So excited to share the 2nd in our new series of interviews with shopkeepers from around the world! We are hoping that these features will introduce you to new stores that are supporting handmade and to help you learn about what it takes to get your products in the retail market. This month you will meet Clare and Anthony of Plaisir which is based in Scotland. Clare also runs the Indie Retail Academy and will begin a monthly post here to support both shopkeepers and sellers beginning in August! Read on to fall in love with Plaisir and to get inspired to follow your dreams!
What’s your store name and is there a story behind it?
Our shop is called Plaisir, which is the French word for “pleasure” or being pleased. We chose this name because to us it conjures up a happy, relaxed, delighted sort of feeling, and that’s the experience we want our customers to have. Shopping should be a pleasure but so often that’s not the case. It’s our mission to change all that.
What do you love most about what you do?
Two things. First, the freedom. As well as running the shop, we’re both professional actors working in telly, theatre, film and radio. Not having a boss to answer to and being available for auditions and jobs whenever they come up is wonderful. Plaisir is also a place to put our creative energy when we’re not working. We can install a roll top bath filled with marshmallows in the middle of the shop floor or draw a giant octopus on the windows and no-one tells us off. Our artistic impulses can run free! The other great joy in owning a shop is working with customers. Maybe it’s because we’re people-pleasing actors, but we love making our customers happy. Playing with someone’s kids while she tries on a dress, helping to choose a wedding present, offering someone a glass of water if they have a bad cough, gift-wrapping a lip balm so a little girl can give it to her friend – that’s the kind of stuff we live for.
What makes your store unique?
We want our customer to feel cherished. Everything we do at Plaisir is built around making that happen. We designed our website and shop environment so that it’s spacious, welcoming and airy – no clutter or worrying that you’re going to accidentally knock something off a shelf. The items we stock are colourful, high-quality and made with care and attention by artists, designers and companies who love what they do. We create surprising displays that wake up your tired, over-loaded senses and remind you how nice it is to play. We say “hello!” to every single person who comes in the shop. We gift-wrap your presents for free, no matter how big or small, so you’re free to enjoy the experience of giving. Plaisir is our riposte to the kind of shops that make you feel small, tired and bored. In our own small way, we aim to make our customers feel loved.
How do you select the items you sell?
A few different ways. We go to trade shows like Pulse and Top Drawer. Design-led shows are best for us and we particularly like to see work by new graduates and start-ups. We browse Etsy and Folksy to find items that catch our eye, and we go on expeditions to visit retailers, museums and galleries we admire. We also receive lots of submissions from artists and designers who want us to consider stocking their work.
Any tips for artists to get into stores?
Do we ever! Clare writes on this very subject over at Indie Retail Academy, her blog and digital resource dedicated to helping designers sell their work to shops. We get stacks of submissions at Plaisir and the majority of them are of a very poor standard – the same goes for every other retailer we know. Nothing makes us happier than finding a new artist whose work we can’t wait to stock, but it makes us sad that so few know how to go about it in the right way. Poor submissions are a waste of time for everyone – they’re exhausting and time-consuming for retailers, and heart-breaking for artists who don’t understand why they aren’t getting anywhere. Clare created the Indie Retail starter kit - a free pack of resources designed to help creative people get their wholesale business off the ground. Here’s a quick taster of what she thinks you should know about getting your work into stores: - Before you get in touch with any shopkeeper, be sure that you’re ready. Selling your work to shops is quite different from selling directly to the public. Retailers buy your items at the wholesale price, which is lower than the retail price, but they buy much larger quantities. Get two things absolutely straight before you start. Are you able to sell your work at a wholesale price that’s attractive to retailers but which still allows you to eat, wear clothes, live in a house and occasionally go the movies? Secondly, can you produce your lovely thing in the quantities and time-frame retailers need without working day and night? Only proceed if the answer to these two questions is a good, strong “YES!” - To sell to retailers you need to speak our language. We use all sorts of terms that you probably haven’t heard before if you’re just starting out – things like minimum order, carriage paid level, pro forma, line sheet and net 30 days. Find out what this stuff means at the beginning and you won’t be discombobulated when it comes up. Don’t worry, we don’t say discombobulated very much! - When you’re ready to approach shopkeepers, dropping in with a bag of samples and asking to speak to the owner is usually a bad idea. Most retailers we know hate it because it puts them on the spot. It also makes you look like you don’t know the proper way to go about things, and that makes us wary of working with you. The best way to contact a retailer is by sending them a carefully crafted email with all the relevant details attached. The thought of pitching their work to retailers brings many artists and designers out in a cold sweat, but it doesn’t have to be that way. With Indie Retail Academy Clare aims to take the eeeek! out of the whole process and replace it with aaaah.
