I know, I know, you didn't want to hear that. But I thought I'd give you a little sneak peek into the planning process for holidays at Anthology.
To be totally honest, it all started with an NPR headline: "Unwanted chicks are filling up some city shelters and some activists are blaming fair-weather hipster farmers."
Before that, we took a day trip to Milwaukee for shopping and eating and found great inspiration from a deck of historic scientific illustration postcards. That was back in March, I believe. At that point, I had the idea of using those postcards as a backdrop and creating some sort of scientific window. Not exactly sure what, but that represents a narrowing of the thought process, believe it or not. I've been following up some leads on various scientific-related prints, t-shirts and other products but it has all been rather nebulous - do I go ocean? geological? botanical? Fill the window with periodic tables and lab glassware? I don't know!
Now, preparing for Christmas, indeed, preparing the store for any time of the year involves a fine balance between various factors, sometimes competing, sometimes working together. The first is the owner's idea of things that they love. The second is the owner's idea of how they want the store to look. The third is what customers want, which isn't necessarily articulated in any way other than what they purchase (perhaps I could divide this into what customers want, general consumer trends, and what customers actually purchase).
Thus we have a huge pool of things that I love. Within that pool is a
smaller pool of things that I would actually choose to purchase for the
store based on what we see as the niche of the store. The pool of what customers purchase overlaps to some extent with what customers think they want and the other pools, but there are also many things that customers want which don't fit this store. There are also things that set the tone of the store which might not sell that well - but which my old boss used to describe as "flash" - these are items that are critical to not only set the tone of the store but set it apart from others, and so you buy them anyway, even if you don't sell tons of them.
When planning for the window, I have to balance what I think would be cool (a window of periodic tables) with what actually works for the shop, as well as what is selling in general. I don't really think it is enough to just fill the window with one's best-selling items; the window also functions to inform people about items they don't even realize they might want, as well as to inform them about the store in general.
Thus, there is some underlying problem with my scientific theme - as much as I love it personally, as much as I think charts are cool things, as much as I think science and art are very much connected, I wasn't entirely sure how that was going to play in our store. Also, no one potential hot-seller had jumped out at me in the course of the year that would fit with that theme and be a money-generator. We placed many orders at the Stationery Show and while there were lots of wonderful artists at work, there wasn't a particular theme that jumped out at me to either reinforce my scientific direction or switch it entirely (just for example, last year, when I went to Atlanta, I had in mind a Christmas window with peacocks but I ended up finding such a fabulous collection of woodland ornaments that I changed direction). As of June, no particular product or theme had come along. Now, bicycles have been a strong theme for us so I could have gone with that, but I tend to hook them in with our graduation travel windows and our summer windows so it would have been nice to have something different for the holidays.
Meanwhile, what the heck is going on with owls?! I can't believe they are still going so strong. I keep thinking that surely something is coming along to replace them - maybe octopi? maybe foxes? but then I get someone in the store who is totally and newly in love with owls and I see the whole thing starting all over again. I'm kind of stumped, and also kind of over owls. Plus, last year I did that woodland window with lots of mushrooms so I wanted to do something a little different from that.
Enter the NPR headline.
Now, to be totally honest, I really don't like chickens. I mean, I like to eat them, but I really don't like live birds in general and while I am guilty as the next person of "putting a bird on it" in my artwork and room decor, I specifically don't care for chicken imagery. At my old job we used to sell these wooden chickens and I still remember, not fondly, the time I had to make chicken wire shelves and fill the window with those wooden chickens. I heard more stories about people who had chicken collections and more happy exclamations. But that is not for me. I have repeatedly told our part-timer, NO Chickens. Nonetheless, I can sense a tidal wave turning against me - even our church has chickens!
The headline started it and though the trip to New York did yield some products, the trip to Atlanta solidified the plan. Add to this certain items which have sold well over the course of the year (Victory Garden retro prints and Nikki McClure's domestic/nature scenes that have been a staple for a while), the theme that is starting to come together is more of a hipster urban garden kind of theme - nature, but with an urban twist. So I get to use some of my scientific botanicals but it will more be about the intersection of people with nature - not just chickens and owls, but raccoons and squirrels and terrariums, gnomes and foxes and carrots, even a way to highlight the farmer's market bags that we are getting. This kind of connects with the slow food and locavore movement, which I see as connected to the DIY movement...so it fits right in with both the pool of things I would choose for the store and the pool of things that are trending in the consumer realm and the pool of things that are specifically suitable for our customers and based on past sales throughout the year. The chickens are not in my pool, but, yes, we'll have a few token hens.