint advertising of events. But no, a simple thing like their blackboard which welcomes you to the site only includes elements that they own. Might seem sensible, after all why should you advertise something you do not get direct benefit from? You have your own site to promote, and that should always be your priority - we understand that. However, we had a customer in on Sunday saying I didn't want veg and thought they only sold food till my friend told me you were here too. She then went on to say that actually she had bought some food for her tea as it all looked rather lovely. My point is, had they decided to advertise the whole site rather than just their own elements they would be attracting a wider audience who then impulse buy their gorgeous food and intend to return. We get a lot of customers saying the same thing, had they realised there was more than just a farm shop they would have been down sooner and now they know where we all are will be back with their friends.
Two of our crafters that supply the shop and are close enough to walk to us (that's how local we really do work) came through the farm shop asking why she didn't see our name anywhere and how on earth would people realise their work was being sold? We had to explain the scenario discussed above that because we are not strictly part of the site we don't get included. One cup of tea and much huffing later we were already giggling and plotting how to plant Hippos in the celery or other such subversive acts!
The other message coming back loud and clear was that folk like the craft markets we put on. While handing out leaflets to customers the reactions were pretty much all along the lines of 'oh I'm so glad you're doing those again, we love bringing our friends up here then' one lady was really impressed that we normally have a live acoustic set going as her children were fascinated by live musicians. Generally everyone was saying what a lovely atmosphere it created and trying to work out when their friends and family were visiting and could they all pop up for lunch.
Because this is the rub, by getting people onto site they go for lunch they use the playbarn and generally potter around the whole site. They may have come for a craft fair but are delighted to find so many other elements to the site so is it really that dangerous to be including us on their advertising? We love being where we are, the scope to work with so many amazing artists is incredible and as a landlord (apart from the communication) we couldn't ask for better but the frustrated Hippo is growing daily which is a shame as it can so easily be rectified just by using a piece of chalk and adding us to a blackboard. We shall keep plugging away, keep working with awesome crafters and listening to very contented customers and meanwhile always keep a piece of chalk in my pocket in case the chance arises to add a Hippo or two to the blackboards!