Every once in a while I look at the national retail numbers. To be honest, I'm not sure where these numbers come from and I know they include everything from cars and health insurance and gas to (presumably) note cards and craft supplies. Since I've never been asked, I'm guessing the numbers are based on first quarter reports of big retailers. Anyway, apparently March was "up" by 0.9 percent, an increase for the first time since November.... So, you might imagine that I really just look at the those numbers to make myself feel better since our number is usually higher. And it's a good thing too, since our expenses have certainly gone up more than 0.9 percent. And I won't bore you with the details, but we're in the middle of a discussion with our landlord about the gas bill. We're making progress, but we did have a stressful couple of weeks. That said, it is to be expected that expenses will go up as sales go up - things like insurance, payroll, credit card fees, and, yes, taxes, are all so closely tied to that. (Being tax time, it seems like it is conventional to complain about taxes but in all honesty, I never really think about them - they are just a cost of doing business and living where we do, and we're happy to pay them). And ultimately, a person can't really complain since sales are UP, which is basically all that I'm always working towards.
And speaking of all that we're working towards, we are working with a group of students from the UW-Madison School of Business on a project for their marketing class. We sat down with them last week to chat and I was reminded so strongly of the wonderful asset that this state has of its University system. It's really unfortunate that the Governor is so short-sighted about such things. It was interesting to talk about marketing and business planning with these students, to think about questions that sometimes get lost in the day to day of running the business, or questions that I never thought about since I never really took any business classes. In conjunction with their project, I hope you don't mind filling out a survey about your shopping experience at Anthology. At my old job, we surveyed customers twice a year and I'll admit to being rather lazy about picking up such a custom here at Anthology. Of course, I get customer feedback all the time based on what you purchase and what I see you pick up or pass by. That said, it would be really helpful as we work on planning for the remainder of our first decade, if you would fill out the survey. It's a quick one (takes less than 10 minutes) and all your responses will remain anonymous.
Here is the link to the survey.
We really appreciate hearing from you and would love your input.
As for the rest of the goings-on, our strong first quarter has continued into the second. Now we are in one of the loveliest times to be a Wisconsinite: first farmer's market, blooming trees, greening of grass and trees... It is more surprising that anyone comes out during our first quarter in the middle of a Wisconsin winter. But now, finally, we can put that behind us. My annual spring-greeting ritual includes multiple trips to the UW-Madison Arboretum where I can watch the trees blooming: first the magnolias, then crab apples, then lilacs. The magnolia trees are really amazing to me: they seem like something that shouldn't be able to exist in these northern climes, and they burst into bloom so profusely yet seem so delicate and temporary. So, yes, I've been taking a lot of selfies in the Arb. I'm hoping the girl will consent to a photo shoot though it is much harder to catch her these days.
Meanwhile, at the shop, the season proceeds. Next up is Mother's Day and graduation which somehow both still manage to catch me off guard. This year we are hoping we finally have enough cards for Moms. We've spent all year gathering them.
I have to admit that I'm not really ready to start back in on campaign season, but a day after Hillary announced she was running, we had two people asking where our buttons are. At least Sachi is ready to get to work. She's come up with a whole series and I'm starting to feel like I'm the only one who is not ready for campaign season as we sold many Hillary buttons over the weekend (mostly to younger women which might be my favorite demographic of people I want to make sure are voting). I mean, maybe I'm wrong, but I still think politicians would be thinking more about things like student loans and women's reproductive rights if twenty- and thirty-something women were as a strong a voting bloc as the AARP.
Other new arrivals at the shop include handsome travel glasses from Milwaukee, more tobacco lath wall signs and cut out letter books and custom Madison pint glasses.
and, finally, voila! I saved the best for last. We have been keeping an eye on Lovely Retro Renos and grabbed our chance to work with her on some dresser re-vamps. I had this thought back in October that I would convert some drawers to open shelving and even went so far as to carry around the measurements of the wood I needed to have cut. For about four months. One of the big tricks with owning this store is balancing what I *can* do with what I will actually do; in most cases, it is not so much a matter of ability as it is of time and efficiency. So we're lucky that Lovely Retro Renos was around when I finally acknowledged that not only did I not have the time, but I did not have the ability to do what she was going to do as well or as efficiently. Anyway, the dressers have been gone for a couple weeks and they came back today. Don't they look lovely? I'm so happy with Stefanie's work that I already have been thinking about what other dressers I have in store that she could convert for us, as well as what dressers we might do away with and just replace with some other lovely retro reno. Yay!
Now if you'll excuse me, I have some dressers to fill.