Skyesong

Good And Bad News

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Hi all-

The good news, no....the GREAT news is that business has been soooo incredible that we're finally going to open a store front. After careful consideration of area and space, I have found a spot that is going to be lovely. The bad news is that since there will be a new kind of over head, I'm not going to be able to offer a 10% discount to forum members as of April 5th. We have set the market for INCREDIBLE products, and as an industry leader in PV kilts, Premuim kilt hose, and sporrans, I don't want to raise prices. What I can't afford to do is offer a 10% discount anymore, and I apologize for that. I hope you all understand and I hope to making kilts, sporrans, etc. for you in the days/years to come! Slainte', Josh

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That is awesome! I am sorry to see the discount go away (even thought I never used it). I hope everything goes well!

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The best of luck to you Josh!

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What I can't afford to do is offer a 10% discount anymore, and I apologize for that.

So, I assume this means you will no longer be an official merchant?

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So, I assume this means you will no longer be an official merchant?

yes, an unfortunately reality.

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Ah yes overhead. Insurance, phone, internet, long term lease, common fees, heat, hydro, fixtures,cash register, POS terminal, Bank fees, Window cleaning, garbage fees,website, advertising, accounting, payroll, and the list goes on. It does eat up the 10%

Good luck on your venture

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Eats up 10%!?!?!?! How about 20 - 25%? The GOOD news is that many are fixed costs (for the most part), so you'll know where the money goes each month. The bad news is that it doesn't help ease the pain while cutting the checks. What's that saying? "You gotta pay the cost to be the boss".

Congrats on the new space!

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having a physical space is easily one of the most expensive parts of any operation. All those fixed costs that need to be paid no matter how much ( or little ) money is made.

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Eats up 10%!?!?!?! How about 20 - 25%? The GOOD news is that many are fixed costs (for the most part), so you'll know where the money goes each month. The bad news is that it doesn't help ease the pain while cutting the checks. What's that saying? "You gotta pay the cost to be the boss".

Congrats on the new space!

Well I have a BIG operation! I have daughters there goes 50% ;)

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Well I have a BIG operation! I have daughters there goes 50% ;)

only 50% to the daughters? you have done well training them! :)

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only 50% to the daughters? you have done well training them! :)

Yes then there's my wife......(silent partner?)

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Yes then there's my wife......(silent partner?)

ahh...good point.

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On a serious note, Rocky and Robert, how important is a physical versus a virtual store?

In other words, if you eliminated a physical store would that be 25% of the business or ??? %.

I have spoken to some merchants (general not kilt related) who feel lacking a storefront

they don't have legitimacy in some people's eyes. I think with the Internet that notion is disappearing

but your perspective would be interesting.

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I can key in here for a second. It depends entirely on location. If you have a shop in a very high-population area where there is a huge number of kilted and SCA-types, the storefront will help immensely.

That is hard to find these days. I have seen a couple shops with great products and service close down because there simply weren't enough locals to keep a physical store afloat without a very successful online presence.

in such a niche market, it can be a big gamble if you are not 100% certain you can live with the shop not being able to pay for itself without web sales.

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Ive run a storefront business in a niche market for 38 years in the same area with only 2 different street addresses in that time. And my industry means no internet sales at all. Success comes down to three things: be good at your job, passing trade, & customer service.

While I cant speak for his other products, Josh does indeed supply a nice kilt. In fact it's one I go to regularly. If the passing trade is good, the two factors may be enough, as I'm not going near the customer service issue.

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On a serious note, Rocky and Robert, how important is a physical versus a virtual store?

In other words, if you eliminated a physical store would that be 25% of the business or ??? %.

I have spoken to some merchants (general not kilt related) who feel lacking a storefront

they don't have legitimacy in some people's eyes. I think with the Internet that notion is disappearing

but your perspective would be interesting.

The storefront has made a considerable difference. I'm in a tourist town, people come far and wide to see the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Because I make my own product it made sense to combine the workshop with a storefront. The consumer who makes my shop a destination gets to see me actually make the product and all that's involved from machinery and fabric. It's an experience! Those that deal with me online in someways get to have a virtual experience. I've connected with most of my customers via skype, I can give them a tour of the shop, but they can't actually feel and handle the product or smell the leather.

I've spent a long time building a customer base. During the summer months I would spend every weekend at highland games doing as many as 14 per season. (A lot of vendors fees and travel expenses) I've cut that down to 4 or 5 because I want to also spend time at the store. I have also experienced that the consumer takes great value in meeting the crafts person that's going to make their garment. So having a physical store is indeed a plus.

If I eliminated the store it may mean 30% of my business, though I would still have a majority of the costs I outlined above. My operation is too big to move back into my house. I have 6 industrial machines, a serger, skiver, 7 presses large cutting table and pressing centre. Plus stock.

For me to survive, I need the internet sales, the trade shows, word of mouth and walk-in-trade to make it work.

Sure I could buy kilts and accessories from east Asia for $6-$26 sell them on ebay for $26-$115, but that's being a reseller with no actual connection in the making of the product. I'm also, just not comfortable with the quality of those products and my customers deserve better.

