Friday, September 23, 2011

Shop till you drop - litterally!

"So how do you choose what you bring in to the store anyway?"
Good question. One I should have been more clear on the answer to before I bought this place! lol
I figured I’d get regular catalogues, have minimum orders to meet annually and pick and choose what I wanted as it came out. It turns out that as a retail store owner I have the twice-a-year privilege of driving to Saskatoon to visit all my suppliers and place my orders for the next season. The next season being the one six months away.
Yes, add ‘psychic’ to the list of necessary skills for owning a bridal shop. Or any shop for that matter because apparently many different types of retail stores do this.
Here’s how it works. About 2 months before BuyMart your reps start calling “I’m booking for BuyMart, are you attending this year?” and you haul out your calendar and start filling in appointment slots on the days you plan to attend.
This is not a trade show, not really. You can wander around and view all the great possibilities but only during certain times. Reps book appointments with their standing accounts and those are not to be interrupted for any reason.  As you likely know, my store is open Tuesday to Saturday and my helper works a regular job during the week. So she’s only available to cover after 5pm or on Saturdays. This means that in order to get to Buy Mart I have to close the store, or pack all my appointments into Monday. This doesn’t leave a lot of time for wandering and makes for a crazy full day.
Here’s how it went for me at the most recent Buy Mart, which happened to occur on my son’s first day of school. Nice eh? If I was a more tuned in human I would have realized that before I booked my appointments. But, we made it all work so it’s all good.
First the school thing.
Decided he wanted to take the bus afterall.
Then Tim Horton’s (‘cause a Tim’s double double if for me as required as fuel for the car to do a road trip). And then we are off.
My first appointment was at noon for Bonny Bridal, prom dresses and bridal wear at a hotel near by.Then I needed to zip down to the trade show floor for the rest of my appointments:

2pm for my Calista and JAI rep (more bridal)
3pm for shoe shopping with Sofft and Marc Fisher
4:30 for jewellery
5pm for Spanner business wear
6pm for Mon Cheri and Sophia Tolli (more prom and bridal)
7pm for funky party dresses and great cocktail dresses
8pm was more shoes with Bos. & Co.

A major shopping day!
I decided to bring in reinforcements in the form of my friend Heather. She not only stays on top of current fashion trends, she LOVES shoes.

She wasn't to impressed with having her picture taken though. lol

When you walk in to BuyMart you have to register and then you go into a big hall full of booths full of clothing of every description.
Shoes, jeans, suits, dresses and accessories for all ages, sizes and sexes. Not every company comes to Saskatoon BuyMart. There are bigger events in Edmonton, Vancouver and Chicago. But it’s a little overwhelming and thrilling the first couple of times you attend.
Things were clicking along pretty well until I hit Spanner. My rep Vanessa was running behind as was my rep for Mon Cheri so I zipped out to try and track down burnt orange ribbon for a fix we were doing on a flower girl dress. That meant a trip across town to Fabricland. It was a success but took close to an hour! Much longer then I had expected.
The shift in appointments threw everything else off in a big way. If you love to shop this event is a blast. I do NOT love to shop and by the time 8pm rolled around I was fried. When I finally got out of there I was one of the very last buyers left and it was after 10pm. And I had to drive home! 
Michelle is great, she stays late and lets me eat fries while we book my purchases!

All and all the day was successful. February’s new stock and samples were chosen, Grad gowns will arrive starting in October and my trunk arrangements were made for the big Grad Gala 2012 November 6. I’ll have close to 80 gowns at that event, including Tony Bowls gowns! I am super excited! 
Your look behind the scenes for today. Cool eh?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sit back and enjoy the show!

We did a little fashion show this past weekend. Nothing extravagant, five girls with four different outfits each. But the great thing was we did it at the city’s open air market. This made for a fun, casual, and positive atmosphere to help get the word out that we have business wear – our primary goal.

