Monday, March 30, 2009

Partner With Technology And Increase Your Fabric Sales

Where do quilt shop customers come from? If you own one and you’re not asking yourself that question on a regular basis, you might be missing out.

The internet has changed the way business and customers play the retail game. Once upon a time, it might have been enough to have a shop newsletter printed up once month or quarter. Your customers would sign up for your mailing list or maybe just pick it up when they came in to buy fabric.

The shop newsletter was a good way, and still is, to communicate with your customer. Today, though, many of your customers spend hours online. Are they spending some of that time with you?

Let’s look at a few of the key tools successful shops are using:

Many people have abandoned their phone books in lieu of the internet. If they need a service, they use their favorite search engine to find it. Will they find you? No longer is your customers’ first impression always when they walk through the door. It might be online!

Kona Bay Fabrics has worked hard to build a useful site for our customers and quilters around the globe.

Ecommerce Quilters today are busy with families, jobs, activities and the home. More and more, they’re turning to internet stores to save time. If you have a brick and mortar store, you’re halfways there. If you’re not selling your goods online, it’s a good time to start. Kona Bay, aware of how busy shop owners are, was the first to offer online ordering for our wholesale customers.

Blogs Some folks still think of the early personal journals that made up many of the blogs found online. Today, businesses are using the blog format to communicate with their customers and build an interactive community. A blog allows you a way to stay in touch with your customers on a regular basis using a very cost effective format. The Kona Bay blog you’re reading prompts a lot of feedback.

Twitter This hot, relatively new, social networking and micro-blogging tool is taking the web by storm. Each 140 character post reaches out to your followers. This fun new tool can be a quick and easy way to promote your store and it’s specials. Follow me on Twitter and let me show you the way grasshopper!

Exceptional customer service has always been our goal at Kona Bay Fabrics. Making sure you can be reached via email is a simple step in the right direction. Some people are simply more comfortable with email than phone calls. Make it easy for them by providing easy access to a frequently checked email. A little secret…It’ll save you time, too! You can always reach Kona Bay by email and expect a quick response—

The flipside of this is to make sure you are always building your email list. There is no easier way to communicate with your customer. Send out your newsletter (there are many easy to use templates and services to help) or notifications of upcoming classes. Maybe you have a big sale coming up—remind them, I guarantee your customers want to know about it!

There are more online tools! But master these and you’ll be well on your way to selling fabric with technology on your side. Let me know some of the tools you’re company is using. I always love hearing from you—!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Asian Fabric Magazine—A Peek Inside

As the next issue of Asian Fabric magazine comes together, I thought I’d give you an insider glimpse of the great things to come. Your feedback on the magazine has always been very positive and inspirational.

To celebrate the rebirth of spring and new additions to families around the globe, we’ll be featuring a beautiful grouping for the nursery. Two quilts, the Akachan and Sakana, one suitable for a girl and one for a boy, will add fascinating color and depth to your child’s room.

The creative quilts are suitable for lap quilts, as the child grows older. They’re also guaranteed to be the stand out gift at the next baby shower on your calendar. An accompanying baby bag and accessories will round out the package and have everyone cooing over your creations.

Butterflies are an ever popular Motif so Georgie Gerl, our favorite quilt designer, has also designed the stunning Chocho (butterfly) Quilt. This appliqué project will delight you and brighten your room as colorful butterflies do your blooming garden. Plus, find out about what the butterfly symbolizes in Asia and give your quilt a special story.

Travel with me as we take our first magazine visit to the fascinating country of Thailand and its capital city Bangkok. Carrying on the theme, we’ll feast on easy and delicious Thai recipes you can make and enjoy through a summer of fun.

Look for Asian Fabric Issue #16, filled with these great patterns and more, in your local quilt shops at the end of May. You can also subscribe now so you don’t miss a single issue. And, as always, I invite you to visit and find our what’s new at Kona Bay Fabrics.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Tribute to Punkee Da Cat

In my Honolulu office, I had many pictures on my wall and they had to be removed in preparing to consolidate our offices in Redmond, Washington by the end of the month. A large number of those special pictures are of my cat, my friend and one of the sweetest kitties ever…Punkee.

In January, after fifteen great and wonderful years, Punkee passed away.

I have had a kaboodle of cats and kittens in my life since I was a child. In 1994, when my daughter Brittany was 5 years old, we went in search of her first kitten. Little Punkee was a resident at the local animal shelter when we found him. After we sat down in the kitten petting room at the shelter, it didn’t take long to know Punkee would be coming home with us.

He was bright and affectionate, with a sweet disposition. He was quick to stand up and say, “I’m the one! Take me! Take me!”.

We named him Pumpkin but his cuteness had us calling him Punkee soon after. He quickly had us all trained as his humble servants. In return, he lit up the house with his playfulness and love. As he and Brittany grew up together, they were best friends. The hat photo here was from one of their many “let’s dress up Punkee” parties.

Everyone thinks their cat is special, but Punkee truly was a cat that everyone who met him commented in how super friendly and mellow he was. He loved to be pampered by family, friends and strangers alike.

I have hundreds of wonderful memories of Punkee. He loved the TV remote control, using it for his pillow while sleeping and he enjoyed the little “nubs” during the daily kitty massage he counted on receiving when his daddy got home from work.