What items in your shop are you loving right now?
Anthony: I love our cloud mirror necklaces and brooches from I Am Acrylic – they’re really modern and fun but delicate too. I also love Emily Hogarth’s fox print, which is a screen print made from her original paper cut. Emily often hides her initials somewhere in her work which I think is incredibly cool – after looking for ages I eventually found the “EH” on the fox’s face. Clare: Gosh, it’s like trying to choose your favourite child! I do love our new bird key rings from British designer Claire Hartigan, especially the robin.
Describe your typical day
In the morning we get up, eat toast and watch Frasier – that show never gets old! We open the shop at ten, pack up any online orders which have arrived overnight and write emails in between serving customers. Clare might have a guest post or some Indie Retail Academy stuff to write in the afternoon, or we might work together to make a new window display. Anthony takes down the old window while Clare designs the new one, then we hand cut all the letters for the new display out of paper. Clare installs and styles the windows and re-merchandises the shop every week or so. We also spend time taking photos of new items and writing descriptions for our website, and we hang out with our fans on Facebook too. We write to our beloved mailing list subscribers every ten days, and enjoy coming up with new DIY gift ideas and stuff that will make them smile over on the subscriber-only bit of our website. Clare loves tinkering around with our site and it’s always a work in progress! Other than that we take care of admin stuff, pay bills and try to keep our office reasonably tidy. Plaisir closes around 5.30pm and we walk home. We live in Biggar, a beautiful market town in rural South Lanarkshire, so we enjoy some incredible views. On Friday nights we usually have quesadillas then Anthony makes his cake of the week. We offer anyone who comes into the shop a free slice of home-made cake every Saturday. If Clare had her way it would be carrot cake with cream cheese icing all year round.
Any tips for following your dreams?
Since we’re self-employed twice over we certainly know something about what it takes to make a living in a creative industry. The best advice we can give on following your dreams is to ask yourself how much uncertainty and discomfort you’re willing to tolerate. You won’t always know exactly how things are going to work out and there will be days when you feel like packing it all in and becoming a frog farmer instead. You need to be resilient enough to cope with the knocks and, ideally, have people around you who will help you get back up again. Also, don’t worry too much about what your competitors are doing and don’t make comparisons. When you focus on the heels of the person in front you lose your own rhythm. Let them run their race while you concentrate on yours. Lastly, be open to discovering new ways to use your gifts. If you told us we were going to own a shop back when we left drama school, we would have been appalled! What? Pay attention to something other than being on stage? Not commune with the muse of acting at every possible opportunity? Are you KIDDING? That’s what we would have said. But it turns out that a shop is pretty much like a theatre, and running it requires many of the same skills. And it makes us happy. Who knew?
Do you have a favourite quote?
“There’s nothing more important than the way we treat each other.” That’s a quote from Clare’s dad, who’s a head teacher. He knows what he’s talking about.
And now for the giveaway portion. Plaisir has offered up an unframed gocco print by Dee Beale called Winter Ptarmigans (seen above) for one lucky reader. To enter, stop by the shop and then come back here to leave a comment telling us which item is your favorite and why. The giveaway will end
Tuesday, July 17th Thursday, July 19th at 6pm PST. A winner will be chosen randomly and announced on the blog Wednesday, July 18th Friday, July 20th. Thanks so much for this awesome gift, Clare and Anthony!
* If you have a shop that sells handmade items or know of one you would like to be featured please get in touch!
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