Friday, January 30, 2015

Brick and Mortar or Online Retail?

Brick and Mortar or Online.  Where to start?

In the summer of 2014, I decided to think seriously about advancing Vivid Hue Home from a design blog to the "next step."  I wasn't quite sure what the "next step" meant, but I wanted to "act" on my dream of owning a home decor business in some capacity.

It's a scary step to decide to move from the comforts of your own home as a "blogger" out into the real world of business.  My husband and I have owned a successful medical practice for the past 7 years, so I had been through the steps of opening up a start up and managing a family owned business.

But, with "Vivid Hue-the blog"- I had taken the approach of "do what feels comfortable and organic."  Sure, I could have managed the blog as a business (as many do very successfully) but this was initially a passionate hobby for me.  In the beginning, I put pressures on myself that I must publish a daily post.  I would stay up until midnight each day and prepare posts weeks in advance.  Overtime, this experience became less fun and more cumbersome.  I decided to step back, take a different approach and publish a post only when I felt compassionate about something.

In time, the nature of my material focused largely on the projects I was doing around my own house.  I enjoyed sharing my adventures in decorating, DIY, trial and error.  And people begin to ask me where I'd acquired particular items in my house.  Soon, local friends start asking for assistance in decorating their own homes and offices.

Vivid Hue Home Dining Room 

Rather than go the interior designer route, I knew that I wanted to curate unique gifts and small home furnishings.  I wasn't sure if it should be brick and mortar or online (or eventually both) but I wanted to be recognized as a unique home store destination.  The place for the perfect hostess gift, the "statement" coffee table accessory, a location that offered a quality mix of fresh designers that aren't widely featured in Connecticut (yet).

Taylor Burke Home, Cotton and Quill and Dune and Duchess. Photo Courtesy of TBH. 

Cotton and Quill Pillows.  Photo Courtesy of Cotton and Quill 

But brick and mortar or the online shop?

I knew the way in which people retail shop was/is evolving.  My background (before blogging and being office manager for our medical practice) was in e-commerce and advertising.  I'd worked with one of the largest teeny bopper retail brands and project managed the technical team that built the backend website for the company's online retail business.  Our team made sure all of the online orders were captured correctly and swapped out the products as the offerings changed  During peak season, if there was a surge in online orders and the backend started to "act up", it was my team that was in the office until two or three in the morning to make sure we were capturing the thousands or orders in the database.  So I'd experienced first hand how successful the online retail business can be. (This company also had an accompanying community site that engaged teenagers in trendy news articles, games, chat rooms, you name it).
Photo Courtesy of @alloyapparel

But because of this experience with online retail, I also understood that the online shop is open 24/7.  There are no vacations.  No days off.  No "breaks" in when products need to be shipped to the customers.  Which can be a great thing.  But also not.  As a blogger, I understand my following has a reach much farther than my lil ole town of Farmington, Connecticut.  I have followers as far away as Portugal and Italy.  It's pretty cool.  And these could eventually become my customers.  But for now, I determined that is more than I wanted to bite off.

For me, personally, I had to reconcile what my goals of the business would be.   I was also still running the medical practice as office manager (we have since hired my replacement).  I enjoyed my flexibility of being able to take some time to go to one of my kid's school recitals.   And so, I decided to adopt the same philosophy that I had taken when starting the blog.  Start small and with easily digestible decisions.  Do what feels right, not necessarily what everyone else tells you to do.  

I went back and forth for months.  My thought process went something like this:

It seems that there's less financial risk in an online shop... No lease, no huge costs or paying rent for a retail space.  But how do I set myself apart from the other websites that are already selling items?  And yet I could operate the website while sitting on my coach in my comfies.  But how do I make my items be more appealing that the next website?  Would I be willing to put in extra time for graphics and marketing related promotions online?  And what about swapping out the inventory, filling the orders constantly, and keeping the website fresh?  Oh boy, this seems too cumbersome!  I just want to sell stuff...all of these details are so overwhelming!  I can really stage a brick and mortar shop.  Customers will love getting their hands on the actual product. But where do I settle on a location?

Don't get me wrong.  I'm a hard worker and I'm willing to put in the effort.  But I wanted this effort to be fun.  This is my lifelong dream.  I wanted to be true to really giving it a "go."

In the midst of this back and forth with myself, a friend of mine that is a successful residential real estate agent in Farmington happened to mention that there was a commercial space available in our little town "center."
Truffles Bakery, located in the village of Farmington Connecticut . Photo Courtesy of Truffles. 

It seemed almost too good to be true.  Even though I wasn't convinced about taking the brick and mortar route, I scheduled an appointment to see the space.  

Next post:  See a glimpse of the retail space, view the original walk through photos and find out what sealed my decision.    Thank you all for your support and I have loved reading your comments about what you'd like me to share about this venture!  

PS- For additional sneak peak photos of the store progress, follow Vivid Hue Home on Instagram here.  I post daily shots before I blog about them!  


Unknown said...

So exciting! And I love that you are sharing your journey on the blog! Once you are open I am definitely going to visit on one of my drives from Boston back home to CT!

Lisa @ Shine Your Light said...

Heather!!! That is so wonderful, congratulations on this new journey you're on!!! I live in MA and definitely will have to take a road trip and come visit the new shop! So excited for you!

Jessie said...

Great post again! Thanks for sharing your retail journey with us. I can't wait to read about the next post! Also can't wait to see how the shop comes together!


Patty Day @Pattys Epiphanies said...

This is better than the Book of the Month!
Your shop is adorable and so, so charming.
Again, thanks for sharing !

Elizabeth @ The Little Black Door said...

I'm loving reading all of this. Can't wait to hear more!!!