I’m still working on how to reach people through internet and traditional media. Experimenting with what reaches who and how effective the reach is. But one of the things I learned through many years of Tupperware sales is thinking outside the box. Hunting down and taking advantage of the opportunities there are out there for a small business owner with no money to get the word out.
A great way is public venues like the city’s open air market. Vendor’s pay $20 for the season, book their tables on the weeks they want to work them and the city publicises the market like crazy in an effort to build a great event. It’s good for the vendors, it’s good for the city and the trickle down to the brick and mortar store fronts close to the event is slow but sure.
So I gave the coordinator a call and said “Can I do a fashion show as part of the afternoon’s entertainment?” and she said “That’s a great idea!” There were about 40 – 50 people there. We handed out 20 discount cards to people who were interested in what we were showing tenough to accept them and a small impact was made.
I had thought it would stop there.
I was THRILLED to discover I had caught the Saturday where the city’s event photographer was in attendance and they posted photos of the show on their face book page. I was even more thrilled to hear that the photographer from a local weekly paper was also there and they will be doing a ‘city events’ piece mentioning the show as well!  Suddenly my little 20 outfit show is reaching thousands of people. Since my primary goal was awareness, that’s a huge huge marketing win for my little store.
So, for those of you unable to be at Market Square last Saturday, here is most of the show, with commentary!   (Not knowing the photographer was there the first couple of girls missed out, but once we were told to wait for pictures they caught all the rest.)
“Hello everyone and welcome! Thanks for taking the time view our fall fashion collection brought to you by Unforgettable - Bridal, Business, Party and Prom. They are so much more then wedding gowns and wanted to give you a taste today of what you can find there to help you update your wardrobe as the weather cools.
Let’s start off with some beautiful tops. These wardrobe must haves can be worn with jeans, dress pants or skirts to create the perfect look. The models have paired tops from Unforgettable with their own jeans and skirts to show how versatile these tops can be.
Not ready to let go of summer, Jackie has a great 3/4 sleeve top with stone detailing by Spanner. Perfect for Saskatchewan’s changeable fall weather.

Catherine is showing off a cute ruffle neck white top. Part of our Spanner collection, when matched with jeans and strappy sandals this is a very versatile look. Unforgettable has several different styles button down tops available.

Melissa is wearing another of our 3/4 sleeve tops from Spanner. The silver bling at the collar makes this a unique shirt.

Colour blocking is big this season and Pam is showing us a beautiful colour blocked sweater from Spanner.

Kylee finished off this grouping with a second colour block sweat from Spanner with button and faux wrap detailing. 

Next up, mix and match separates, Unforgettable has a variety of pants, tops, skirts and sweaters that can be combined for a variety of looks this fall.
Jackie is starting off this grouping by pairing black Spanner dress pants with a polka dot ruffle collar blouse from Ciel & Neige. This 'mixed medium' top is serious comfort dressed up for the office.

By pairing a long cowl neck sweater with a pair of coordinating capri's, both by Spanner, Catherine is able to extend the sandal season just a little longer.

Melissa chose to pair her black Spanner dress pants with a colourful jacket from Spanner's collection. The Bos & Co. black kitten heels match this perfectly.

Pan is wearing a different version of the classic pin stripe pant with a beautifully detailed swing blouse.

Kylee's two piece set is from this spring's Spanner line but it was too unique not to include in this show. Both the jacket and skirt are fully reversible, so it's four outfits in one!

Unforgettable is proud to announce that staring in early October, they will be the exclusive vendor of Jones New York washable wool separates here in Swift Current! Until those arrive, they still have the perfect fall suit to refresh your look.
isn't this balloon sleeve suit by Zoda great? Too unique not to include in this collection Jackie's matched it with copper buckle detail shoes from Sofft.

A new two piece tweed set by Spanner is a professional look for any age. This suit is sold as separates and can be matched up with jeans or a great sweater and boots. Catherine has chosen these copper buckle shoes from Sofft as well. These shoes come in a wider width and are both cute and comfortable.

This three piece set by J. Lauren looks beautiful doesn't it?

You won't likely see Pam in a suit again, which is a shame because this two piece taupe set with the orange pin stripe from Giorgio St. Angelo looks amazing!

A classic black suit is never wrong. This two piece from Ben Marc flatters any figure! She's finished the look with a comfortable strappy black sandal.

Christmas parties, fall weddings and Greek night are a great excuse to add a fun dress to your wardrobe. Unforgettable has a huge selection of cocktail length gowns with many available in any size or colour on three month order.
A Brown chiffon empire waist gown flatters every figure and the colour is great on our model. This gown is one of our many gowns that work well as bridesmaid, cocktail and party dresses.

Blingy and fun, this dress embraces the trend to patterns fabrics this fall. I can see this dress going to a lot of parties!

This amazing black chiffon one shoulder gown from Alexia will make an unforgettable impression at any party this holiday season.

For something a little more classic, this sheath dress by Dana Kay will never let you down.

A popular look this season, a fitted cocktail dress with ruching and gathered detailing in a beautiful fall colour. By DaVinci.

So there you have it blogland! I hope you enjoyed the show. J

Friday, September 16, 2011

Taste of de"feet".

