*Editor’s Note: Since this interview took place, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced most retailers to close their doors, making a tough industry even more difficult. When we emerge from this crisis, local retailers will face all of the same challenges… and then some. Now more than ever, we must support them by shopping local.
Located on the lower level of Northwoods Mall, IN and OUT Craft Market is designed to connect vendors, crafters and artists with their customers—an “everyday makers sale” featuring art, crafts and unique gifts.
What is your biggest challenge as a retailer in 2020?
Our biggest challenge is getting people in the store to buy our things. We get a lot of looks, but not enough buys.
What strategies do you employ to mitigate any downsides from the internet?
We are under the adage that if you can’t beat them, join them. We are working on putting our items online where we will ship them to you. I can’t say we have come up with any strategies that will work to mitigate the internet’s power, besides working on our online presence.
Have you seen a sustained impact from recent Shop Local campaigns?
We have not seen sustained impact from the Shop Local campaigns. I feel as though people have favorite places they go, and if you are not in that circle then you are left out.
How has your location at Northwoods Mall impacted your business?
We thought the mall would be our saving grace and keep us overflowing with business. We didn’t realize that people have not been coming to the mall to shop consistently. I am not sure people realize that big chains are not the only businesses in the mall. A lot of small businesses depend on the mall to get customers in our doors.
What other trends are you seeing in retail?
I haven’t seen any other trends besides the online component and the fact that big-name stores are closing. We also must deal with the mass exodus of businesses and people leaving Illinois—that is another problem we must fix.
Anything else you wish to add?
I think it is going to take some really out-of-the-box thinking and maybe even getting the community involved. Seeing what they are looking for and what they would spend their money on would be helpful. PM