2015-12-26

Moving Over, Moving Up and Moving On?


                                 

And there it is...
I'm closing the shop on Ottawa Street and moving to a studio space to focus my vintage business in a more online direction.
Matt, the perpeptually positive, says that I am just redirecting my business to follow consumer demand and lowering my overhead. He is not wrong, for a while now I have noticed that a high percentage of my sales are either online or are directly originated from online; where people come into the shop not to browse but to purchase 'that thing' they saw on the shop's Etsy or Instagram.
And I'm half business savvy enough to know that this is 100% the way I am supposed to spin it. I just need to say that The Edit is just taking the next step in being able to efficiently provide quality vintage to its loyal clientele by opening a studio space. And that is the truth and I am super excited about how cool my studio space is but it does kinda feel like I am leaving out part of the story...
I didn't excitedly sign a new lease on a bigger space last January and rope my friends into painting every single fixture in the shop with layers and layers of primer and white paint in order for me to leave it all behind one short year later. And as much as I know, for my sanity and for the bottom line, that moving into a studio is the right choice for me, closing down the shop is still something that makes me really sad.
Some might even say that having a bricks and mortar shop turned out to be a failure. 
I said it. The 'f' word. I'm pretty sure I'm not allowed to say that word and I'm going to get lots of texts from my friends (and my mom,thanks boo) telling me I am not a failure. And it's not totally a failure per se, I think The Edit vintage has a bright future but the street front location part of the equation did not really work out quite as planned...

So what happened?
I'm sure I don't need to write a post breaking it all down but I honestly think these are things in small business that we don't talk about. Small business owners start with a dream and stars in their eyes and probably a couple Pinterest quotes about how if you follow your passion, you will never work a day in your life. And there is nothing wrong with some stars and some Pinterest quotes but it's also nice when the grind happens to know you are not the only one feeling the pain or that sometimes all the passion and heart and good intention is not enough. We don't share enough about the journey (well, maybe that is because as a small business owner you maybe don't have the time or energy to share...) so when something happens, a small business just disappears and we all kinda draw our own educated or uneducated conclusions.

I think we can sum up exactly my experience with running a bricks and mortar by saying it is really hard...
Retail is hard. I've said it before and I will say it again. Retail is so hard. Despite that, having your own retail space is probably one of the top 'dreams' that people romanticize about. Setting up a shop and putting it all together is so so fun. And standing behind your counter for the first time and making a sale to a stranger who loves your stuff is this incredible high... But the day to day is tough. The needle that flicks from making a sale to not making the sale is set so delicately... A cold day, a hot day, a too nice day, a lazy day, a bloated day, a cranky infant day; there are so many factors involved in getting store traffic and making a sale. And retail is not just hard for me. It's a struggle for everyone. So if you have a favourite shop in the city that you have not been to in a while, go and visit and make a little purchase and give them a hug (if they are into it). I suspect it's been a generally tough year for retail across the board.
Shopping at small independent shops is not always the easiest. The hours are not like Walmart and it takes a little bit more effort but it is the small stores that give a city or community their shape. I know the city of Hamilton is on a bit of a high right now; after years of being 'the armpit of Ontario', we're apparently cool... And that's cool. But let's be real, it's still a struggle. If you love this city, don't just pay lip service to it. If you want your neighbourhood to be interesting and walkable and varied, remember the little and the medium guys. Your dollars have the power to shape your city.

Also, as it turns out, selling vintage is really hard. Besides the amount of work it takes to source abd clean it, it's also a lot of work to sell each individual piece. The best thing about vintage is that it is so unique but the worse thing is also that it is so unique. I know it sometimes looks like things sell out so quick at the shop because the shop generally gets a really good response on Instagram (and I am so grateful for that online support, thank you, thank you...) but the problem is that I can only sell one of each item. Even if 5 people are dying to own that one piece, I can only sell it once and then I have to get to work and hustle to sell my next item. Every single item in the store is unique and has to speak for itself in order to sell. So if I sell the three things I posted on Instagram that day, it's great, but they are still likely only a drop in the bucket of the amount of overhead it takes to run a bricks and mortar. 
I also think The Edit departs a little from what a traditional vintage shop is and that may have hurt me because I almost needed to explain the concept to the consumer... The way I see vintage is that it can be worn in a very modern way; mixed and matched with what you already have in your closet. To me vintage is just better quality and more unique than what you can get at the mall and I just love getting someone into their first vintage piece and opening their eyes to the fact that vintage does not have to be costumey or scary... It translates well online because that's how I have always dressed for the blog and because people can see the outfits put together. But people who don't follow me online and see a  vintage shop, they imagine it being more costumey. So no, I don't have a wacky 60's polyester suit for you to wear to Aunt Betty's costume birthday party but I do have a 60's blouse you could wear with jeans. If I could turn back time (sorry, if I get that song in your head now...), I would not go back and start by being more 'vintagey'; it's all part of the process and it's just a lesson I learned over the last two years...