I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth again. And since I did so publicly this time I will apologize that way as well. In an effort to give a fellow business person a pat on the back I unintentionally insulted several other wonderful business people. So this is me saying a very large “I’m sorry.”
 A business needs to succeed on its own merits. Excellent service, fair pricing, a great atmosphere and more are required and I know that is what all the business people I have had the pleasure of dealing with in the past year strive for on a daily basis.
A business owners we put our hearts and souls into jobs and it hurts if anyone, even indirectly or unintentionally, suggests we don’t.
One of the dangers of the grand communication age is that EVERYONE can see your ‘public’ self. You have to think of everything you put out there from every angle. I work hard at this, reading and rereading my blog and facebook and website postings. Trying to stay politically correct, positive and generally avoid insulting anyone. Honestly this is a little difficult for me because I don’t generally get insulted over much. I roll my eyes at someone else’s silliness but I don’t take offence very easily as a rule so it doesn’t occur to me that someone else might be offended. There are always exceptions of course, but as a rule. So I have to think and rethink what I say from the point of view of those who may, quite legitimately, be hurt by something I might say. My Dear Husband is wonderful and keeping me in line and I will often get my coworkers to proof read what I write as well.
I will be certain to take more care in the future.  Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Your wedding florist's most Frequently Asked Questions

More tips from our friendly neighbourhood florist, Poppy, of Smart Flowers, Swift Current.
Another great bouquet photo from

Is it ok to visit several florists to get estimates for my wedding flowers?
Sure, but tell the florists that you are gathering estimates rather than making an appointment for a consultation. Be prepared with a detailed list of your floral needs. The florist will be able to give a rough estimate without a lengthy meeting. If you are gathering ideas and then comparisons, it is best to inform the florist of your intentions. Floral designers are trained and highly skilled floral artists. Their ideas have value. You may be asked to pay a consultation fee if you want to discuss a florist's actual ideas for your wedding. In most cases, the fee will be applied to the flowers once the order is placed.

What should I bring to the flower shop when I have my wedding consultation?
The more information you can provide the better your florist will be prepared to offer creative suggestions. Your florist will want to create a spectacular and memorable event for you. Anything you can bring will be beneficial:
  • Pictures that depict what you have in mind are extremely helpful.
  • Bring a photo of your dress and a sample of the fabric if you have it
  • Swatches of fabric and or photos of the bridesmaids' dresses.
Also think about what "style" of wedding you want. If you are not sure, your florist can offer suggestions based on your wedding plans so far

Will my florist work within my budget?
Yes. Be honest about your budget on the initial consultation so the florist knows what to recommend. By taking your budget into consideration from the very beginning of the planning process, the florist can give you the best advise on how to place the flowers for maximum effect and what types of flowers will be the best value to achieve your desired look.

How far in advance should I contact the florist when ordering wedding flowers?
Many florists can accept only a set number of weddings on a given day, so it is important to contact your florist well in advance to begin planning. A good rule of thumb is to contact your florist at least three-six months in advance.
However, if your wedding is going to be an exceptionally elaborate event, take place during peak wedding season or fall on a holiday, then six months to a year is not too soon to contact your florist. This will allow the florist to begin looking for any props or specialty items you might need. Wedding flowers can be highly specific and colors often have to be very precise, so florists need advance notice to place flower orders.

Are there any hidden costs?
Be sure to ask your wedding florist about any additional costs or about any chance of the flowers going over budget. Remember that flowers are a natural perishable product and your local florist asks for the best from their suppliers and growers, but even then sometimes mistakes can happen or product may come in not as expected.

Ask your florist what they do in these situations and what they can do to ensure there are no surprises on your wedding day.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Wedding flowers. What you need to know!

I asked Poppy Parsons of Smart Flowers, , to write up a blog post on wedding flowers. Wow, she has sent me not one, but three posts worth of bridal related flower things you will want to know! I also asked her for a bio to put with her blog posts. Here's what she said:

My training began in 1993 while working at Smart Flowers. Having worked under Jim; a highly respected floral designer and photographer, I learned that quality always comes first. Smart Flowers was and is still known as the best flower shop in Swift Current, their commitment to quality is never surpassed. After marrying in 1994 I moved on to the financial industry, but I always knew that I wanted to own a flower shop.  So when the opportunity arose in the spring of 2007 I jumped at the chance to fulfill that dream. 

Over the last 4 ½ years myself and my staff have worked hard to keep the excellent reputation of Smart Flowers in the Swift Current area. The wedding portion of the business has grown significantly and we have become known for our unique approach to design in weddings, sympathy and everyday floral arrangements.  Both myself and my full time employee and sister Shayla have attending numerous courses, seminars and shows to expand our training and natural abilities. Some certificates that I have achieved are basic & advanced wedding hands on, corsage advanced hands on & sympathy tributes; all offered by certified AIFD, CAFD and CAFA designers. I have also attended seminars and symposiums discussing colour, and elements and principles of proper floral design. When given the opportunity to expand our skills; through workshops, training magazines and seminars we take it!

