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Sunday, May 22, 2011

The lure of easy money

When you open a store, you can have as many conversations as you want about how you define you want your store to be perceived...what kind of relationship you want to have with your customers. And even then you can be lured off your path.

We spent the past couple of days pricing our new merchandise, both with physical tags, on our website and on Craigslist. Yesterday morning I sat looking at the website, thinking I should call my SIL, when I got an email from him. It said, "Do you think we overpriced the new stuff?"  I had been trying to think of a tactful way to ask him the same thing.

In order to keep prices reasonable, you have to stay informed about what the other shops are selling things for, and that can be a double-edged sword. Not only does it help you stay abreast of sales trends at the other places, but it also plants a little subconscious whisper in your brain that keeps repeating, "Did you see what they got for that piece?"  Pretty soon, if you're not careful, your own prices start to creep upwards.

My SIL and I both woke up yesterday morning knowing that's what had happened to us, and we weren't comfortable with it, because we had made a promise to our customers and to ourselves not to become another one of "those guys" who are making owning mid-century furniture more and more difficult.

So we spent the rest of the day lowering the prices on the new items, knocking off a hundred dollars here, hundreds more there. Then we put the Closed sign in the window, had a couple of glasses of wine and felt a lot better about ourselves.


  1. Wow! Does the store ever look different now! What a difference a week makes. It looks great!! I really respect your decision to maintain low prices. Now just because as a consumer, I love low prices, but because you are making something stylish available to any budget. I think in the long run your clientele will favor your store and you will out-sell the higher prices stores anyway. As always, good luck!

  2. i love the fact that you are being so honest about the is very diff for average folks to dream of owing anything desinger mcm or mcm in general...beautiful images of the shop floor..i m wishing ..more than ever..that i should have lived closer...:)..dying to see ur shop in person

  3. @Sudha: One of my SIL's best friends lives in Atlanta, and my cousin lives in Augusta. The next time one of them heads to Texas, you'll have to see if you can hide under some luggage and hitch a ride. :)

    As for the honesty, we're finding that keeping a transparent account in the blog of all the feelings and decisions that go into running the store is holding us more accountable.

  4. @Tanya: From almost too sparse to almost too full in a week...It's a roller-coaster ride, for sure. But it's definitely fun! Glad you like the new floor arrangement.

  5. wow! that would be wonderful..i can do that :)

  6. Good for you Dana. It's great that part of your goal in running this shop is to make it affordable and accessible. I think too many people get to rigid about their business model and it can really end up costing you more in the long run. (ie: high prices on things that were a trend 10 years ago usually drive away business)

    I was having some pricing anxiety over the last few days while getting ready for the flea. The trick with the flea market crowd seems to be price high (but not outrageous) and negotiate down. That way everyone feels like they are getting a good deal. This process is forcing some flexibility on me, which is a good thing.

  7. @monogirl: What we really want to avoid is pricing things high because everyone else is. It's the "because we can" attitude that we don't want to get. We're in a large metropolitan area that is home to some of the really high-rolling 1st Dibs players, and we've seen some people start out like us and start thinking they're in that league before they really are. And the question remains: Is that the market we ever want to aim for? I don't want to be a party to pricing mid-century furniture out of the reach of people like me.

    I think you're right about "wiggle room" for bargaining. We still have to leave a little for ourselves, even though we're a retail store.