Featured Designers: Susan Victor and Sue Shannon Nandina Home I really don’t remember how I met Susan Victor….all I remember is that I liked her immediately. I do remember that one of our first conversations was about a … Continue reading
Featured Artisan: Jeff Steele
Steele & Rowe Inc.: Serving the Yachting Community from Newport to Cape Cod
This month our Featured Artisan is Jeff Steele of Steele and Rowe – third generation canvas fabricators for yachts and boats in North Dartmouth, MA. I met Jeff a couple of years ago through his fiancé, Courtney Saunders, one of my favorite peeps who is incredibly driven and creative, with energy to spare…and Jeff shares those qualities and then some, which makes them a dynamic duo. Jeff’s photo (above) includes their beyond adorable son, Leo. Knowing what Jeff does for work, I asked him to replace the canvas on my vintage directors chairs (the orange and white striped one featured) and not only did he do a beautiful job of replacing the fabric (on chairs that are not supposed to be replaced!) but did a lovely job of refinishing the wood arms… I had to know more! So I asked him to show me other work that he did, which you will see. He also do leather work on yachts that is equally lovely.
And while he is fortunate to have more business than he can say grace over, like all small business owners he is looking to the future for himself and the next generation, and the changes to make in this business to continue to be profitable and relevant.
1. What are the biggest changes you have seen to the industry and to your business in the last five years?
The biggest changes in the boating industry is the decline in new production boats…with less new boats being built, there’s more individual customers wanting to renew or repair there existing canvas…
2. What have you done in your business to respond to those changes and how is that working for you?
To respond to our customers changing needs we have priced accordingly and seasonally to maximize our pipeline…we have also taken a more diverse workload…it has given me a chance to work on different projects to gain and diversify my experience…I’ve made cushions, backpacks and recovered chairs…
3. What do you predict for the art and design industry? And how will you prepare for it?
I predict the art and design to provide more options in color and materials available…to prepare for it we have to continue educating ourselves in product knowledge…we also need to know what materials are best for each application and regionally which materials will last the longest…we could work on a boat that will be in Florida all year long and the sun affects the canvas and thread differently and longer then in New England…
Thank you, Jeff for your participation and your commitment to excellence.
Welcome back. Lots happening here in downtown New Bedford!
In the June Gallery 65 blog you read that the Charles W Morgan was coming to town and that record crowds were expected in downtown New Bedford…and how we wanted to capitalize on that activity. While the downtown events were well attended (despite Hurricane Arthur), the traffic into the Gallery was not: traffic 80, sales 3. As you can imagine, that led to another conversation – as I have said before and said again during this meeting – there are 3 ways to Increase Sales:
Increase traffic and contact opportunities
Increase close ratio (close more traffic opportunities)
Increase average sale
We had 2 issues to address – low traffic into the showroom and low close ratio.
To address low traffic, we looked at the marketing efforts of the Gallery and what actions to take moving forward. They will boost email reach with Mail Chimp and more social media posts with Facebook. They will stop using rack cards for tourists but look to change the format of their website so that they can manage the site themselves and create a greater ecommerce presence.
The other issue was close ratio…3 of 80 is very low, especially coupled with a low average sale. We discussed how to interact initially and create conversations with incoming customers. Laurie Bullard was fabulous with this and suggested what to do to engage with opening questions and to drive the interaction with questions of interest.
This lead to a larger, more relevant conversation: Now that several artists are leaving (and taking their art or leaving it on consignment), and the layout and use of the showroom will change dramatically (Marc St Pierre is coming in and he and Nicole St Pierre will use 50% of the space for studio, reducing the showroom by half), it forced the discussion to not only ‘what stays and where?’, but ‘what is Gallery 65 now?’
The Gallery is currently a cooperative run by members (most of whom will be leaving), somewhat as a gallery, and equally somewhat as a retail gift shop with artistic and original products. But they aren’t functioning completely as a gallery nor as a retail shop, using retail best practices like promotions and sale pricing to drive new business. Nicole bristled at this as it doesn’t square with ‘gallery’ practices, Sarah was intrigued as she is very interested in whatever it takes to sell art pieces, and Laurie was right on top of it as a former successful retail shop owner. Some promotions we discussed were Open Studio special pricing, ‘buy one, get one’ for product that is small and/or needs to move (like Laurie’s photograph greeting cards….which I bought 10 of!). We left it that Nicole would really think about this and talk with Marc and the other artists, to create a clear vision and strategy of what the Gallery will be in the future…in the very near future. This is a critical time for them, as the physical changes and the member/staff changes are significant…and a time that they can really create something new and special for Gallery 65.
We are taking August off as the Gallery changes form and will be back in September….Happy Summer!