So, once the engagement ring is on your finger and you are ready to get serious about choosing your florist (which according to Today's Bride Magazine should be ordered about 4 months before your big day) this is what Poppy tells us you need to do:

Contact your florist once you've selected the date, time and place for your wedding and reception. If you aren't familiar with the florists in your area, ask for recommendations from other brides, reception halls or churches. It will be helpful if you know the colours and style of the gowns you and your bridesmaids will be wearing. Bring pictures of your gown and the bridesmaids dresses, along with swatches of fabric if you have them available. Once you have that; set up an appointment with the lead designer who will be in charge of filling the order for your wedding flowers.

Look through bridal books and floral guides. Look at your florist’s Facebook page or website at their own wedding designs. Sketch ideas, cut out pictures or take photographs of flowers you like and share them with your florist. Seeing your ideas and personal style will help your florist translate your concepts and special requests into workable floral designs and arrangements that are just right for you. During your initial consultation with your florist, discuss specific design ideas that fit both your personal style and budget.
I took this photo off Poppy's web site. LOVE the colours!

The following are suggested questions to ask when consulting with a wedding florist:
·         What flowers will be in season at the time of my wedding?
·         What flowers are available that will be used to fill my order based upon my budget and colour preferences?
·         Do you have pictures of bouquets and arrangements from other weddings you've done? Can you provide referrals?
·         Will you help me work within my provided budget?
·         Will there be sufficient staff to design the arrangements for my wedding and have them delivered on time?
·         How will the flowers be handled, delivered and set-up, taking into consideration the weather constraints for my wedding?
·         Do you offer rental items (vases, urns, etc.) or do we need to rent them from another company?
·         Are there any extra fees (delivery, set-up, sales tax, etc.)?
The following are suggested items that should be discussed once you have chosen your wedding florist:
·         Name and contact information (mailing address, telephone, cell phone, e-mail address, etc.) for you and the florist.
·         Date, times and locations of your wedding ceremony and reception.
·         An itemized list of all the flower arrangements, number of arrangements, colours and flower preferences.
·         Flower alternatives, should a specific bloom be unavailable for your wedding. Include any unacceptable substitutions.
·         A list of items (vases, trellises, etc.) that the florist will supply. Include the rental, delivery and set-up prices for each, if applicable.
·         Arrival times for set-up at the ceremony/reception sites. Include instructions on who will meet the florist at the sites along with contact numbers.
·         Where and when the bouquets and boutonnieres should be delivered.
·         Deposit amount and due date.
·         Balance amount and due date.
·         Cancellation/refund policy

Tune in later this week and I’ll share with you the answers to some frequently asked wedding flower questions. AND if you have any questions you’d like a professional florist to answer, post them! I’ll pass them along for Poppy and see if we can get some answers for you.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Oh the beautiful dresses!

The kids are back to school and for me that means two things.
I now get to spend my Monday’s off with coffee and a romance novel (thanks to my amazing husband’s wonderful anniversary gift!) and it is time for ordering grad gown samples and planning the big Grad Gala.
The ordering is now officially done. I spent several hours last night with a wonderful representative for ADK (Eddy K wedding gowns) and Blush Prom. Wow! This season’s gowns are going to be stunners.
We will carry samples in store for:
I am so seriously excited about the range of gowns we’ll have available. Everything from sleek and sexy to puffy, glittering princess; simple solids in an array of jewel tones to wild animal prints and bright splashes of rainbows will be seen on graduates all over the country. Our in store samples will start arriving in October.
Unfortunately, because these styles are ‘out’ yet, I can’t publish a bunch of photos beyond the links above. BUT I CAN give you a sneak peek of a gown I am totally thrilled to have in the store. This gown was originally part of the Mystique line from Bonny and was ‘pulled’ while I was talking with the Mystique rep. I asked and she sold me her sample gown! My understanding is it is one of only two of these gowns in the country and they will NOT be making any more. How excited am I??
Not the greatest photo but seriously a cool gown!
So this beauty is on display in the store right now. I've promised my youngest daughter she can wear it at the Grad Gala fashion show, but I doubt it will still be in the store.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

9 years and counting . . .

Happy Anniversary to us!
Yes, yesterday was the 9th anniversary of my marriage to the most wonderful man in the world. Seriously, who else would put up with my business adventures?
Our 9th was supposed to be leather. My husband hit a home run with a red leather case containing a Kobo e-reader! I am an avid reader and totally thrilled with the gift.

it's an Kobo touch!

I spent weeks looking for a leather golf bag. And I could have gotten one, but he’s a ‘weekend’ golfer and the leather bags available were pro bags. Total overkill for what he needed. I was able to get him a great bag with the dividers he really wanted (a slot for every club) and totally surprised him. Which was really the goal.
his is grey and red.
I’vebeen focused, for the past week or so, on preparing for BuyMart in Saskatoon. It was an adventure that I am busy writing a blog post about. I’m headed back to Saskatoon today to meet with another supplier and hope to be home by midnight.
Stay tuned!