Craft stores get creative during pandemic | First

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Like many craft stores, Who Gives a SCRAP was a neighborhood gathering place at its location on Colorado Avenue, just west of downtown Colorado Springs.

In November, the store, which sells recycled arts and crafts supplies, moved to a new location at 810 Arcturus Drive.

This was just one of the changes owner Lorrie Myers faced during the pandemic. Although Myers was forced to move, the new location turned out to be an advantage. Now Myers has more space to process the donations that supply the store, more floor space to allow more customers to enter, and more space to rent to artists and craft teachers.

Most local craft stores have seen their sales increase or remain stable during the pandemic.

“People buy stuff like crazy,” Myers said. “It’s not just that they are making more; they make something for a specific purpose that they can sell or give as a personal gift.

Crafts saw a resurgence in popularity not only because people stayed home and had to find ways to entertain their children, but also because crafts helped people cope with the extra stress that year. last brought.

People are exploring new areas of crafts, like quilting, and picking up ones they’ve made before, Myers said.

“They make handcrafted items, and not just because it’s cheaper,” she said. “It gives that personal touch, and people miss out on friends and family.”

Most have done well thanks to a loyal clientele and a creative hub. And they’re starting to resume their traditional role as places where people can share their love of making.

SURVIVE IN DIFFICULT TIMES

When Myers had to shut down Who Gives a SCRAP at the end of March last year, she feared she would keep her three employees at work[see below] and that the volunteers who help sort the donations would miss their only social outlet.

A paycheck protection program loan bolstered wages, and Myers put employees to work making kits to sell. Although the store did not have an online outlet, it did offer curbside shopping and delivery to customers who called ahead.

The store had built up a solid customer base, including many teachers, and Myers knew their needs and preferences.

“We would take the products out on trays for them to review and make their decisions,” Myers said.

While the Colorado Springs store struggled through the rough months, Who Gives’s Fort Collins store at SCRAP did not survive.

After the Springs store reopened in May, business resumed – but due to limited floor space, Myers could only allow a few customers in at a time.

Myers generated phone orders and pickups through social media outreach, including a weekly live Facebook event showcasing new product and project ideas, and live auctions on Instagram. Discounts for teachers, the elderly, the military and first responders brought in customers.

A few months after the reopening, Myers learned that the parking lot next to the Colorado Avenue store had been sold and was going to be the site of a four-story apartment building. She found a new site – a 12,000 square foot space formerly occupied by Spectrum Physical Therapy.

TThe day after Thanksgiving, Who Gives a SCRAP moved from its 3,000 square foot quarters on Colorado Avenue and moved into space on Arcturus near Eighth Street.

The new facility has a large classroom with plenty of room for distancing, and Myers has installed a HEPA air filtration system that recycles the air every 30 minutes.

She is now able to attract more customers to browse the store’s stock and is starting to rent out the classroom to artists and craft experts who want to teach classes.

Small spaces that were once therapy rooms have been converted into artist studios that rent for $ 100 per month.

Donations have skyrocketed in recent months, Myers said.

“In a normal month we gain around 4,000 pounds,” she said. “Now we’re steadily going over 9,000 pounds. “

The goods are isolated in a special COVID-19 bay for several days before being processed.

Myers said who gives a SCRAP [still?] has three full-time employees who earn a living wage, and she is happy the company continues to make a difference – its social impact mission is to divert materials from landfills.

As COVID-19 restrictions loosen, it looks forward to expanding its role as a community center.

ATTRACT CUSTOMERS

Simple Pleasures, a store in northeast Colorado Springs that sells rubber stamps, scrapbooking supplies, and mixed-use art supplies, also faced challenges last year, but not only managed to survive, but also to expand its customer base.

“When people do this type of craft, they are doing something for someone else,” said owner Cathy Smith. “It makes people closer to each other.

The store had a strong social gathering component before the pandemic, as people gathered for classes and to work on their scrapbooking or card-making projects in the store’s workroom.

“We had to get more creative,” Smith said. “We have grown our customer base through the use of social media, and we are shipping more orders than ever before. We did what we call take-out kits, and we had a weekly Facebook Live event.

During the live events, Smith showcases a project, and artisans can order merchandise in the comments.

“In some ways it’s a more personal experience than an online store,” she said.

Smith still offers mail order delivery and curbside pickup, but shoppers can now enter the store if they are masked and stay away. Smith also requires customers to wear gloves, which she provides if buyers don’t.

“We have a sign on the door that says if they don’t have gloves we would really appreciate if they could donate $ 1 to TESSA,” she said.

The store’s sales volume has increased since it reopened after the initial closure, and January-March is up from October-December. Sales of card making supplies have been huge, she said.

Next month, Smith plans to try a dedicated time where a small group of people can come together to work on their projects. She is also planning to offer a card making course. “We are taking baby steps,” she said.

SOLD ONLINE

Ewe and Me, a northwest Colorado Springs store that sells yarn and knitting and crochet supplies, did not have a pre-pandemic online store.

“Gary, my husband, out of necessity, has become an expert at selling on the web,” said owner Debbie Golucke.

The online store is still ongoing, she said, but it has the most popular yarns sold by the store and orders come from across the country.

Golucke said she buys goods from overseas and has encountered supply issues, especially with deliveries from some South American countries where the store buys yarn.

“In Uruguay and Peru, at the beginning, their workers were not allowed to go to work,” she said. “People can now go to their places of work, but there is a backlog and there is no way to get it to the United States. “

This involved finding alternative suppliers, but Golucke said she had a personal relationship with the Montevideo family who own Malabrigo Yarns, one of the store’s biggest suppliers.

She is able to pre-order items from Malabrigo and other suppliers, who will let her know when shipments can be arranged.

Golucke estimated sales to reach around 25% in 2020, but the store secured a small PPP loan and continued to pay its three employees to manage inventory, maintain the store, and tutor.

“We are on the verge of having to hire more employees,” Golucke said.

CREATIVE PIVOT

In-store sales of Silver Sparrow Beads in Old Colorado City have remained fairly stable, owner Michele Underwood said, but she has seen a big increase in her wholesale jewelry line.

Underwood does not have an online store but works for a group of California representatives who take orders for finished parts for boutiques, health food stores and resorts. Underwood processes and ships orders.

“We are designing what we think will be a trend for the coming season,” she said.

Wholesale trade grew so much that Underwood added three contractors to help produce the parts.

“When we started, there were only three of us,” she said.

She also has a few part-time employees at the store, where foot traffic has started to increase.

Underwood said the ability to pivot and strategize got him through the pandemic.

“If things aren’t going well, you really need to be able to get a big picture of where you want to be in two years and start taking action to get there, and be creative in your thinking about it. the different ways to earn income, ”she said. “Sometimes it’s just not in your store; you can do it in other ways.


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