Next month will mark three years in business in a physical shop! Can you believe it?! Crazy, because it feels like I've been doing this forever. This time last year I was preparing for the release of my book and definitely didn't foresee what was to come later in the year with our shop move. Oh, how things have changed!
Late last month I went to Frankfurt for Paperworld, which, if you read this blog, is a place you already know is the craziest stationery trade show ever. It's a lot of time and money to travel for these sorts of things, all in the pursuit of new products, which I'm learning are becoming harder and harder to come by. You see, the things is, it's not very often that new pencils come about. Most pencil brands will release a couple of new things a year and there are only so many brands to choose from. And to be honest, I just don't like a lot of the stuff I see at trade shows. If it's not "on brand" enough, it's not high enough quality. When I first started the online shop I had a short list of things I definitely wanted to get but was very careful to edit everything else--I repeatedly told myself that just because a pencil is currently manufactured doesn't mean that I have to sell it. When I look at photos of the shop in the very very beginning I always laugh a little bit at how minimal the shop displays were. These days there's NEVER enough space, not even in a significantly larger shop. Putting out new or re-stock products often becomes a shop-wide puzzle. I'm not sure if my taste has become less discerning since that first round of buying long ago or if I've just been more open-minded about new products but man, we sell a lot of things from a lot of different places! I wish you could see what my PO system looks like--it's complicated, to say the least.
Things got even more complicated when we first decided to do a proper subscription box. It was very important to me that we include mostly things that we don't already sell. Stupidly, I didn't really think much about how much work it would be to find 6-8 actually good new things to put in the boxes every three months--never mind weight, budget constraints and themes. I've had to really really take my time and ask myself if I'm just choosing something because it's new and it's easy or if it's actually something I can sell and stand by in the shop as a regular item. It's hard, because I'm picky and because there are so many things that I don't want the shop to be. On the other hand, it's a good thing to have this quarterly challenge because it forces me to dive deep to find new things to work into our regular rotation.
In the next couple of months there are a few things that we're going to start selling that are things I never thought we'd sell. These are decisions I've mulled over for a really long time and finally I realized that this shop has evolved in the past three years, entirely naturally. It's okay to grow and it's okay to sell things that might not be my own personal favorites and it's okay to branch out sometimes. I've been really proud of myself for being able to find things that I love for the shop that are also things that I know will sell well but let's face it--I'm running a brick-and-mortar shop in a really expensive city in 2018. Maybe sometimes it's not a terrible idea to think a little bit more about what the customers want to buy, not what my personal preferences are. The vision is still the same and the focus is still the same and as long as that's never diluted I think we'll be okay.
*PHOTO: our front window shelves three days after opening at our original location.