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On Community, Creativity, and Local Retail: The Best Lessons from 2020

December 16, 2020 | Published by Faire

The Faire team has had the privilege of interviewing members of our community over the course of this year about the evolving landscape of independent retail. Our brands and retailers  bravely opened up and shared their advice, experiences, silver linings, and new discoveries with us. We were endlessly impressed by their resilience and strength.

As the year comes to a close, we’re looking back on what we learned from our customers. Today, we’ve compiled some of the best advice and lessons we heard from our community this year. We hope that you enjoy their thoughtful reflections as much as we did. 

Get personal

Maintaining personal relationships with customers was a primary theme this year. Here’s what some of our community members had to say about getting personal.

Annya White of NaturalAnnie Essentials. Photo by Allie Dearie Photography.

After a crisis, when you come out of it, there’s always new energy, resurgence, new ways to connect and do business and to reach your customer. For me, designing has become more intimate and personal, and I think doing business becomes more intimate and personal.  Cat Seto, Ferme à Papier

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My businesses are very personal to me… I love what I do and I recognize that is such a rare blessing. But it also wasn’t accidental. I make choices in merchandise and business relationships that prioritize what is in the best interest of both myself and my staff. I try and make it a happy, comforting, and supportive space for all of us to grow, learn, and feel excited to come to work each day.  Claire Tibbs, Humboldt House

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Keep a dialogue with your customers, even if you’re not open. Let them know that you’re thinking of them. Brainstorm some ideas with them about how you might adapt. Mat Pond, Epicurean Trader

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It isn’t just about the economy, it’s about making our customers feel really good about their purchases too. I want to continue to talk about our makers and why it’s important to shop from them… We have to work together. There are so many things we can learn from one another so stay connected. Kelly Marie Thompson, Fleur Inc.

Prioritize staff and community

Many small business owners experienced a new sense of community with their staff and peers as a result of the 2020 pandemic. Here’s how a few of our brands and retailers prioritized their teams.

Epicurean Trader, San Francisco.

One of the things that we’ve found that’s been a silver lining of the pandemic is as a [company], it’s brought us closer together. We have more all-company meetings than we used to. My partners and I are really doing our best to listen to all of our employees and to check in with them and talk about mental health within the company. Emily McDowell, Emily McDowell & Friends

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I am very careful about working in shifts. Everybody works a two hour shift either on the sales floor, at the register, or in one of the three [back-of-house] areas so that they can take a break. We switched full-time staff to four ten-hour days instead of five eight-hour days. I’ve seen a great shift in how happy my staff is having that extra day. I’m so glad I [made that change]; we’ll never go back. Barbara Mooney, Daisy’s Mercantile

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The cool thing about our maker community is that we all immediately started reaching out to find out how each other was handling all the new issues the pandemic brought… Our small business peers have been priceless and the best business mentors we could ask for. I don’t think we would have navigated these new waters if it wasn’t for those beautiful people. Brent Rodgers, Two Little Fruits

Stay agile

This year, we heard repeatedly about the importance of agility and adaptability in business, and particularly in retail. We heard firsthand from our community about how they approached the need to pivot.

Kelly Marie Thompson of Fleur, Inc. Photo by Jamie Kelter Davis Photography.

The most important thing that I’ve learned is that you have to be open to trying different things and pivoting as necessary. Not everything that works for one brand is going to work for another. That has been essential to my business — to hone in on taking those pivots and trying something new.  Annya White, NaturalAnnie Essentials

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One little pivot led to a dramatic increase in sales the week we launched the masks. Given that we’re all going to be home a lot more over the next six months or so, it might be time to start thinking about other ways to pivot. I’m not sure what the future of small business will look like, but one thing I do know as a small business owner is that you have to keep your finger on the pulse and pay attention to your customer’s demands. Kalyn Johnson, Effie’s Paper

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I think we’ll be a little bit more stringent on how we spend money and where every dollar goes. I think we’ll make sure that our curated collection is that much more curated so that we don’t have the sort of product that sits around. I think we’ll be a little bit leaner and meaner. John Frechette, MADE

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Retail has changed forever — that much is clear to us. But waiting for retail to go back to “normal” is unrealistic. We truly believe that we offer a great experience in our stores — opening brick-and-mortar shops is our way to build deeper connections with customers and get feedback in real time, and candle buying is enhanced by an in-person experience. We just had to figure out how to make it work. Thomas Neuberger and Kristen Pumphrey, P.F. Candle

Embrace optimism, gratitude, and creativity

The Faire community remains optimistic about the future of local retail. Our brands and retailers told us time and time again this year how much they love what they do.

Cat Seto of Ferme à Papier.

There were a few times during [lock-down] when I realized how much I absolutely love what I do. Barbara Mooney, Daisy’s Mercantile

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I think this is a really interesting time for makers and also retailers to think about why we all wanted to do this in the first place… For me, [I’ve] been enjoying the extra time I have with my son and extra moments of drawing or introspection. We’ve all lived through recession and we have always bounced back. There’s always been an immense amount of creativity that has come about after, so I have faith in that. Cat Seto, Ferme à Papier

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I am of the mindset that there’s a huge set of the population that loves the experience of retail shopping — the thrill of walking through a store and discovering something new. So I am optimistic that there’s always going to be a space for local retail. Mat Pond, Epicurean Trader

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This year has been a major learning experience with our small business. We’ve learned to remain flexible; we’ve learned to lead with our values first; and, above all, we’ve learned that people will continue to shop small because of the personal experience we offer. Your customers are shopping at your store because of you. Thomas Neuberger and Kristen Pumphrey, P.F. Candle

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I love my job so much and I love my staff and I love our customers. I’ve had my ups and downs these last [months] but I have had more moments of crying happy tears than I have from any kind of meltdown. That really speaks volumes. People understand the importance of buying local now more than ever. Kelly Marie Thompson, Fleur Inc.

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