The very first of the now seven hundred Specialty Shop Retailing blog entries was posted on June 23, 2008 – back when the Chicago Gift Show at the Merchandise Mart was one of the largest in the country, and when my suggestion to bring stickers with your store’s name and address on them for show orders was one of my most popular bits of advice.  

Times have changed, but a lot has stayed the same. Trade shows remain an important way for us to discover new lines and yo keep in touch with our vendors and sales reps.  You should still wear comfortable shoes. And I could write the same final comment today: “be sure to take the opportunity to talk to your fellow retailers at lunch, on the show bus, or in the evening. We can all learn from each other, and outside of show season we often don’t get a chance to chat.”

My blog continues to be a wonderful opportunity for me to chat with my fellow retailers, and I don’t plan to stop anytime soon. But on the occasion of my 700th post, I thought it might be fun to look back at a few of my favorites. They’re all still available online, if you want to join me in reflecting on plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same).

She’ll Even Bring Goats was an early entry about the fact that our Two’s Company sales rep at the time offered to bring Nigerian dwarf dairy goats, some chickens and a Spanish mastiff to our neighborhood street festival. I love working with reps, and have often written about ways to keep the sales agency and rep system in our industry. Even without goats, they provide valuable service.

My post on Picking a Partner talks about how my husband Dean and I worked out the sharing of a business. This year we’ll celebrate 50 years of marriage, and in two years we’ll reach the 50 year milestone of running Orange Tree Imports together.  In the 2020 the post entitled What If? I discussed what to do if your partner suffered a medical crisis. That one was based on Dean’s sudden cardiac arrest – happily he recovered completely and has been back at work for some time now.

I had used the image of an ambulance once before, when talking about Showing Support to employees experiencing a life crisis.  My Savvy Store Solutions column in Gifts and Decorative Accessories started in 2000 with a focus on staffing, and I’ve enjoyed writing about hiring, training and encouraging employees. Other favorite topics have included creative promotions, tips for successful buying, using social media effectively and the importance of the buy local movement.

Lessons from the Pandemic was one of several blogs about the impact of COVID on our businesses.  That crisis lasted a lot longer than I anticipated in the March 9, 2020 post entitled Please Send Kitty Pix. Oh, the naiveté – I recommended having tissues and hand sanitizer available for customers, but said that it wasn’t necessary to point out that you’d taken any extra precautions unless you felt your customers might have special concerns. 

I’ve signed the blog “happy retailing” almost from the start because I hope that my readers find joy in what they are doing. I am grateful for our store’s success and the ways in which that allows us to give back to our community, make our customers happy, and provide meaningful employment to our staff.  I have written a number of times about Expressing Gratitude, and as I celebrate #700 I send special thanks to you for reading these posts. I hope you find them helpful!

Happy retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

PS There won’t be a Specialty Shop Retailing blog post next week, as I’ll be traveling.