Losing Punkee was a big change for my family and I. We take comfort in knowing the challenges of aging and poor health no longer cloud his days and in our hearts know change can make us feel glad and sad all at once. How fortunate we were to share fifteen wonderful years with a kitty of a lifetime!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pittsburgh—Here We Come!

Twice a year Kona Bay Fabrics attends International Quilt Market—the big daddy of quilting trade shows. Spring Quilt Market this year will be May 15-17 in Pittsburgh. Each spring show goes through a cross-country rotation and Fall Market is always held in Houston.

Quilt Market is a wholesale only show. This is where the folks from local quilt shops go to see all the great fabric designs, products and patterns that end up in their stores. They can also attend classes to learn new techniques they can share with customers. Kona Bay loves the shows as it gives us a chance to see and visit with our customers up close and personal.

Kona Bay Fabrics has been attending Market since 1991. I’m looking forward to venturing back to Pittsburgh. It’s an easy to navigate city with a great convention center. I’ve already mapped out some of the local good eats I want to try; fabric and good food—what more do we need!?

Although consumers can’t attend Quilt Market, Quilts, Inc, who put it on also host three consumer shows. The next will be this summer in Long Beach, California July 24-25. The company has held Houston and Chicago show for a number of years. The Long Beach show was their first west coast venue. Read more about the show at Quilts, Inc. I wasn't able to attend but I heard it was lots of fun for all who did.

I’ll see you in Pittsburgh!

Monday, March 9, 2009

We're Expanding!

Come April 1, Kona Bay Fabrics will move our Honolulu offices and consolidate all our administrative and shipping operations in our Redmond, Washington location. We are excited about the fun, new opportunities this will allow us.

Hawaii has been my home since 1974. Starting Kona Bay Fabrics kept me busy growing a business and a family in a place many (myself included!) call paradise. It didn’t take me long to realize, though, that shipping our fabric from the printers in Japan to our warehouse in Honolulu and then on to our customers on the mainland was not the best business strategy. Since 1993, we have had our warehouse on the mainland. However, the bulk of our administrative operations remained in Honolulu along with my family and myself.

Now, the company is all grown up (along with my lovely daughter who attends UCLA) and we’re ready to expand. Kristina, our VP, is thrilled about the new adventure. She and her husband visited Washington last week and started setting up their new home in Kirkland. And yes, they were even excited about the snow!

I’ll maintain my home in Honolulu (the kitties at the golf course depend on my regular visits for their feedings) and make trips back and forth as I always have. But, my office will be right there at the top of the stairs in our new Redmond office. This move will more easily allow us to expand and streamline our operations. We have some fun ideas and look forward to being physically closer to our customers.

I have always loved the Pacific Northwest—the weather, the scenery, the activities and the people. I even took up kayaking last year and started my own oyster farm! As I sit here in the Redmond office today, I’m watching it snow, drinking a cup of Starbucks and smiling at the thought of a future so bright I’ll need to remember to pack my shades.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

We’re Leaping Forward With New Releases

With daylight savings coming this weekend our thoughts turn toward getting back out in the garden and working with our favorite plants. Here at Kona Bay Fabrics, I’m thinking about the fruits of summer, too. Our tone-on-tone fabrics have long been popular staples of a quilters’ stash and I’d like to introduce two new designs we’ll release soon.

In May, look for eighteen colorways of our new Autumn Tonals from Seattle Bay. These beautiful five pointed leaves with their subtle shading transform as they appear to fall from the tree. The design offers a feeling of depth and drama that will accent a variety of projects. This fabric will be equally at home as a supporting character in a quilt or the focal point of your new “green” home décor.

In June, Kona Bay brings you eighteen colorways of the striking new Mum Tonals. The elegant yet stylish interpretation of the Japanese mum is sure to brighten your day and any project it’s paired with. The distinctive lines and contrasting tones will bring a level of sophistication to your next sewing adventure. I can see it as a fun summer bag or a flirty warm weather sundress—hey, maybe even a stylin’ shirt for me! And, of course, imagine the possibilities as a coordinate in the Asian quilt you have in the works.

So turn back those clocks on Sunday and use the extra daylight to plan a project with these fun, new tone-on-tones!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Happy Girl’s Day —“Hina Matsuri”

Today in Japan, families will celebrate their daughters with Hina-Matsuri (a doll festival). Girl’s Day is focused on girls’ happiness and health. The ceremonial hina-Ningyo dolls represent the Emperor, Empress and their court. There are usually at least 15 dolls in a full set. Although many sets are very elaborate and showy, small versions have become attractive to those with smaller homes and apartments.

Hina-Matsuri is celebrated at home. A couple weeks before March 3, the dolls, which have been stored throughout the year, are set out in a special tiered display with a red base to honor the daughters in the home. The dolls, all clothed in rich representations of royal attire, are arranged by status with the Emperor and Empress on the top tier. Small items that represent food, furniture, peach blossoms and other items are also displayed.

Hina-Matsuri is also referred to as Momo-no-Sekku, which means Peach Festival. This is the time when winter moves to spring in Japan and the peach trees are in blossom. The peach blossom symbolizes a happy marriage in Japanese culture; a union parents also hope will be in the daughters’ futures.

The custom was established in Japan during the Edo period (1603-1867). Along with prayers and the wish that young girls will have health and happiness, a special family meal is usually part of the celebration. Mochi (sweet rice cakes), sushi and shirozake (non-alcoholic sake) are often served.

From Kona Bay Fabrics and me, I wish all girls a happy Hina-Matsuri!