I'm coming into my fourth season at this location (I've been doing this for 9 years) and more and more people are coming in to purchase from me directly instead of online.

Cheers

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For us, we need a place to work and sew kilts, so we have to rent a space ANYWAY, so we might as well have a store as well. :)

Also, when I first started this 8 years ago, I bought a lot of other (non kilt related) products online. My personal 'thoughts' on the storefront issue was that I would only buy things from companies with an ACTUAL storefront (unless it was a HUGE operation like Amazon books or whatever). I wanted to make sure it wasn't some kid in his basement storing electronics or whatever... I wanted to make sure the store had a reputation and a physical presence. This way, if something went HORRIBLY wrong, I knew that I had an address and phone # to attach to the company... not just a PO box and an email.

Has the internet changed that point of view? Maybe a little. In my mind, I still feel much better when the company has a retail store.

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Robert and Rocky: Thanks for the interesting replies. Rest assured gentleman, I have no intentions of hanging up my shingle so your enterprises are secure. :) I have to admit Robert, though I consider myself geographically aware, I was not aware that tourists were so abundant in your neighborhood.

I appreciate you both taking the time to reply.

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For me to survive, I need the internet sales, the trade shows, word of mouth and walk-in-trade to make it work.

Sure I could buy kilts and accessories from east Asia for $6-$26 sell them on ebay for $26-$115, but that's being a reseller with no actual connection in the making of the product. I'm also, just not comfortable with the quality of those products and my customers deserve better.

Well on that point I think you have succeeded. I do not yet have an RKilt (yet being the operative word) but I have to say I have never seen even a lukewarm review, most everyone I have seen has been exceedingly positive.

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Soon to be shop-Its the front with the Awning-less awning. I don't mind telling you I'm a little nervous about this. I'm also going to be doing the Highland Game circuit for the west next year also....So I got a lot on my plate, but I'm sure everything will be alright.

storefront.jpg

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Tell you what, most of us have seen a lot of folks go in and out of the kilt business over the last ten years.

What I've noticed is that the success stories provide two things, customer service and a quality products. Anything less spells doom. Value, not price, is the answer.

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Soon to be shop-Its the front with the Awning-less awning. I don't mind telling you I'm a little nervous about this. I'm also going to be doing the Highland Game circuit for the west next year also....So I got a lot on my plate, but I'm sure everything will be alright.

storefront.jpg

I'll be looking for you in Pleasanton, Ca. Labor day weekend.......

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I am not trying to be negative here - Just giving Our experience and thoughts...........

Our store in Minnesota cost us $1100 a month rent, + Trash, +Internet, +phone - I would often go weeks without having a Kilt Customer come through the door (Yes we had walk in traffic but lets face it - folks just wanted to see a kilt store - ya they might buy a pin or a can of Haggis)

Our Shop in PA cost us $400 a month plus $600 for heating in the winter, +++ Trash etc. Same deal not enough walk in traffic to pay rent -

The reality for us was that most folks that really wanted to buy a kilt would call us and make sure we were opened before they drove up. I do not think there is any location in the USA that will pay for itself by walk-in traffic from the local economy.

It is nice to have a "STORE" where you can leave home and go to work, BUT it is also nice to walk downstairs with a cup of coffee and be at work. Sometimes I even answer phone calls at 10 PM at night Which I think freaks people out sometimes - but I have sold things late at night (I am sitting here now doing shipping)

Now that we are in our house - We have had folks drive from Maryland, Pittsburgh, New York, Ohio, West Virginia.. We welcome them into our house, offer a cup of coffee, and have had several sit down in the living room conversations.

I Wish you guys the best - just remember......

Early to Bed

Early to Rise

Work like Hell

and Advertise

Oh and a few tips.. when you get ready to open.. send out a PRESS RELEASE to the local papers and TV and Radio, Call the local Irish and Scottish groups, have a grand opening, get a piper, have a give away for charity, have some food...

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I guess I can always "Go back" to home based. I've done this since 2008, and each year I double my business and sales, so truth be known, I guess I could always fall back to this and be perfectly fine. I just felt like I wanted to try and take the next step. The quality and value of the kilts and sporrans I make are at the top of the game, and even the poor customer service for the few on the forums, and even the few that are not that have happened with me ALL love their product and attest to it. Those go along with the bigger and bigger following I get every day from extremely satisfied customers who make up the continual waiting list I have! Its just time to take it to the next level!

In many ways this was an un-intended career. My wife and I had a child unexpectedly 4 years ago and I left my position over at Apple computer to do this as a hobby. I think I've learned from the ups and downs suitably to try this and my work and pride in my product is what has propelled this from hobby to full fledge business. I always tell Rocky over at USA kilts he's the role model (Check out his story of how he got into the biz). I do appreciate everyone's help along the way, and I am glad to have been able to have been a vendor on this forum. I hope to make a kilt or sporran for you all!! Even you Ron.

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