Dos and don'ts for making the most of your samples

As quilt shop owners, we all know that samples sell products including kits, classes, fabrics, patterns, notions and so much more. With samples to catch their attention, customers are so much likely to make impulse purchases in your shop that make up a huge part of our sales. Here, Jennifer Albaugh of the shop Quiltique shares some of her do's and dont's for making the most from your investment in samples.

The Dos

DO make samples from only the fabrics and products you sell
We used to have a sample maker who would take the fabrics we gave her for the sample but then embellish it with fabrics from her stash at home. It looked great, but inevitably customers would ask for the fabrics we didn’t have and would be disappointed. Make sure you have or you can get a good supply of all the fabrics in your shop that you use in your sample.
The same goes for notions. If you are not willing to order a special ruler suggested by the pattern maker, you shouldn’t make the sample. Sending customers to other shops, or worse, online is bad customer service.

DO make kits for your customers to buy
Provide that extra customer service and that extra income for yourself by offering an easy grab and go option for customers, especially for quilts. Trust me, they will sell.

DO add signage to all your samples
Signage is so important to help you sell your product. Make it simple and at the very least, list the title of the project (we usually just list the pattern title to make it easy for the customer) and the size of the garment, a “small/medium/large” of the bag sampled, and so on. If there is a class associated with your sample, point that out as well to help sell your classes.

DO display quilts in unique and interesting ways
I am always searching for display ideas or props for my quilts. Some quilts really show better flat on a wall while some do just fine folded or draped. Try different things to keep your displays interesting. Putting quilt sleeves on quilts that are larger than lap size gives you the option of hanging them. Smaller samples can be hung using simple clear thumb tacks. You may be able to hang quilt from rafters, which is visually stunning but keep in mind the height issue – sometimes things hanging above customer’s heads will not be as effective as if they are closer to eye level. I also love to drape quilts over chairs and benches, fold them in half or thirds and hang them over open doors and ladders or even loop them through large rings attached to walls.

DO move samples around the shop
If a particular is not selling products well, then move it. I will put a quilt in a particular place and think it’s a great spot, but then sales show otherwise. Just moving it can usually fix the problem.

DO allow customers to take photos and touch your samples
I didn’t used to allow this but I quickly realised that saying no did more harm than good. In today’s digital world, it just doesn’t make sense to not allow customers to take pictures of your samples and your shop. If their intentions are malicious, then they are going to find a way to do it anyway. Most customers just want to share the photo with their friends or family (if they have a different reason they will usually ask permission). It is also beneficial to let people touch your samples. What we do and sell is all about the senses. How something looks and feels is a big selling advantage. If there is something you really don’t want customers touching, it is best to hang it out of reach.

The Don’ts

DON’T display unfinished quilts and other projects
This is a pet peeve of mine. I don’t understand why you would display something only half finished. Think of the message you are sending. We should be encouraging our customers to complete their projects so that they can move on the next and feel that sense of accomplishment – not to mention that a half finished project is only half as inspiring as a finished one. The only time I would say it is passable is if you’re showing a few blocks from a second colourway from the finished sample you already have on display. But even then it is easy to quickly finish a block or two and make it in to a table runner.

DON’T spend ages having a sample made
Set yourself strict deadlines for when samples are required. A good sample can boost sales of a fabric line, but the sample should be made promptly while the fabrics are new, otherwise customers will buy it elsewhere or get excited about other new collections and you will miss out on sales.

DON’T let samples become stale
Projects can become stale if they are displayed for too long. Only keep a sample up for longer than a year if it is still actively selling kits or fabrics (whether regular price or clearance), or if it is filling space on a wall in a low traffic area of the shop.
I could keep going on this topic but I think I’ve covered the basics. Yes, samples for your shop cost you time and resources to make, but they also have a very good rate of return. They enhance your ambience, inspire customers and make you money. Don’t take them lightly.

Based on the article by Jennifer Albaugh of Quiltique in Nevada for FabShop News     
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