Finally, having a store front on Ottawa street is really hard. And to be the honest, this is the one that really did me in and that frustrates me the most. I cannot continue to keep a clean, well-stocked, pretty physical store and then also keep a well-stocked and pretty online store simultaneously. I would bring in new stuff to the shop daily and list as much as I could online and I'm just tired. I can't just keep killing myself over both and with the in store traffic slowing and online picking up as long as I had the time to put effort into it, the decision had to be made.  
That's mystery of my life right now; what happened to the foot traffic on Ottawa St? I would never, ever have taken on a bigger shop and an overhead that was 2 and a half times the original overhead if I didn't have the numbers in the old shop to sustain the new shop. And then yes, hopefully having a bigger space would bring more revenue because I was able to offer a wider selection of merchandise. The spring was good and summer started fine and then the traffic just kinda died. I don't know what happened. And it is so frustrating because I love this scrappy street and to see it slide backwards in the time that I have been here breaks my heart. In the last month a few other businesses in the block have shut their doors or moved. I feel so sad for these sweet individuals who put it all on the line and are now packing up shops with lumps in their throats. 
I honestly do not know what happened on Ottawa Street to cause it to slow down so much. I mean, we've been the next 'up and coming' street for years now and I know growth is slow and there will growing pains but I did not expect this slump. And we do have our stars on the street that can pull enough traffic on their own but there are a lot of shops that have suffered a lot from this slow down. 
I'm leary to talk about this but most people know there was some drama with our business association this summer on Ottawa Street. I generally stayed out of it because I want to Switzerland it all the way and stay neutral but I will say this... When I started The Edit in November 2013, I felt like the paid staff at the business association really cared and did the best they could to help. The BIA has since had some changes in staffing and has not felt the same since. I am not saying it is the BIA's fault that the street is slow. However, I think the street (and the city, as I am assuming city tax money also pays into the salaries...) deserves a BIA that knows how to properly manage and work social media to the benefit of street, an updated website and someone on the BIA who actually walks the street and visits the businesses. I hate writing this last paragraph because the last thing this street needs is more negativity but I really hope this street gets more involvement out of the BIA. And out of us. I'm sad to be gone but you can bet I'll be back often, especially for Dora's spicy gumbo. You should go too;)

And so that's that.
This last month was not so fun. It's hard to sit in a shop and look around and think 'you are so cute, and I'm trying so hard but it's just not enough and I know what I have to do.' I took my time making the decision, then made up my mind, lost some sleep and definitely went through the emotions of sadness, anger, frustration and bitterness. Thankfully, those feelings do ease up (which is good because bitter Yen is not that awesome) and I know that this is the right decision. Signing a new lease on a cool space helped too because it gave me a real plan and direction.
I am definitely moving inventory to the new space but I do hope to liquidate quite a bit so I can start fairly fresh. Online everything is 30% off until the end of the year, at which point I will shutter the Etsy shop for 6 weeks and come roaring;) What I'll be selling when I re-open will be an even tighter edit of The Edit; clothes I love and housewares that'll impress your guests. The last day the shop on Ottawa will be open is Jan. 15th and I hope to be ready in the new space mid to end February... I'll give more details on Instagram of the new space when I can but it's an old factory in a pretty convenient location with brick walls, concrete floors, natural light and free parking ten steps from the front door;) So I'll be much more active on Etsy but I'll keep some kind of studio hours so all my favourite local people can pop in before or after work to pick up or try on 'that thing' they saw online.
And to all the people who have supported the shop these last two years, thank you. I hope you will follow me as I move and continue to let me be a part of your closet and home. Also a giant teary thanks to Matt, who always has my back and who has known that this was the right move for a while, but wisely let me come to the conclusion myself... 

This year has been a doozy. For reasons shared and unshared (sorry, everyone hates a vague blogger...) 2015 feels mostly like a hazy mess. However, it's a true blessing to say that even when so many things are upside down, the important things in my life are perfectly in place. 



*I miss writing! Not enough to get back to blogging yet but it's totally how I process things. Considering my last two posts have not been the most happy posts, I feel like I owe the blog at least another happy post;) I'll do that in the new year...;)